3 Solutions to Get Unstuck: A Student’s Guide to Beauty School Success

Everyone starts beauty school with excitement about a new direction and a new career. But getting through your program isn’t a breeze for most people—and unfortunately, some students do end up dropping out.

There are many very real and often insurmountable reasons for dropping out of beauty school. Life happens! But in some cases, a little extra support and guidance might help get you back on track. For those instances, we're here to help you navigate tough parts of your beauty education journey with advice and three specific actions you can try.

While no article can solve all problems, you never know whether reading on can be the first step to get you reoriented and in the right direction. If you’re struggling in beauty school, know that your situation is not uncommon, and you don’t want to leave school—and all the investment of time and money you’ve already dedicated—without knowing you tried what you could.

Beauty School Is Hard

Many, many beauty students report that the curriculum in their programs is fast-paced. And with any major lifestyle change—certainly starting school, but also starting a new job, or moving cities—comes with stressors and the need to adjust. Nearly everyone can feel overwhelmed by new commitments as hefty as beauty school.

For some students, the overwhelm can be too much, and they end up dropping out. There are so many reasons to feel like walking off into the sunset, never looking back. Though each individual’s situation is different, there are often similarities. Some of the most common reasons for dropping out of postsecondary education are being overwhelmed keeping up with the material, a changing or demanding family situation, and finances.

Getting to the Bottom of Why

When feeling overwhelmed about beauty school, look at why you feel that way and dig deep for the root causes. What are the specific reasons you feel like quitting? Are you not doing as well as you thought you would? Are you not getting along with your classmates or instructors? Is it more about the workload? Do you have anxiety about client work or exams? Are bills mounting more quickly than you thought?

Once you figure out why school is freaking you out, you can attack the problem head-on and maybe try some new things to get back on track. We offer three different possible solutions that may help get you unstuck.

Goal-Setting Like a Boss

  • If your root issue is: You are having trouble keeping up with the material or mastering certain skills
  • One potential solution is: Make “SMART” goals

Beauty school covers a lot of material, including topics you may not have really focused on when initially making the decision to enroll: from human biology and ingredient chemistry to state laws. And you quickly start building on the earlier material with more instruction. Before you know it, you may feel so behind.

Effective goal-setting through a method called “SMART” goal-setting can help you isolate one thing you can use to turn things around. Rather than setting your sights on “I want to pass my program,” which can feel too daunting, you can pick one thing to be disciplined about achieving.

“SMART” is an acronym that stands for the following:

  • Specific: Make sure your goal is narrowly defined so you know exactly what it is.
  • Measurable: Determine exactly how you’ll measure success.
  • Achievable: Only set this goal if you feel you can reasonably do this.
  • Relevant: The goal must be related to your larger objective of succeeding in beauty school.
  • Time-Bound: Give yourself a deadline and stick to it.

You can use SMART goals for many types of applications. Let's take a fictional barber student and look at what their thought process may be:

  1. I want to pass my program.
  2. That's too broad. My biggest specific challenge is with straight razor shaving, so I'll focus on that.
  3. Straight razor shaving is a major part of my career, so I need to become good at it to pass my program and succeed in the long run.
  4. I'm nervous about using a straight razor, so I'm standing in my own way.
  5. The nerves come from never having gotten a straight razor shave myself and having very little practice.
  6. I could get a straight razor shave from an experienced barber, so I know what it's supposed to feel like. I could also ask a teacher and some classmates for advice and practice opportunities.
  7. I know I've mastered straight razor shaving when I'm evaluated on that topic.
  8. My evaluation is in 20 days, so I'll give myself 17 days to feel comfortable with it.

Translated into SMART goals, that barber student might set the following:

  • S: I want to master straight razor shaving.
  • M: An instructor will trust me to perform straight razor shaving without supervision after my evaluation.
  • A: This is a topic I can practice frequently, and other barbering students before me have done this.
  • R: Straight razor shaves are often a luxury. Since I want to work in a high-end barber shop, this is an essential topic for my barber career.
  • T: We're supposed to show off our skills in 20 days. I'm setting my own deadline of 17 days to ensure I make myself practice enough.

Again, maybe you feel so behind that it doesn’t feel meaningful to tackle one specific skill. However, in some cases it is possible that achieving your SMART goal will give you confidence to achieve another, and another, and another.

Handling Financial Stressors

  • If your root issue is: Everything costs more than you thought it would
  • One potential solution is: Create a realistic budget

Let's be honest: Finances are stressful. Obviously, people usually talk about how to prepare for school when it comes to money. They talk about things like grants, scholarships, and other financial aid, which typically need to be received before beginning classes.

During beauty school, when you have fewer hours to bring in income, you knew it would be tight, but maybe you didn’t realize it would be quite so tight.

But what if it's too late for that, because you’ve already enrolled?

Before you decide to walk away—it’s important to take a good, long look at your budget. If you had one prepared before starting school, see where things went awry and where you can make reasonable adjustments. If you don't have a budget, there's no better time to start! Figure out where your money is coming from and where it's going, then make some changes.

Sample Beauty School Budget

Creating a budget can feel overwhelming in itself. We have created a resource to help: The Beauty Student's Guide to Budgeting, which includes a downloadable budget form!

A key thing to remember is that beauty school isn't forever. It's likely a year or so at most, after which you can sit for your state boards and be qualified to jump into a high-growth career. When trimming your spending, think about the things you can give up for now. This could be anything from getting a flavor additive for water rather than buying individual bottles of flavored water (just me?) to changing the temperature on your thermostat to a more wallet-friendly (but still comfortable) level.

