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

Everyone starts beauty school excited about a new direction and career. But getting through a program isn't always a breeze—and unfortunately, some students end up dropping out.

There are many real and often insurmountable reasons for dropping out of beauty school. Things happen! But sometimes, a little extra support and guidance could help get you back on track. While no article can solve all problems, reading one (perhaps this one!) could be the first step to getting to a better place.

We're here to help you navigate the tricky parts of your beauty education with advice and three specific actions to try.

Beauty School Can Be Hard

Many, many beauty students report that the curriculum in their programs is fast-paced. And with any major lifestyle change comes stressors and the need to adjust. Nearly everyone can feel overwhelmed by new commitments as hefty as attending beauty school.

There's a ton of reasons some students feel like walking off into the sunset, never looking back. Though everyone's situation is different, there are often similarities. A few of the most common reasons for dropping out of postsecondary education are being overwhelmed by 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. What are the specific reasons you feel like quitting? Are you not doing as well as you thought you would? Not gelling 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 try some new things to get back on track. Let's dig into three possible solutions that may help get you unstuck.

Goal Setting Like a Boss

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

Beauty school covers a lot of material, including topics you may not have focused on when initially deciding to enroll, like human biology, ingredient chemistry, and state laws. And classes move quickly!

Effective goal-setting through a method called "SMART" can help you focus on one thing at a time. Breaking large obstacles into smaller chunks may help you turn things around.

“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 to measure success.
  • Achievable: You feel you can reasonably succeed at your goal.
  • 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 look at a (fictional) barber student's way of determining their SMART goal:

  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.
  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 so far.
  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 skill 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 essential 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 tackling one specific skill doesn't seem meaningful. However, it's possible that achieving one SMART goal could give you the confidence to achieve another, and another, and another.

Handling Financial Stressors

  • If your root issue is: Everything costs more than expected
  • One potential solution is: Create a realistic budget

Let's be honest: Finances are stressful. 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 walk away, take a good, long look at your budget. If you had one before starting school, see where things went wrong and where you can make 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 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 exams, get your license, and jump into your career. When trimming your spending, consider what 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 and 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, even with that help, some people find themselves genuinely stuck. There are options here, though they may not be as comfortable.

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

Now that that's out of the way, other options could be:

  • 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, double-check that they're comfortable with everything.
  • 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 an eyebrow threading or hair braiding license. And generally, you don't need any kind of license to work at a retail makeup location like Sephora.
  • 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: 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 as possible) and get your license. This is especially true if your school helped finance your education. They want you to succeed, both for their reputation in delivering excellent education and so you're able to repay them.

The first step to communicating 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, such as 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. That may not make asking for help easy, but making a plan of action 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. The school may have a dedicated staff member for finances, or you may need to talk to someone in administration. Regarding personal issues, figure out who you're most comfortable with and ask for direction.

2. Make an appointment if possible.

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

3. Plan out what you need to say.

Write out what the issue is, why it occurred, and what help you need. Bringing notes to the meeting is totally okay! Details can be lost in the shuffle without them. You can even practice the bullet points on a friend or family member to ensure you're clear.

4. Avoid blame.

It can be 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, 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 helpful. 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 wants 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 most 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 return.

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 you could keep going with some changes, talk to anyone who could help you inside and outside of school. Your future is at stake, so no conversation should be off the table. You may be surprised by what the school can do to assist. They may have ideas for handling issues like 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 to support you as you go through your challenges.

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

If you need to press pause on beauty school, schedule an exit appointment with the appropriate person in the administration. You and the school must be aligned about where things stand regarding credits earned and what happens to them, your account balance, re-enrollment terms, and more.

We hope all of this advice might allow even one struggling beauty student to turn things around! Remember that more people than you think may be in a position to help and lend support. And we wish you the absolute best in your beauty education journey.

Select a beauty program and state to view schools