Dear Guidance Counselor,
I really want to go to beauty school but my parents can't help me pay for it. Obviously I work as hard as I can, but the whole reason I want to go is because I make peanuts at my retail job. Are there any opportunities for me to get financial aid?
Thanks for writing! There is more than one way to escape retail hell (and I am sure that with Christmas approaching you are more eager than ever to trade a job for a career). If you need financial help to get through cosmetology school and into the salon, you may be eligible for some form of aid.
Grants. A grant is different from a student loan; this is money that you will not need to repay after you graduate. The American Association of Cosmetology Schools offers grants to students applying to or already enrolled in beauty school. Grants vary in dollar amount, depending on your financial circumstances, but can be applied immediately to your tuition. Do your research on grant applications, because the application process can be as simple as filling out a few forms to a more intensive personal interview.
Federal or state funding. The Department of Education's Office of Vocational and Adult Education offers a number of forms of aid to students applying to vocational and technical schools, either private institutions or community colleges. I received this form of aid when I entered the cosmetology program at my local community college and was delighted to learn that my tuition was paid for! Definitely check out these resources.
Financial Aid. If your cosmetology school is accredited by the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences, they most likely offer some form of financial aid to students who can demonstrate a need for it. This will likely be a good incentive to keep your grades up (as if you need one, smarty-pants!) because financial aid is usually contingent on the student's academic performance.
Payment plans. Finally, if you do enter a first-tier cosmetology school with what seems like a prohibitive cost, it is likely there is a payment plan set up for students who can't pay cash up front. On a payment plan, students make monthly installments of a few hundred dollars towards their tuition (usually for one to three years) until it is paid off. Beware any interest charges or late fees that may be built into a payment plan, though, and stay on top of your bills so that you can pay off your education as quickly as possible.
As long as you are diligent with your research and applications, you may be surprised at how much financial assistance you are able to find!