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Student Loans

Student Loans for Cosmetology School

An accredited cosmetology school in the U.S. can cost between $5,000 and $25,000 to attend, with an average cost of about $16,300

If you need help paying, it’s always best to start by applying for grants or scholarships. But if they’re not enough to help cover your costs, student loans can be an option. Here’s what to know about your federal and private options for student loans for cosmetology school.

Can you get student loans for cosmetology school?

Just like you can get student loans for attending a trade or vocational school, you can get student loans for cosmetology school

Federal student loans are only available at accredited schools, but you can use them to pay for degrees and certificates. Private student loans, however, are available at non-accredited schools in some cases, but they’re often limited to degree (rather than certificate) programs.

The federal government considers a cosmetology school to be an eligible institution that can offer federal student loans if it meets three criteria:

  1. It’s accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency. 
  2. It only admits students with a high school diploma or its equivalent into the program.
  3. It must have legal authorization from its state to offer postsecondary education.

Eligible institutions include traditional colleges, universities, and cosmetology trade schools. When you submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for a federal student loan, you can search for your school to ensure the U.S. Department of Education considers it an eligible institution. 

Besides considering your school’s characteristics, you should also consider the cosmetology program. 

What is the difference between a cosmetology degree and a certificate?

You may be able to use a degree or certificate to get a cosmetology license, but degrees often carry more weight. They’re both forms of higher education, but they have key differences.

A certificate is a postsecondary vocational certification you receive after completing the cosmetology program. It’s shorter than a degree program because it focuses primarily on general cosmetic knowledge and skills.

A degree is achieved once you complete a postsecondary undergraduate course of study based on a career path in cosmetology. The course requires students to take general classes in addition to their specific field of study. 

If you have other goals, such as starting your cosmetology business, you might choose a degree program over a certificate program. Degrees often cover more topics, such as communication, business, leadership, and public speaking. Depending on the program you choose, you can complete your program within one or two years. 

Federal student loans for cosmetology school

The most common type of federal student loans are Direct Loans, which include Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans. The federal government doesn’t charge interest on subsidized student loans while you’re enrolled, during a six-month grace period upon graduating, and during periods of deferment. With unsubsidized loans, however, interest does accrue.

As long as the Department of Education deems your school eligible to offer student loans, you can use Direct Subsidized loans, Direct Unsubsidized loans, or both to cover the costs of your degree or certificate program. 

The most significant characteristics of the two most common federal student loan programs are:

Direct Subsidized LoanDirect Unsubsidized Loan
Maximum annual loan limits (after year 3)$5,500$12,500
Must be an accredited eligible institution?
Must be enrolled in school at least half-time?
Must have a financial need?

The loan amount you may be eligible for each year will vary depending on your school year and whether you’re a dependent or independent student.

For example, if you’re an independent student—which generally means you’re at least 24, married, or have dependents—in your first year of school, you can receive up to $9,500, with no more than $3,500 subsidized.

How to find out whether your beauty school is accredited

You can find out whether your beauty school is accredited by using the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs or using the Federal School Code Search. You can also check whether your cosmetology school is accredited by searching for it when submitting your FAFSA

It’s best to enroll in accredited schools since a third party rigorously evaluates the quality of its accredited programs. Non-accredited schools might still be going through the accreditation process or have failed the third-party quality tests.

If you find that the school of your choice isn’t accredited, find out why before you commit. If the program is undergoing the accreditation process and will likely be accredited soon, you may not need to rule out enrolling there. 

If you enroll in a non-accredited program, remember that you wouldn’t be eligible for federal student loans.

Private student loans for cosmetology school

If the federal loans you receive still aren’t enough, several private student loans for cosmetology schools are available. Unlike federal student loans, they can be used in non-accredited programs. 

We’ve researched lenders that offer private student loans for cosmetology schools.

LenderRates (APR)Eligible programs
College Ave4.07% – 16.69%Undergraduate (accredited institution)
Sallie Mae4.50% – 16.34%Undergraduate or professional certificate (partnering institution)
Ascent4.09%16.08% Undergraduate, professional training, & certificate programs (partnering institution)

College Ave – Best overall career student loan

LendEDU rating: 5 out of 5

  • Cover up to 100% of your cost of attendance
  • Get an instant credit decision 
  • Repayment flexibility

The College Ave career training loan has no application fees, and the application only takes three minutes to complete. Loans are offered whether enrolled full-time, half-time, or even less than half-time.

The four repayment term options range between five and 15 years. You can also choose to start repaying your loan during school, if you want to save on the interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan.

Sallie Mae – Best career student loan for cosigners

LendEDU rating: 4.3 out of 5

  • Cosigner release after 12 consecutive, on-time payments
  • Up to 100% of costs are covered
  • No fees

Sallie Mae offers a Smart Option Student Loan for Career Training for professional training programs and trade schools partnered with the lender. Some partnering institutions are non-accredited.

The repayment terms are between 10 and 15 years. Borrowers can’t choose their term, but they can choose between an in-school repayment plan or deferred payments. Sallie Mae also offers several repayment assistance programs to its borrowers.

