Samantha Domke dropped out of Rowan to find her passion

Samantha Domke spent three semesters at Rowan before she left to pursue her dream of being a hair stylist. -Photo courtesy of Patricia Iannaci

Go to high school. Graduate high school. Go to college. Graduate college. Get a job. That’s the plan right? No, not always.

Not everyone attends college and of those that do, not all of them will attend through graduation. One of the students who did not attend college until graduation was 22-year-old Samantha Domke.

Domke started at Rowan University as a communication studies major, then switched her major to English education after her first year. After completing her second year at the university, Domke did not return.

“I left Rowan for a few different reasons,” Domke said. “One of them was academics. I had a chance to kind of redeem that, but I decided not to. I kind of felt that I was wasting my time and my money here for something I wasn’t entirely passionate about.”

Now, Domke works as an assistant at Chop Chop Bang Bang salon in Asbury Park, N.J., and is also a licensed cosmetologist.

“I think I always kind of knew what my passion was, I just didn’t pursue it as a career until a few months after I left Rowan actually,” she said.

“I mean I kind of always gravitated towards fashion and beauty and just kind of that whole thing…” Domke said. “Doing hair is just a lot more manageable, flexible, the school process is a little more legitimate, [and] it’s just more structured… [This was just] more of a step-by-step process that I would enjoy more and felt I would get more out of.”

To pursue her passion as a cosmetologist, Domke enrolled in an adult cosmetology night program. She said that the adult program differs from a regular cosmetology program because they are given small quizzes throughout the year to build up to the written state exam and the practical state exam. Because it is an adult program, the participants are required to study on their own time with less guidance than in a non-adult program.

“I’m just still impressed that when she did leave Rowan she paid for school herself,” said senior radio, television, and film and American studies dual major Patricia Iannaci and friend of Domke.

To put herself through the cosmetology program, Domke worked during the day, every day Monday through Friday, then went to school every night. For work, Domke worked at a salon. She also had a job lined up for her after graduation, but both she and the salon, decided that job was not a good fit for either of them.

It wasn’t until two months ago that Domke found the job she has now. Before starting at Chop Chop Bang Bang, she started by shadowing her boss to see if it would be a good fit.

At the moment, Domke is a color assistant, but does a little bit of everything including single process colors, shampoos, reception work, getting stylists what they need, as well as keeping the salon clean and organized.

In order to become a stylist at the salon, Domke is taking classes with her boss on Tuesdays after work. In order for her boss to see her work, she works on mannequins to learn cutting techniques before she starts to work on real people. Once they both feel that she is comfortable working on real people’s hair, then she will be able to bring in her own clients.

Domke emphasized how important it is to make sure she feels comfortable with her work before she starts bringing in her own clients. Assisting is an hourly pay, while stylists work on commission, so if a stylist doesn’t have a big clientele, they will not make as much money.

Domke also said how she used to think coloring was her favorite part of cosmetology, but the more she practices, the more she’s starting to like other aspects of the field instead.

“I always thought that coloring was my favorite thing about what I do, but the more I work with my boss the more I realize that cutting just has so many different techniques and can really change how someone looks and feels about themselves. Right now, I find color to be more fun, but cutting to be very fascinating,” she said.

According to Domke, haircuts can affect a person’s entire mood and how they feel about themselves, as well as how they start their day in regards to how they get ready in the morning, as well as how much time and effort they have to put into getting ready. All these factors make this aspect so interesting to her, but she also commented on how her favorite parts of cosmetology are constantly changing, and will continue to change as she gets more experience.

While Domke is happy with what she does and enjoys being a licensed cosmetologist, she admitted that sometimes she does regret dropping out of college.

“I think that my life would’ve been a lot different [if I didn’t leave]. I think that I would’ve been working a job that may have had a steadier pay, like cosmetology doesn’t really give you benefits,” she said.

Unlike a job in education, cosmetology doesn’t offer holidays or summers off and the pay isn’t as consistent as a regular teaching job. Domke did say, however, that she would rather be doing cosmetology, something that she loves, because it doesn’t feel like work.

Domke mentioned how if she were to do anything other than what she does now, it would be teaching. In an effort to combine both of her interests, she also expanded, saying she wouldn’t mind teaching cosmetology in the future.

Domke is a prime example of what it means to follow your passion, even if that passion takes you on a different path than the “norm” of going to college.

“She’s just so happy now that I feel like she made the right choice for her,” Iannaci said. “She’s very passionate about what she does and I think it’s important to find what you are passionate about. For her, she saw her passion and realized that college didn’t have to be in her path.”

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