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What is Involved in a Typical Accreditation Process?

Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen

Accreditation is a process in which a school, business, or other organization participates in an evaluation process conducted by a third-party accrediting agency, also known as an accreditor. The accreditation process varies by accreditor, but usually begins with the institution seeking accreditation completing a self-evaluation process. Once the self-evaluation process is complete, the institution submits an application to the accreditor, who then begins its own evaluation. After the evaluation is complete, the applicant organization is informed if it is approved for accreditation or whether it needs to make changes in its operations.

Prior to beginning the accreditation process, an organization will typically be provided with the accrediting agency's criteria and will be asked to begin an internal review. The organization will compare its current processes and policies to the standards of the accreditor. Some accrediting agencies offer applicants assistance in this process by matching them with a volunteer from an organization that has already received accreditation. The volunteer can assist the applicants in their internal review and provide insight into possible challenges that an organization will have during the accreditation process.

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Woman holding a book

After a self-evaluation is completed and the organization believes that it can meet the accreditor's standards, it may be permitted to make a formal application for accreditation. This may include paying a fee as well as submitting a written application. The accrediting agency will typically assign a staff member to oversee the accreditation process. During accreditation, generally every aspect of an organization's operations will be scrutinized, including its administration, facilities, and both long- and short-term outcomes for the population that it serves. The organization may also be compared to benchmark standards set by other similar but accredited organizations.

At the end of the accrediting agency's evaluation, the applicant will be informed of its findings. If the organization meets the accreditor's standards, accreditation will generally be issued at that time. If the organization does not yet meet the criteria, the accreditor will offer direction on what the organization needs to change or improve in order to be eligible for accreditation. Some accrediting agencies may set a time frame during which the organization must address its shortcomings in order to be approved under its original application. If the organization remains ineligible for accreditation after this point, the application will be denied, and further attempts at achieving accreditation will have to be under a separate application, with the organization repeating the entire accreditation process.

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