The (Financially) Independent Culinary Degree Student

When administrators at culinary schools ask if you're independent, they're not asking if you have a mind of your own. Your answer determines if and how you get money to fund your culinary degree. Students living on their own and attending culinary arts schools don't necessarily qualify as "independent," even if, like Naked Chef Jamie Oliver, they're entering the culinary arts at the tender age of sixteen. Here's how to assert your culinary educational independence.

Independence... and the Culinary Arts Degree

Culinary schools are seeing an upswing in youthful applicants, with 20 to 40 percent of their students in their teens. So does it matter to culinary arts schools that you're an independent student? Yes! The financial aid officers in your culinary arts degree program of choice can help you determine which sources of financial aid you're qualified to receive and whether that aid is based on your income alone. (Especially if, like a friend of mine, you happen to be the needy child of a wealthy, estranged, and decidedly unsupportive parent.) If funding your culinary education is a significant step into self-supporting adulthood, you'll need determination and documentation. Your tax returns, bank statements, and a social security number are essential in finding the money you'll need to fund your culinary arts degree.

Culinary Arts: Careers for the Young and Independent

Since so many teens are opting for professional chef programs, attending culinary arts schools rather than academic colleges or universities, they're breaking free of parental support--and control--right out of high school. After all, income-producing apprenticeships and on-the-side restaurant jobs supplement culinary arts study for teen freedom seekers. Young though they are, they're almost certain to get culinary jobs before the ink is dry on their degrees. Some culinary arts schools even have a 100 percent placement rate. Culinary school president Tim Ryan says, "We've arrived at a place where more young people than ever are interested in the profession."