5 Pricy Services You Can Get for Cheap if You Let a Student Practice on You

A student cleans a woman's teeth at a dental hygiene clinic.
A student cleans a woman's teeth at St. Petersburg College's Dental Hygiene Clinic in Pinellas Park, Fla. Oral care, pregnancy ultrasounds, beauty treatments and other types of services are available at fractions of the normal costs when they are performed by students. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

One of the best experiences I had when I was pregnant with my first son nine years ago was a  free ultrasound at a sonography school.

In a room with other pregnant volunteers and our partners, ultrasound tech students took turns examining our various-sized baby bumps, learning what to look for in fetal ultrasounds under the guidance of vetted professionals.

What that meant for me was that rather than the short-and-sweet ultrasounds I’d had at my OB’s office, I got to watch my little love squirm, kick and do all the other fetus things for an entire hour. Plus, they sent me home with a bunch of sonogram photos to get my baby book started — all for exactly zero dollars.

Sonography schools always need models, so if you’re interested in an extended sneak preview of your baby-to-be, you can find a sonography school near you.

But even if you aren’t pregnant, other types of services are available at fractions of the normal costs. That’s because these services are performed by students nearing graduation. They need your trust and, more importantly, your physical body before they can get licensed.

Save Big on Beauty Treatments

You can get deeply discounted beauty services at cosmetology schools — from haircuts and color to manis and pedis, and even waxing, facials or just getting your makeup done. All you have to do is let someone practice on you. Fellas, you can get it on this, too, with facial grooming options, shaves and even “guy lights.”

I know, I know — it’s a little risky letting a student shape your eyebrows. But you’re actually in good hands.

In my experience, cosmetology students take their time and make sure you’re happy with what they’re doing. Also, there are established stylists walking around to make sure everything is being done properly.

Sample prices include haircut and style services that start at $12, color starting around $40 and manicures for $15.

You can find local cosmetology schools in your area. In addition to local options, schools like Aveda and Paul Mitchell have locations all over the United States.

Find an Aveda near you, and check out its super affordable prices.

Or search for Paul Mitchell Schools locations — here is its list of its services and prices.

Both price lists are for specific locations, but the costs are comparable across the nation.

Pay Less for Massages

Massage therapy is another profession that requires practice on real-life bodies. Yay! We have those!

Most schools have fees, but they’re about half what you would normally pay for a massage.  

At Cortiva Institute, which has 30 U.S. locations, an hourlong massage of any kind is only $30, and 90 minutes is $45.

Since the average cost for a massage is about $60 per hour, the student massage route is a win-win for all involved. Judging from the glowing Facebook reviews of the Alpha School of Massage in Jacksonville, Florida, student massage therapists are doing some pretty amazing work.

To find massage schools near you, start by checking out the American Massage Therapy Association’s website.

Eat Fancy Food at Budget Prices

Grab a cheap gourmet meal at a local culinary school.

At The Tutored Chef, a restaurant run by students at the Art Institute of Tampa, all appetizers are only $3. The salads are $4, and sandwiches and lunch entrees are all a budget-friendly $6.

And while you may say, “Yeah, but I can get McDonald’s for cheaper than that,” I counter with this: Can you get marinated pork tenderloin, pickled vegetables, fresh jalapeno, cilantro, a French baguette (which you just know is made from scratch) and Parmesan garlic herb fries at a regular restaurant for only $6?

While this is just one student-run restaurant at one culinary school, the gist is the same for all of them: decadent, handcrafted foods at equally delectable prices.

Important to note: These offerings are generally only available at certain times on certain days during the week, so check ahead of time.

Find your local culinary schools for deals near you.  

Get Deals at the Dentist Office

If you don’t have dental insurance (and maybe even if you do), the cost of oral care is no joke. Going to a dental school is a great way to keep up with your oral hygiene, help a future doc out and not go broke.

I went to one through the University of Florida to get my long-overdue wisdom tooth extraction. Both the hygienist and the dentist were very nice and patient, which I appreciated, because getting your wisdom teeth out is a little freaky. I had no issues afterward and had the best experience one could expect.

Dental schools are open to anyone, but pricing is different by location and is determined your personal mouth situation. Dentistry schools offer services for all dental care needs, including for kids, emergency situations, specialized care or just preventative care.

Find local dentistry schools in your area to see what your options are.

It’s that easy to help a student hone their craft, while you get pampered for a portion of the usual cost. Everybody wins!

Amy Beeman is a writer and researcher in St. Petersburg, Florida.