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How Do You Find The Right Cosmetology School?

Congratulations! You’ve decided you want to go to Cosmetology School, and now you need to decide which school will be the right choice for you. I would love to help!

My name is Karen Spinelli, and for 20 years I hired and trained New Hairstylists fresh out of Cosmetology School to work in our salon as assistants and New Talent Hairstylists. Based on my years of experience, I will show you how to find the right Cosmetology School for you, however it might not be what you think! Before I make recommendations, I want to give you TWO crucial pieces of advice to consider and a much broader perspective, one that no one else will give you.

In all my years of hiring and training brand New Hairstylists, fresh out of Cosmetology School, I never encountered one newly licensed Cosmetologist, not even one, who felt ready to be a Hairstylist. Kinda sobering, right? I am talking about Hairstylists who graduated from the most costly prestigious private Cosmetology Schools, and Hairstylists who graduated from the Cosmetology program at their local community college.

Let me explain. It’s important to know that Cosmetology School is an INTRODUCTION to the beauty industry. It simply can’t be more than that. It is about one significant but very small part of your journey. It is about one year of education. Cosmetology school is the schooling you are required to take to pass your State Board Examination. Your State Board Exam is a requirement by your state to license you to provide services to the public in a safe and competent manner. Being a safe and competent Hairstylist is of course, super important, but truly, not the same as the skills you will need to be a successful Hairstylist.

You can go to a costly, private Cosmetology School with fresh paint and an amazing marketing campaign, but can you afford the debt afterwards?

No one warns or prepares you for the 2 to 3 years that come AFTER you graduate from Cosmetology School. You do not come out of one year of Cosmetology School and start making good money. It doesn’t happen. Ever. It takes 2 or 3 additional years to really get the hang of being a Hairstylist. During the 2 to 3 years after you graduate, you will need to pay to take advanced classes, and have money to pay your bills. In order to do that you will need to build a clientele, and building a clientele takes time.

All Cosmetology Schools have good and bad instructors.

As a Hairstylist and Director of Education for an award winning salon, part of my job was to go into the local Cosmetology Schools and be a guest speaker and an educator. Do you want the inside scoop? ALL Cosmetology Schools, the costly private ones and the community college schools, have good and bad instructors. Many, many instructors can teach out of a book, but were never successful themselves in a salon. (shhhh….I know because some of the instructors were fired from my salon.) ALL Cosmetology Schools will leave you with gaps in your education. NO Cosmetology School will have you 100% ready to be successful and make money as a Hairstylist after your graduation. And finally, Cosmetology Schools and their reputation can change. Depending on who was hired, and their current teachers and administration, schools can turn around and become schools that are worth considering. That is why it is important to ask around, research, and go see for yourself.

Go See For Yourself!

Finding and choosing your Cosmetology School will take some homework and self reflection on your part.

Your Cosmetology School To Do List:

  1. Google “Cosmetology Schools near ______ “ (Whatever city you are in or near.)

  2. Research the schools websites, social media and reviews.

  3. Narrow down your list of schools you might be interested in. Keep in mind how far you are willing to commute for a year.

  4. If you know a Hairstylist or a Cosmetology student, ask them their opinion or what they know about the local Cosmetology Schools.

  5. Know what you can afford. Can you live at mom and dad’s while you go to school and get your first job after you get licensed? Will they help with the tuition? What financial responsibilities do you already have? Are you doing this on your own? Can you handle working a side job, going to school and starting a career at the same time?

  6. If you narrow it down to 2 or 3 schools, and you want to deep dive the school, schedule a blow out, facial, or nail appointment, and see for yourself what the school, students and teachers are like.

  7. Call your top 2 or 3 school choices and make an appointment for a tour.

  8. Go to the school visit and bring a list of questions.

List of Questions to take with you on your Cosmetology School Visit:

  1. What curriculum does your school offer? (Pivot Point, Milady, you want some recognizable name attached to their curriculum. If it is a private school, more than likely they will have their own brand curriculum)

  2. What are the statistics on the amount of students who pass the State Cosmetology exam from your school?

  3. What options do you offer with a school schedule? Nights? Weekends? What days?

  4. How much is tuition? How much are the books and kit? What is included in the kit, what isn’t included?

  5. Do they have scholarships, financial aid?

  6. Do you have a student salon? How many Cosmetology hours are student salon hours?

  7. How exactly do you help your students find their first job after graduation?

  8. Do you have practice exams to prepare for the State Board exam?

  9. Is there anything you think I should know that I haven’t asked?

So, were you hoping I would tell you exactly what school to pick?

As you can see, it’s not that easy.

What I can tell you is that when I interviewed New Hairstylists, what mattered to me is that they had passed their State Board exam and they were licensed. I honestly didn’t care what school the assistants I hired came from. What I cared about was their attitude, work ethic, how well they presented themselves, did they take the time to do their hair, makeup, have a resume, and show up on time to the interview. Were they open to learning, had they taken any classes after Cosmetology School, and would they adapt to our salon culture?

I hope that what you take away from this article is that your best learning, and your most important experiences will come AFTER Cosmetology School. Cosmetology School will get you started on your journey, it is NOT your journey. Do the initial research and homework on Cosmetology Schools. This is YOUR career, YOUR future, it is worth it to do the research. Once you have all of this information, weigh the school options with what matters most to you. I wish you all the best!

Elevating The Industry,

Karen Spinelli


Cosmetology Students and New Hairstylists My intention with every post is to give New Hairstylists all over the world the tips, short cuts, and tools they need to quickly achieve success. I would love to hear from you! You can reach out here, on my site, Instagram, or Facebook. Sign up for my newsletter to receive my weekly blog sent to your inbox.

Cosmetology Schools and Teachers I would love to talk to your students! To book Karen as a speaker at your Cosmetology School, click here.

Karen Spinelli is from Pasadena, California. She was behind the chair for thirty five years, as well as Salon Director of Education for New Hairstylists for the last twenty years. Karen loves Hairstylists! She loves to be a part of “Ah Ha” moments, and to watch New Hairstylists grow in their confidence and skills.

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