Cosmetology School Requirements & Enrollment

If you’re considering a career in cosmetology the options available can be overwhelming. This guide provides general information on the cosmetology school requirements and application process when pursuing an education in the exciting field of beauty in the U.S.
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Age Requirements (U.S.)

The average age requirement for cosmetology school in the U.S. is 16. However, most people enrolled in cosmetology range from 18 to 30. People of all ages are drawn to the beauty industry as a possible career or career change option. Always check with your state cosmetology board for age requirements.

Education Requirements (U.S.)

Do I need a high school diploma or GED to attend cosmetology school?

This depends on the state. However, it is safe to assume that in most cases you will require your General Educational Development (GED) or high school diploma. A GED is available to anyone who wants to apply and requires you to pass five subject tests as your high school equivalency.

What are the typical GPA requirements for cosmetology programs?

Cosmetology programs do not set strict grade point averages (GPA) on the students they accept. You just have to meet the age and educational prerequisites.

Can I attend cosmetology classes if I’m still in high school?

There are some more progressive cosmetology schools offering classes or programs to high school students. In fact, if you are considering a career in cosmetology this is a great way to see if it is a good fit. You can also look into vocational high schools in your area that offer cosmetology studies.

Find Cosmetology License Requirements By State

Choosing a Program and School

When picking a program and/or the school you want to attend, there are several things to consider. Here are some we recommend.

  • At least one degree program or programs that lead to employment
  • A state license and/or authorization to operate
  • Accreditation or pre-accreditation by an agency approved by the Department of Education (ED)
  • Title IV school Certification by the Department of Education

You might also be concerned about language, disability accommodations, assistance for parents, or other more personal concerns you might want to address when finding the right school.

Is the School Accredited?

Accredited schools have met national education performance standards. This is established by a third-party accrediting agency that must be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. An accredited school must adhere to the highest standards and is also accountable to do so.

Whether the school is accredited or not, look into the school’s job placement and graduation success rate to help find the best schools in your area.

A Title IV school must meet the following standards:

  • ZAt least one degree program or programs that lead to employment
  • ZA state license and/or authorization to operate
  • ZAccreditation or pre-accreditation by an agency approved by the Department of Education (ED)
  • ZTitle IV school Certification by the Department of Education
See the U.S. Department of Education’s database to search for accredited cosmetology schools.

Speak to an Admissions Advisor

Each school will have an advisor that can discuss your goals and find the programs that will help you meet them. Take advantage of this! It can make a world of difference in finding the right program and choosing a school. Your high school might also have advisors who can help

Know the Cost

This is very important as the cost for cosmetology programs can range from as low as $1,500 for a three-to-six-month nail course upwards of $10,000 for two-year courses for something more technical like massage therapy or electrolysis.

Schedule a Tour

Schedule a tour of the cosmetology school(s) you are considering to get a feel for what they offer—and if the school will be the right fit for you. Check out the campus and classrooms, the type of equipment and resources they have available—and also interact with some of the instructors and students.

Know the State Licensing Requirements

Each state has its own requirements for the type of license you require to practice your cosmetology services. If you plan to practice in another state, you will either have to transfer your license with little to no additional training, apply for endorsement without requiring board exams, or choose a state that shares reciprocity with the state where you obtained your license, so you don’t require anything more.

You can refer to our state-by-state list of requirements for cosmetology licenses and reciprocity.

School Application Process

What Does the Application Process Involve?

Once you have chosen a school, it’s important to complete the application and enrollment process as soon as you can. Some schools can be quite competitive. This is also the best way to enroll in the next available session so you can get started on your career as soon as possible. If you have any questions, speak to the admissions advisor. Here is what you can expect from the application process.

The basics application process includes the following steps:

  1. Completing and submitting application forms
  2. Admissions adviser interview
  3. School/campus tour
  4. Required testing and exams
  5. Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application
  6. Arranging financial aid if required
  7. Pay tuition and other enrollment fees
  8. Sign an enrollment agreement/contract with the school
  9. Classes begin


Most cosmetology schools offer year-round enrollment without specific semesters and breaks like traditional colleges. Call the school(s) you are considering and ask them for their application/enrollment deadlines for the specific courses you are planning to attend.

Factors that schools consider when setting their enrollment dates include:

  • Program Duration:Some courses can be just a few months to complete, while others can be two years or more. Because of this you might have to wait longer between sessions before you begin.
  • Class Size:As mentioned, many cosmetology schools ensure they have a certain number of students in the program or course to make their school more efficient and profitable. This also ensures the best use of their instructors’ time.
  • State Licensing:Each state determines the amount of time required for each program which can impact the program duration and in turn the schedule.

The more involved and technical the program you wish to take, the more time there will likely be between enrollment deadlines.

What Documents are Required to Apply to Cosmetology School?

Cosmetology schools will require the following documents in most cases:

  • ZDriver’s license or other state-issued identification
  • ZHigh school diploma or GED (or high school transcripts)
  • ZSocial security number for financial aid
  • ZParental consent if you are under 18
  • ZTranscript from another cosmetology school (if transferring)
  • ZLetters of recommendation are often requested
  • ZImmunization records may be required (varies by school)
  • ZIn rare cases, an essay or video is requested

Are Assessment Tests Required?

You might be asked to attend an interview with a school representative. However, assessment tests are determined by requirements, therefore some programs might have an entrance exam or aptitude test while others will not.

Applying for Financial Aid

Speak to the admissions department to understand the full costs associated with your program. You need to understand the complete breakdown of costs so you can determine how you will pay for your education and what funding you will require. Here is an overview of your financial options for cosmetology school.

Accreditation for Federal Aid

The types of financial aid options are often dependent on the school’s accreditation status. This is true for all federal financial aid. The federal government is far stricter, and you will have to meet certain criteria such as:

  • ZCitizenship or legal residency
  • ZGED or high school diploma
  • ZEnrollment in or acceptance to an eligible Title IV school
  • ZComplete a FAFSA application
To complete your FAFSA application you will need to collect your financial information and depending on your age the financial information for your family. Your FAFSA application is then reviewed, and the FAFSA Application government and your school will develop a loan package. Part of the proceeds are provided by the government and the rest from the school.

To begin the FAFSA application process, go to the school’s website (look for their financial aid details) or directly to the Federal Student Aid website.

Loans vs Grants vs Scholarships

Here are your three financial aid options:


Loans must be paid back, and interest is charged. They are available via the federal government (FAFSA), your school, and private loans through lender institutions such as banks. You do not have to begin repayment until you complete your program or decide to discontinue it. Because interest is factored into your repayment schedule, be sure you understand how much interest is charged and the minimum amount you’ll need to make for each payment. Loans are available to anyone who qualifies based on approved credit.


A grant is provided without the need for repayment. These are much harder to come by but are available through many different channels including the government, the community, corporations, schools, and local businesses. Grants are usually awarded based on need.


These are gifts often provided based on a student’s accomplishments. They are funded by many institutions and in some cases corporations and companies in the community.

Some common criteria for scholarships include:

  • Academic merit
  • Need
  • Community service
  • Hobbies or skills
  • Leadership experience
  • Organizational memberships

Research the loans, grants and scholarships available to determine which ones make the most sense for your needs and situation before applying.

Preparing for Your First Day

Most cosmetology schools provide a student kit based on your program that is included in the cost of your tuition. However, if this is not the case, they should provide you with a list of what you need for your kit and what books are required.

Cosmetology is an exciting industry offering a wide variety of opportunities. The right cosmetology program will provide the education you need to reach your goals and find success.