Once you've done everything you can with your budget, if you find things are still not working, get help. After all, your school doesn’t want you to quit either. Your best bet is probably the financial aid expert at your beauty school. Bring in everything you've already worked on, be frank about your concerns, and see what advice they can give.

However, some people are truly stuck if tweaks alone can't fix the problem, no matter how well they manage their money. There are options here, though they may not be as comfortable.

Firstly, we don't recommend putting everything on a credit card. That interest makes the amount grow quickly, which could cause greater problems for you in the long run. Emergencies pop up, of course, but it's typically a best practice not to spend more than you can pay off in a month. (If you pay off your full balance every single month, you avoid paying interest entirely.)

Now that that's out of the way, options may be to:

  • Apply for private loans from a bank or other financial institution. Make sure you feel comfortable with the interest rate and repayment terms. If you need a cosigner on the loan, make sure that they are also comfortable with the terms.
  • Borrow directly from family or friends. Be sure to write up a contract, even without legalese, to protect both of you.
  • Find a side hustle you can do on your own time that won't interfere with your schooling, like delivery or rideshare driving, pet or house sitting, or online personal assistant gigs.
  • Check if there are beauty jobs you can do in your state without a license. For instance, some states don't require a license for eyebrow threading or hair braiding. If you know how to do those things, why not earn some money at it?
  • See if you can go part-time at school so you can get some additional work or save on childcare.

Clearly Communicating with Teachers and Admin

  • If your root issue is: A number of things all at once
  • One potential solution is: Openly seeking help from your school’s staff

Your teachers and leaders should be there to help you. It's in their best interest for you to graduate on time (or as close to your planned timeline as possible) and to get your license. This is especially true if your school was part of financing your education: They want you to succeed, both for their reputation in delivering excellent education and also so you are in a position to repay them.

The first step to communicating well with these folks is to figure out who you can and need to talk with. Consider the following people at your school:

  • Financial aid representative
  • Admissions representative
  • A favorite knowledgeable instructor (or two or three!)
  • Even people you may not think of enlisting for help: the school director, or fellow classmates

Anxious about starting the necessary conversations? We have you covered!

How to Talk to Beauty School Teachers or Administrators

Helping students is a big part of cosmetology teachers' and administrators' jobs. Not only should someone  if they genuinely want the next generation to succeed, but it's also essential for schools to have most of their students graduate on time and find jobs quickly.

That doesn't make asking for help easy, but planning the specific steps can make the process seem more possible.

1. Identify who you need to talk to.

A teacher may be best if you're struggling with a particular subject. For finances, the school may have a dedicated staff member for that, or you may need to talk to someone in administration. Regarding personal issues, figure out who you're most comfortable with and ask them to direct you.

2. Make an appointment if possible.

Instead of approaching the person you've identified for a spur-of-the-moment chat, make an appointment to plan the conversation and carve out the time needed. They could be rushing out the door or be mentally unprepared to have a deep talk if they don't have this conversation on their calendar.

3. Plan out what you need to say.

Write out the issue, why it occurred, and how to ask for help. Bringing notes to the meeting is totally okay! Your problem or what you've tried to do can be lost in the shuffle without planning. You can even practice the bullet points on a friend or family member to ensure you're clear.

4. Avoid blame.

It can be really easy to get upset and blame someone in the school, especially if you're angry about why you're struggling. This is why planning matters! Focus on "I statements," focusing on your interpretations rather than their actions. That said, you may not be upset about the beauty school at all!

5. Truly listen to what they say and keep an open mind.

It can be hard to listen to advice, especially if you can't immediately see how it could work for you. Listen to everything your school staff member says before responding, and start with questions rather than frustration. If you see a stopping block for you, bring that up and ask for further advice or clarification.

6. Recap what you talked about.

At the end of the conversation, go over what you heard and what your next steps should be. This allows them to clarify any points and lets you ensure your road is clear.

7. If reasonable, try out the advice and keep them informed.

There are cases when the advice may not be useful. Still, the employee appointed for these questions or concerns generally knows how to navigate murky waters. Give the tips a go and see what happens! Keep your school helper informed so they can help you avoid or handle challenges.

8. Say "thank you"—a lot.

While it's their job to help you, showing gratitude could smooth over any issues or frustrations. Plus, it's just polite!

If You Have to Press Pause on Beauty School

While nobody plans for this outcome, you can leave beauty school and start back up later. It's never too late to start—or restart—your career! Unfortunately, the reality is that the majority of people who leave school never return. They lose the momentum or get caught up in day-to-day life, then realize years have passed and feel they can't go back.

The first thing to do is figure out if you have to leave or if it would just be easier to leave. Most beauty programs take less than a year, and if you can make it work without the cost being too great to your finances or mental health, you should try to stick it out.

If you realize that you could keep going with some changes, talk to anyone who could help you, both inside and outside of school. Your future is at stake: no conversation should be off the table. You may be surprised at what the school can do to assist: your beauty school may have some ideas for handling personal issues like needing childcare or transportation assistance, even if those feel like “personal” challenges. You should also talk to your personal support system, like a partner, friend, or relative, to see if they can pitch in a bit in ways that could support you as you go through your challenges.

That said, there are reasons you may need to leave, and there's no shame in that. Life happens, and you get to decide whether if your priorities need to change.

If you do need to press pause on beauty school, schedule an exit appointment with the appropriate person in the administration anyway. It’s important that you and the school are aligned about where things stand, in terms of credits earned and what happens to them, your account balance, the terms for reenrollment, and more.

We hope that all of this is helpful advice that might allow even one struggling beauty student turn their direction around! Remember that more people than you think may be in a position to help and lend support. We wish you well in your beauty education journey.