Student Stylists: How to Pick One That Won't Do a Hack Job

haircutFrenchie's unfortunate pink dye job in Grease notwithstanding, getting haircuts and beauty treatments from student stylists can be a great way to save yourself a lot of money when you want to look good. While the stylists are still in school, they usually are pretty close to graduation before they are turned loose on the general public; at many schools, that means they have at least a year of classroom training under their belts.

The Aveda Institute has salons across the country where you can get not only haircuts, but spa services, super cheap. At the one near me, a cut and color cost me $54 ... and the best part? No tipping allowed. After doing this a few times, I am pretty convinced this is the best bargain going. Paul Mitchell also runs a chain of schools, or you can try Beauty School Directory.

Of course, getting snipped by student stylists is a little bit different than the usual salon experience. Here are ways to get the most out of your visit:


Be patient: Student stylists need to have their plan approved by an instructor before they start your services, and then again after they are done; less experienced ones will probably have their teacher there most of the time. This takes time, but it's what will save you from weird hair.

Be flexible: Mistakes do happen, so this probably isn't the place to go before your class reunion or a job interview that could make or break your career. If you can handle a few growing-out weeks or a return visit to fix wonky color, it's worth the (small) risk.

Be sneaky: Some schools have policies against staying in contact with a student, but if someone gives you a phenomenal cut or just really seems to get your beauty needs, there are ways to find her again. Slip her a business card "to follow up on that thing we talked about," or ask enough questions about her plans after graduation that you are likely to track her down. Of course, this beauty school business gives you so much bang for your buck you might never want to go back to a normal salon.

Be open to deals: The schools will often throw in a freebie, like a scalp massage or product application, in exchange for your patronage. The Aveda Institute I go to has a deal where new guests get 100 percent of the value of products they purchase back on a gift card for services, and something like 15 percent back for subsequent purchases.

Be honest: The students are being graded on how they do and how they handle any issues that come up, so don't hold back if you don't like something. If you aren't getting satisfaction, ask for an instructor or manager. And make sure they know if you're happy with your service, as well.

Have you ever had a haircut at a beauty school? Would you?

Image via Simon Peckham/Flickr

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