Ascent – Best career student loan for a soft credit check

LendEDU rating: 4.3 out of 5

  • Cashback rewards
  • No impact on credit score
  • Repayment assistance options

Ascent’s Career and Professional Training Loan is a fixed-rate product available to students at eligible cosmetology schools. Every year, Ascent awards students with more than $80,000 in scholarships.

You can choose a repayment term of five, seven, or 10 years. Students can also earn cash back from purchases made at Ascent retail partners, which they can apply toward their loan. Plus, upon completing their program, they can get cash back on 1% of their original loan amount.

How to apply for cosmetology school student loans

When applying for cosmetology school student loans, start with federal student loans.

Applying for federal student loans

The process to apply for a federal student loan includes several steps:

1. Set up a Federal Student Aid account online

To set up an account, you’ll need to provide some personal information, such as your name, date of birth, and social security number. The entire process to set up an account may take five to 10 minutes.

2. Complete the FAFSA

You have until June 30 to fill out and submit the FAFSA. But before you do, check your school and state deadlines, as they each have their own. 

You’ll need to provide detailed information, so it can take up to an hour to complete the FAFSA the first time. (For additional financial aid in following school years, you must renew your FAFSA application every year.)

As you fill out the FAFSA, you must choose at least one school to determine the types of student aid it’ll offer—and how much—but you can select up to 20 schools

3. Review your FAFSA Submission Summary

It’ll take one to three days to process your FAFSA—up to a week if you submit it by mail. Once it’s processed, you’ll receive the FAFSA Submission Summary, which you’ll need to review and correct if there are any errors. This may take 10 to 15 minutes to review and/or revise.

The summary will list the financial aid you may be eligible for, information about the schools you selected when you completed the FAFSA and the next steps.

4. Review your federal financial aid offers

The schools you selected will send you an offer of financial aid usually in the spring. The offer will include the cost to attend and the types of aid they’re offering, as well as the deadline to accept. 

The time it takes you to review your offers will depend on the number of schools you selected in your FAFSA and the types of financial aid you’re offered. Expect to spend at least five minutes reviewing the details of each school’s offer.

5. Accept your offer

Once you’ve decided where you’d like to enroll, you’ll follow the instructions to notify the school and accept any or all of the financial aid offers that work best for you. 

If different types of financial aid are offered to you, it’s important to accept them in this order:

  1. Grants and scholarships
  2. Work-study programs
  3. Loans

The time it may take for you to receive the funds may vary slightly depending on the program, but funds are generally available or disbursed by the beginning of the fall semester. You can contact your financial aid office to find out more details.

Applying for private student loans 

If the financial aid through grants, scholarships, and federal student loans you receive isn’t enough to pay for cosmetology school, then you can apply for private student loans. 

The process to apply typically does not require as much time:

1. Enter personal & loan information

Provide some information for the lender to verify your identity, such as your name, birthdate, social security number, and address.

Then, you’ll share the details about the program you’re enrolled in, such as the name of the institution, cost to attend, when you’ll be attending, and the loan amount you’re requesting. This step should only take a few minutes.

2. Apply solo or add a cosigner

Private lenders are typically more likely to approve your loan application with a cosigner. So, you’ll be given the option to apply on your own or include someone else on your application. 

This step will take about a minute if applying solo. If you decide to apply with a cosigner, s/he will have to fill out a separate part of the application.

Always be careful about cosigning, though. Make sure you and your cosigner understand the agreement—and risk—a cosigner commits to. A cosigner must make payments to your loan if you do not.

3. Provide employment and income information

Finally, you’ll enter your employment status and annual income before you review the information on your application. This should only take a minute or two.

4. Submit your application

Once you’ve completed your application, you’ll submit your application and view the interest rates you’ve prequalified for.

5. Sign and accept loan terms

If you’re approved for the student loan and you accept, the lender will provide you with further details on how and when you’ll receive the funds. 

Typically, once your program certifies your enrollment—which may not be until 30 days before the semester begins—the funds will be disbursed to your school within the first few weeks of the start of the semester.

Alternatives to student loans for beauty school

Although student loans can help pay for beauty school, it’s best to start out by looking for other types of financial aid, such as federal or state grants, private scholarships, school scholarships, or school payment plans. 

Most of these alternatives, such as Pell Grants, will require you to demonstrate financial need or certain skills and abilities. The application process will vary by awarding institution, but you can expect to provide additional information that will separate you from other applicants.

Student loan alternativeWhat to expect when you apply…
Federal Pell GrantComplete the FAFSA

Be enrolled in an eligible accredited program
State grants & scholarshipsComplete the FAFSA or demonstrate financial need

High GPA

Community involvement & leadership

Be enrolled in an eligible accredited program
Private scholarshipsSubmit a video/essay demonstrating interests, career goals, passion

Provide references or letters of recommendation

Be enrolled in a cosmetology program
School-specific scholarshipsComplete the FAFSA or demonstrate financial need

High GPA

Community involvement & leadership

Be enrolled full time or half time
In-school payment planComplete application, including your financial information

Be enrolled full time or part time

By seeking grants and scholarships or payment plans first, you may significantly reduce your overall costs to attend beauty school. Accumulating as little debt as possible will help improve your financial footing. Supplement the free money you receive with federal student loans first, and then cover the rest with the best private student loans.