A traditional, 4-year college isn’t for everyone. In fact, only 41 percent of students working toward a bachelor’s degree actually graduate in four years according to the National Center for Education Statistics. After six years, a little more than half will finally obtain that degree.

So, we get it. We understand that when you graduate from high school you’re given a plethora of choices. Sometimes you change your mind along the way. Sometimes things just don’t work out. We’re here to tell you that it’s OK—you aren’t alone. Our classrooms are filled with students who started along a more traditional college route before enrolling at Gene Juarez Academy.

If obtaining a 4-year degree is important to you, we encourage you to stay the course to complete it. We have the philosophy that education is important, and depending on your career path, a degree can be a useful asset to couple with a cosmetology license.

However, if you’re weighing your options and are thinking about cosmetology school versus a four-year school, here are four things you need to consider:

  1. Your student loan debt when you graduate. The average balance for a student graduating with a bachelor’s degree is $35,359, according to the College Board. Considering the fact that nearly 40 percent of those who start will never finish, you’ll still get stuck paying those loans whether you graduate or not. So before you rack up too much student loan debt at a traditional, 4-year school, be sure this is something you really want to do.
  2. Getting funded with a degree is harder. A lot of students decide to go to school to suffice their family, but plan on attending cosmetology school after they get their degree. Although there is nothing wrong with this plan, financially it can be hard. If you’ve already earned a bachelor’s degree, you are no longer eligible for federal grants. If you already have student loans, be sure you’re caught up with your payments or you could be in default, making it difficult to take out more loans. Another option is to do that plan in reverse. Because cosmetology school is only a year, you could get licensed, start work, and use that money to help fund your bachelor’s degree.
  3. Finish in about a year versus six. As shared above, nearly 60 percent of 4-year college students will obtain a bachelor’s in six years. Experts say the graduation rate for U.S. colleges is extremely low. This is for a variety of reasons, but six years is a long time to be in school. Cosmetology school is only a little over a year. Think about that. Your friends could be starting their sophomore year of college while you’re thriving in a new career.
  4. Landing a job is the whole point of school. Isn’t that why you go to college in the first place – so that it can lead to greater career opportunities? Unfortunately, only 27 percent of 4-year college graduates have a job related to their major (Federal Reserve Bank of New York) and 53 percent of college graduates are unemployed or working in a job that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree (DO-IT, UW). On the flip side, earning a bachelor’s can substantially increase your earning potential, so having a well thought-out career plan no matter what school you choose is key.

Higher education is an important decision—probably one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in your life, which is why it’s vital you consider your options.

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Here is a story of a GJA student who earned her bachelor’s degree before enrolling:

“Before I started here I attended Gonza University over in Spokane and received a degree in Environmental studies and a minor in music. It’s definitely different than the college experience, but it’s more of what I wanted to do. I’m more of a hands-on learner, and here we get to work with our mannequins every day and we get to play with color!” – RILEY

Here are two stories from our student body who started down the traditional college path, only to realize it wasn’t a right fit for them:

“I was going to school for nursing because that’s what my grandma had done for 30 years. I went to college for a year and a half, but I had always wanted to do cosmetology. There was an option to go to cosmetology in high school and my dad told me no, that I needed to be a nurse. Eventually I thought, ‘I don’t know why I’m wasting my time here at college because it’s not for me.’ I came to visit [Gene Juarez Academy] and I just felt like I fit in immediately. It’s really opened my eyes to what my life can be and what it’s going to be. Now I’m going to have a career it’s just a big confidence boost.” – CAMERON

“I felt really influenced to go to the University of Washington because it’s the best school. I did not necessarily have any interest for going there. It was a really tough transition because I had depression before I went to college, so when I got there I felt like I didn’t have a support system and didn’t have the friends I needed to be happy there. I found myself lying in bed, sleeping through classes, and I had no motivation to go. I had all this potential and I was just wasting it away. I had always been interested in cosmetology, and since enrolling, I feel like I’ve completely changed personality-wise. I’m still the same person, but I’m just happier, better, more fun, motivated, busy.” – JACKSON