Ninety-four percent of parents expect their children to attend college, according to Pew Research Center. A number of young adults in Provo have overcome the pressure and chosen to step away from traditional education and attend cosmetology school.
For people like Olivia Arner, 19, from Alaska, hair school wasn’t their original plan. Arner began school at BYU but said that online schooling during COVID-19 led her to become disinterested in her classes. She said she always loved hair and cosmetology and decided hair school was the best way for her to create a career for herself. She recently enrolled and began school at Paul Mitchell The School in Provo.
Arner said that despite mostly positive responses about her decision to leave BYU, she sensed judgement from some people thinking she wasn’t “smart enough for BYU.”
“There’s a lot of different ways you can be successful in life. I think what matters most is the effort you put forth,” Arner said. “No matter what you choose to do, if you’re just really trying to succeed in that aspect of your life and always pushing to be better, then I think you will be successful in any aspect of your life.”
Brooke West, originally from Germany, has a similar story. West said she grew up wanting to be a nurse, earning her associate degree at BYU-Idaho and working toward that goal, but ultimately didn’t feel like it was her niche. She had also loved doing hair and eventually decided that her best option was to drop out of college and pursue that passion at Paul Mitchell.
“A lot of kids go to college and realize, ‘regular college isn’t for me, I don’t learn this way and maybe I’m more interested in a trade,'” West said.
Notable hair schools in Provo include Paul Mitchell The School, Aveda Institute and Taylor Andrews Academy. After graduation, some students go on to work at salons like Studio 1030 at the BYU Wilkinson Center or run a salon from home.
During her time at Paul Mitchell, West met people from all over the country who came to study hairdressing in Provo for the more affordable tuition and lower cost of living. According to West, her tuition was about $18,000. While this is a lot of money, a four-year degree at BYU will end up costing approximately $23,880 for a Latter-day Saint, according to the tuition prices listed on BYU’s website.
West — a new mother — now runs her hair business from home. West said she believes Provo is a great place to have a hair business, and that despite the steep cost of tuition, starting a business after just a year of school was worth it.
“You will make connections with everyone that sits in your chair… It improves my life because I learn to talk to people in a way that can make their day better, but then I can also see the difference that I make in the 30 minutes to four hours that they’re with me,” West said.
Arner additionally said she finds hair cutting rewarding. “It makes me feel good when I notice other people feel good.”
West said her true passion is traveling to weddings to do hair for brides. She explained that it’s the quickest thing to do, it doesn’t cost her any money and she gets to be a part of their big day.
“I love thinking about my wedding day and the love that I created in my family from being married, and so being a part of other bride’s days and helping them see that this is just the beginning, that’s what I love,” West said.