The best part about pursuing these side avenues is that the skills and experience are transferable to other fields as well, should the fascination with wings someday evaporate like the morning dew on a grass runway. In the meantime, this fall’s freshman class can busy themselves researching their possible career paths. If possible, visit airlines, major training facilities, local FBOs, corporate flight departments, FAA air traffic control facilities, aircraft and avionics manufacturers. Talk to professionals about what their jobs are like – what’s good, and what’s not so good. Don’t settle for one opinion, though. You might be catching someone on a bad day; or you might have collared the wrong guy. Conversely, what’s paradise for one person could be less appealing for you.
For juniors beginning the college selection process, there are some clear questions to answer before forking over the application fee. If it’s flight training you’re after, make sure you get detailed information on costs and programs. Check with current students for their input on how well the flight training program works for
them. Do they find the schedule to be reliable, for example? Are the instructors good at what they do? Does the program allow room for an individual’s pace?
If flight training is not on the planned curriculum, does the school have programs in the areas likely to suit your talents and desires? Are there internships available with nearby businesses or government facilities? Often, the relationships forged through internships pave the way for permanent employment after graduation. And it allows the student to take the potential employer for a test drive, too.
Then there are the practical issues to be decided. Is the college located close enough to an airport? Is it too far from home; too close to home; or just right? For many students, the most important question they can answer concerns the college’s atmosphere – large or small campus; rural or urban; socially conservative or … “socially active.” Parents might want to weigh in on this decision, also. After all, chances are they’ll be the ones writing the checks.
Finally, it makes good practical sense to examine a college’s placement record. Check to see which aviation companies have hired graduates. Do they actively recruit on campus? Ask to speak with graduates who have found success in the field (you wouldn’t expect them to direct you to unsatisfied “customers,” would you?). Ask these recent graduates for tips on how to take best advantage of your college experience.
One of the top sources of information on aviation colleges is the University Aviation Association. Check it out at www.uaa.aero. And if you have the chance, plan to fly to your college visits in the family airplane.