Choosing the Right Cosmetology School when Interested in Natural Hair!

Hi Curls,

My goal with this post is to help someone like me who was so confused at the beginning as far as choosing a Cosmetology School. I am 6 weeks away from graduating and sitting for my State Board exam! Yay me!

Most of you know my story and know that I did, once upon a time, work in Corporate America (omg yes! hard to believe) in Finance and that I hold a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Finance (ya di yah! blah!). I fell in love with natural hair, created an annual natural hair expo, created a natural hair care product line carried in multiple locations across the US, been recognized locally and nationally in print and digital publications, etc. Just visit to see all about that! Now back to this post…

I started school full time at a newly built school in October 2015, was pregnant (still trekking to school daily) and didn’t know it (at the beginning) so I took 3 months off of school in 2016 after having my little one, then transferred schools, started going to school part time then full time and so here we are 16 months later at the end of my cosmetology school journey! The school I am at now is a Paul Mitchell school or rather they purchased it (drama). There ya go! Now back to this post…!

When I first started my cosmetology school research, at 30 years of age in 2015, I began by locating the licensing division, Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), in my state of residence (Michigan). You can typically find state agencies licensing websites which will spell out everything you need to do to get licensed which typically involves:

1) doing a clock hour program at a school (around 1500 hours for 1 year full time or part time around 15-20 months) or apprenticing (2000 hrs up to 2 years in Michigan) at a salon (all of this for free meaning you DON’T get paid!!!)

2) Complete practical tasks (i.e.  known as MPA’s In Michigan; there are 1100 tasks such as perming, relaxing, braiding, etc.)

3) sitting for the State board exam which includes a written and practical (i.e. demonstration of infection control, salon services, etc.) at a testing center ( prior to licensure

Bear in mind that when choosing to pursue your license, you should know that they involve a huge time commitment. Here a just a few things you need to have in order prior to starting any formal licensing program:

  • transportation to and from school or salon
  • daycare or program (i.e. sports, latch key) for children
  • federal financial aide (i.e. must complete a FAFSA) or private loan
  • support system (i.e. boyfriend, best friend, Mom, Dad, Aunt, you get it!, etc)

Once you get this order, then it’s time to look around for a school that is accredited and recognized by your state for liscensure. Each state typically publishes a list of schools. For example, check out Michigan’s schools.

Don’t just blindly pick a school, fill out an online application, and just show up for your first day!!! Baby girl or boy, you need to do your research. Visit the school and talk to Admissions! Make a checklist of what you are looking for in a school, always go on a tour and weigh your options. This is what you should consider when picking a school!

  • Location – Is it safe? Can you get there daily? Will the clientele be diverse? Do they get a lot of clientele?
  • School Size – How many students go there? Is it big? (Less attention) Is it small (More attention)?
  • Kit (tools for school) – Does the school provide this? Do I need to purchase these items? Do they have a display of what I can expect in my kit? Is it included in your overall cost?
  • Hours – Do they have a day program? Do they have a night program? When can you go to school?
  • Length of Program – Can I finish full time? Part time? How many clock hours is it?
  • Books – What books do they provide? Are they Milady or Pivot Point? Are they included in my tuition cost?
  • Products – Does the school provide products for clients? Do I have to purchase these products.
  • Culture – Is it necessary that you be at school that does all types of hair? or just one ethnicity?
  • Reporting – How often do you get a progress report? Monthly, weekly?
  • Licensure – Does the school pay for the exam? How do they prep students for the exam? Do they do weekly mock state board drills? Do they do 5 weeks of mocks? What do they do?
  • Talk to one of the students at the school!!!! Get the low down!

My advice, is to make sure that you can get back and forth to whatever location you choose. I personally have went to a big school and little school and there are some stark differences but there was always drama (aka dramatology) in both schools. There are people of all types of ages that go to cosmetology school so you will have to adapt but above all worry about yourself and doing what you need to do.

 The school needs to provide the kit (I’ll explain this later) and you better see it before you commit to anything. 

Choose a schedule that works for you. I personally went HAM and went full time eventually just to get the program over with! The school needs to provide the products! If you are paying $18K+ then my goodness that’s what the hell they should do! Its a good idea to learn how to do all textures of hair! Why limit yourself? 

The school at a minimum needs to provide you a progress summary (test scores, completed practical tasks, clock hours to date, etc) at lease monthly so that you know where you are it. If they don’t then run! When visiting the school, always pull at least 2 students to the side and get the low down!

What should be in your kit at a minimum? Make sure you determine if the school provides the kit and if it is including in your tuition!!! I mean damn, when you make it to the clinic floor (typically after 350 hours or Cosmetology program) you need your damn tools to do folks hair on the clinic floor!

  • Shampoo and Chemical Cape
  • Cutting Cape
  • 2-3 Mannequins (at least 1 curly and 2 straight>>>human hair only)
  • Blow Dryer (with concentrator, dryer pick, and diffuser)
  • Flat Iron
  • Marcel Curling Iron
  • Clips
  • Perm Rods
  • Cutting Shears (scissors)
  • Texturing Shears
  • Razor (with guard)
  • Round Brushes
  • Brushes (Paddle, Vent, various round brushes, wig brush, etc.)
  • Combs (cutting, hard rubber for thermal styling, wire rat tail, rat tail, detangling, etc.)

Alright Curls, hope this helps! With this, I will part with a few words of advice and words of wisdom!

  • Get those hours! Get to school on time! When you are late and have to clock in, you loose time and it keeps you in school longer!
  • You will have a contract date (when you need to finish school by) and if you go past this date, it may cost your more per hour to finish!
  • If you are interested in doing natural hair (I’ll post about the pros and cons of the Natural Hair Cultivation License vs the Cosmetology Liscense so stay tuned!), know that most schools will focus on basic skill sets such as infection control, curling, perms, relaxers, cutting, etc. They don’t necessarily focus on natural hair styles.
  • Stay away from the cliques and the drama! Do what you have to do to finish! It’s cool if you make friends and all but that is not what you are there for. There will be folks fresh from high school and regular people that don’t have the maturity to be even be on your level but flick them off and be the example!
  • Promote your self on your Facebook page, Instagram, etc. You are your own brand. 
  • Start building your clientele at your school. If they love you, they will follow you regardless of how much less they paid at your beauty school.
  • Take before and after pictures of ever client if they will allow it. Post! Post! Post on social media!
  • Put a portfolio (digital and a binder with pictures) together>>> don’t wait on the school!
  • Put a resume together! Seriously, its not hard, google it!
  • Network while in school by attending related hair and beauty shows.
  • When working on your MPA’s, get the horrible stuff done first so you can play around (i.e. perms, relaxers)
  • No clientele, get friends and family to stop in so you can get good photos!
  • Cosmetology school is what you make it! They will only show you the basics but you have to challenge yourself and work on things that you are interested in and master it.
  • Michigan State Board of Cosmetology – everything is here!

Bye Curls

-Genevieve Anyiah

~Embrace the Natural You~

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