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Why Do Students Enroll in College But Not Cosmo School?

BlogBeauty Career | May 19, 2014

If I had a nickel for every student I enrolled that said “I wanted to start Cosmo school first, but I ended up trying college instead. Now I am ready to start,” I’d have enough change to get vending machine snacks for the whole office!

If someone knows they are passionate about beauty, why do so many stylists go for college before attending beauty school?

So many of our Future Professional Stylists, as we at Empire call our students, open up to me and tell me that they always wanted to become a stylist. They study their own stylist in action, watch tutorials, and love to experiment on their friends and family. They would like to be in a field with creativity and self expression. They are talented, fashion-minded, and already know how a little makeup and hair styling can change a person’s appearance and attitude. They have the ability to make those changes. Some even have salons that tell them they have a spot for them once they get that cosmetology license.

In spite of all this, most of our Future Professional Stylists attend a traditional college and then decide to attend our school. Some even get into another field after taking all of that time and years of tuition, they then opt to change their career path to enter the world of cosmetology. It pains me to see how many of them feel like failures because college didn’t work out the way they wanted it to. So why do they wait?

Gregory Chase, Empire Beauty School Boston campus graduate and stylist at Lindsey Griffin Boston Hairstyling + Co, in Somerville, MA, waited until he completed college and worked in the medical field for 4 years before beginning his cosmetology. “I was worried about what my friends and family would say” Gregory told me.

Many people in his situation reflect and share with me this same reason. They went to college because of pressure from family and friends. They are told that if they choose a career in cosmetology they will not have any choices when they graduate. It means that if they choose beauty school over college, they will have to commit to one job and one industry forever! They are made to feel that some people may think less of them because they did not go to college.

I can’t say I blame them. If their friends and family are right, that doesn’t sound like a very happy career to me.

Here is the reality: there are far more opportunities for growth and change in cosmetology than most people realize! Some may go on to work full time in a salon and love it. There is also the opportunity for growth by owning your own salon one day. What most people do not realize is that there are still more options! Nowadays, numerous larger salon chains, like Regis, have many corporate regional and national growth opportunities in management and training. How about working for a product line and training other stylists in salons or at hair shows? All of the reality shows, movies, print ads we see: they all need stylists! Weddings, proms, sweet sixteens – people will pay big bucks to a stylist to look good for those special occasions!

And let’s not forget becoming a licensed cosmetology instructor and teaching at a school like Empire!

How about being yourself? What makes working in a salon different than other career choices out there? Spas and salons were named in a list of the top 10 occupations tattoos are accepted in the workplace, stating that salons and spas offer the “most popular occupations for the tattooed and pierced. It includes hairstylists, make-up artists, cosmetologists, nail technicians, massage therapists, and receptionists. The only attention your ink gets here is admiration. Clients will not give any negative feedback. They are certain these professionals are inventive and trust they will incorporate that style and imagination into their work.”

On to the meat and potatoes: Will beauty school grads find a job?

Employment of hairdressers, hair stylists and cosmetologist is expected to grow by 13% from 2012-22. This means, there are jobs out there! Empire Beauty School offers resume and portfolio assistance as part of the curriculum as well as to alumni. Empire has a partnership with the 12,000 Regis salons. Each campus also has local salon connections that provide thousands of cosmetology job opportunities.

So while Empire can not guarantee you get the job, they will help you locate newly posted positions. The bottom line is it’s up to the stylist to make the initial step: set up the interview, show up on time and professional, and make a great impression. If you can do that: the jobs are out there!

But what about hacking it? Sure, you can do your friends hair, but can you do it when the pressure is on?

Remember that feeling you got the first time you rode a bike? You got it! As scared as you were when you started, you were on that bike, moving on your own in no time! Sure, you could fall a couple times, but you get back on and keep going! You never regretted your choice to ride the bike. That’s what finishing your first foil or roller set on your mannequin feels like. And the more you rode the bike – the better you got. Same as styling!

From day one at our school, we see our Future Pro Stylists’ faces lighting up when they see their skills coming to life! This is when our Future Pro Stylists’ confidence levels soar, the same as it did the first time they rode a bike. They realize: YES – they can do it!

So what does Gregory say now? “Everyone was so supportive and it has changed my life. So much of your life is spent working – it should be enjoyable. Everyday I am excited to go to work because I know I have the career of my dreams.”

Are you ready for a career in beauty?

Here are a few questions to ponder: Can you see yourself in a salon? If so, what kind? Are you more excited by hands-on work than sitting at a desk all day? Do you like to listen and help people? Do you like to make people feel good? Are you concerned with finding a stable and flexible career?

If you do find this is the career for you, don’t worry about what people will or might say. Tell your loved ones and friends that you are ready to be a stylist! You will be surprised at the way people will receive your confidence! For those who do not, that’s okay. Sometimes people project their own fears and insecurities and sometimes people are just uninformed. It’s not your job to convince them, but to do what is best for you. You will be surprised at how many of the people you already know will be lining up for you to style them!

Getting ahead in any field means hard work and commitment. Don’t feel like a failure if you don’t see yourself going to or finishing a traditional college. Follow your heart and give it your all!

Emily Peters

Written by Emily Peters

Emily Peters has been a Career Planning Specialist at Empire Beauty School's Downtown Boston and Malden, MA campuses since 2007. She is passionate about helping students and stylists get ahead in the beauty field and has acted as the school liaison to the Boston community throughout her time at Empire. This includes city events, festivals, local hair shows and fashion shows. On top of her participation with numerous charities, she assists students in getting involved and giving back to these worthy causes. Emily is also the Boston campuses social media coordinator and uses this to help her students and the school gain recognition through posting photos and events.


  • Hansel Canady says:

    I’m a former graduate from empire and the one thing I didn’t like about empire school of green bay is that it wasn’t any African American teachers. Some days I wished that I knew how to do African American hair and not just Caucasian hair. The class room can only teach you so much and that wasn’t enough. So to answer the question, if I would have known these things about the school I would have went to another collage for another degree. #wasteofmoney With that being said, I wouldn’t mind going back to school to be a teacher at a empire school only to educate the student about different races hair type and teach them a hands on experience on how to go about doing things and not being scared when the time comes to step outside the personal box

    • Jess Quandel Jess Quandel says:

      Dear Hansel,

      As an educational system we value diversity in both our staff and student population. All instructors must have the skills and qualifications needed to meet the employment criteria which includes having the necessary licenses as mandated by the State Board. Independent of an instructor’s race, education is provided based on State approved curriculum and content.

      We appreciate your interest in furthering your education and career path. If you would like additional information on educator programs offered in your area, please let us know and someone will be in contact with you.
      Empire Education Group

  • Rebecca says:

    I really appreciate this article. I am about to enroll in cosmetology school after attending traditional college for 3 years. I didn’t know right out of high school that cosmo school would be right for me but I knew about halfway through. I was too afraid to disappoint my family who believed traditional college was the only way. I have finally opened up to them and they have actually been supportive. Thank you for writing my feelings exactly! Good to know I’m one of many.

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