How to Choose a Beauty School

Choosing the right beauty school is a big deal. A beauty school program represents a great deal of money, effort, and time, so it’s natural to feel some anxiety about making the right decision.

Here, we'll go through the steps to finding the right beauty school for you. Additionally, we highlight why your personal and educational needs matter, what questions to consider, and how to pinpoint schools that best align with your career goals.

Steps to Finding a Beauty School

The following steps are a tried and true formula to research and winnow down your choices to a beauty school for you. Featured cosmetology student, Delecia H, talks through the similar steps she took when choosing her school.

Step 1: Write Out Your Needs and Wants

Before researching schools, reflect on your educational goals, non-negotiables, and personal preferences. Take the time to clearly define your educational requirements (needs) and preferences (wants). "Needs" can include location, accreditation, specific programs, and facilities, while "wants" might include networking opportunities, extracurricular activities, or a brand name.

A big constraint for most students is budget. While you should have a budget range in mind for your program, you won’t know what financial aid you may qualify for until you speak with schools directly.

Step 2: Search for Schools in Your Area

For the vast majority of beauty students, finding a school close to home is essential. Use online resources such as Beauty School Directory’s school match tool and community recommendations to identify some candidate schools in your area that offer the programs you are interested in.

Step 3: Research the Schools on Your List

After narrowing your list of schools, it's time to dig a little deeper. For each prospective school, explore their websites and read reviews, and review any consumer disclosures on their websites. If you are exploring a career that requires a license, make sure that each school you keep on your list is either state-approved to provide training in that discipline or is an accredited Title IV educational institution.

Step 4: Make a List of Questions for the Schools You Like

Before contacting prospective schools, you'll want to develop questions highlighting your needs and concerns. You can ask about admissions requirements, financial aid, instructor experience, career assistance, and any other areas where you would like to know more.

Step 5: Contact Your Favorites

Reach out to each school's admissions office. Have your list of questions handy—they should be ready to answer any query and want to help you in your educational journey. Take note of any insights that may help you decide if a school is a good fit.

Step 6: Visit Schools

Whenever possible, make in-person visits to your top schools. Admissions representatives are very used to conducting tours for prospective students, so don’t be shy about asking for one. Attending open houses, taking guided tours, and sitting in on classes can offer some firsthand knowledge about potential beauty school options. Visiting candidate schools is critically important because some factors—like a cultural vibe—can only be felt in person.

Especially if there is a significant difference in the tuition for the schools on your list, now is also the time to ask about financial aid. You may very well need to submit paperwork (such as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA) to multiple schools for a personalized financial aid package to be presented to you, before you can make an informed choice.

Step 7: Pick Your Finalists

Based on your research, visits, and personal interactions, you'll likely have a pretty good idea about the schools that have risen to the top of your list. Once you have a shortlist of potential beauty programs, go back to your personal preferences and determine how well each school matches your goals. Listen to your gut as well—sometimes a school that looks the best on paper just does not feel as right as another school.

If you have any questions still at this point, you can continue to ask the admissions team. Remember, their job is to help you understand if you’re a good fit with their school.

Step 8: Enroll!

Once you have a finalist, let the admissions team know you want to move forward with the school’s formal application process. Congratulations, you’ve chosen your beauty school!

Needs and Wants to Consider Before Choosing a Beauty School

In the first step, it’s important to distinguish between requirements and nice-to-have factors with honesty. While everyone’s needs and wants will differ, here are some examples that may help you figure out the line for your situation.

Beauty School Educational Requirements

Example of a need: State approval to ensure a training program prepares you for state licensure

Example of a want: Specialized or add-on training in more advanced areas of interest, such as for lash extension training


Example of a need: A campus location that is close enough for you to commute there in 45 minutes

Example of a want: A campus located in a bustling, up-and-coming part of town near high-end salons

Affordability and Cost

Example of a need: Financial aid package that offsets enough tuition that you can afford out-of-pocket costs

Example of a want: Free new iPad included in the student kit


Example of a need: Well-equipped classrooms and a busy on-campus student salon

Example of a want: New and sparkling campus with easy walking to restaurants and cafes

Where and How to Research Beauty Schools

Where can you gather information about the schools on your list? Check out the following sources of information about beauty schools:

Program specifics and campus facilities

The best places to look are on the school’s website. You will also often see more about their facilities on their social media accounts, as well as on Google Maps photos. Of course, taking a tour is the best way to really understand the size, scope, and condition of a school’s campus facilities.

Accreditation or state approval

Though you can call the school directly or ask admissions when you speak with them, you may want to check independently for the school’s state approval for the program you are interested in. To do this, you can call the state board—typically it’s a board of cosmetology or barbering or a department of licensing. Sometimes the state board publishes a listing of currently approved institutions.

Student experiences

The best quick way to learn about student experiences is to read school reviews on platforms like Yelp or Google. You will often need to wade through a lot of reviews by clients of the student salon, which are not reviews by students of their educational experience—though salon reviews can also give you a glimpse of how well-run the operation seems to be in general.

Get in touch with alumni – you may be able to find alumni by searching on Instagram or by asking trusted professionals such as your own hairstylist, for example.

Instructor expertise

You can use social media to see the portfolios of instructors’ own work. Pay attention as well to specific instructors called out in recent online reviews. Some schools may let you talk to an instructor briefly during your campus tour, if you ask the admissions team and explain what you want to know.

Student outcomes

For Title IV accredited schools, the federal government offers a wealth of information. First, you can look up information such as program size, student demographics, average financial aid stats, and graduation rates on the Department of Education-run site, College Navigator. Many of those relevant statistics are included in Beauty Schools Directory’s profiles of beauty schools. Second, accredited schools are required by law to publish certain information on their websites, notably consumer disclosures with “fine print” about their programs, and a net price calculator showing estimates of tuition after financial aid. There is no single place on their websites where this information is included, but searching will turn it up.

Note that many perfectly good beauty schools are not accredited Title IV schools. Accreditation is not a requirement for beauty schools to offer legitimate programs. So don’t be alarmed if you do not find a school on these databases.

Questions to Ask Beauty Schools

When it comes to ensuring your success as a student, no question is too small or "stupid." If you're wondering about something, it's worth finding the answer! Here are just a few questions you could ask a potential beauty school:

  • What does this school look for in instructors? What qualifications and industry experience should I expect from teachers?
  • What is the total cost of the program, including tuition, supplies, and fees? Do students find they need to pay more for supplies along the way?
  • What financial aid options and scholarships are available?
  • What support services are available to students, such as career counseling, mentorship, and job placement?
  • What's the average class size and student-teacher ratio?
  • How does this beauty school facilitate hands-on, practical experience for students?
  • Can you provide some examples of successful alumni? Can I get in touch with alumni as references?

Do a Gut Check: Does This Beauty School Seem the Best for You?

Even with student success data, your research into what schools offer and recognition of your needs and wants, there's one last thing you should consider: your intuition. Here are some questions you can ask yourself when doing that gut check about potential beauty schools:

  • Does the school's atmosphere feel like a conducive learning environment?
  • Do students seem like they're having a good time?
  • Do instructors seem knowledgeable, passionate, and engaged in the classroom?
  • Can you imagine sitting in the classroom or training in the salon for many hours and feeling happy about that?
  • Does the school's mission, philosophy, and culture align with your values?
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