What to Wear for Your College Admission Interview & Why It Matters

People waiting for interview
Madeleine Karydes
Madeleine Karydes

Madeleine attended UC Berkeley and double-majored in English and Media Studies. She is now an integral part of the Empowerly team.

As COVID-19 restrictions ease, the in-person college interview is making a comeback. Without the safety of Zoom to hide your pajama bottoms, what are you supposed to wear?

Choosing an outfit for a college interview is an important decision. Let’s look at some do’s and don’ts for choosing your interview attire.

DO: Keep It Business Casual

First impressions matter! You want a clean, crisp outfit that shows you are a good candidate. A good outfit will let you be the star; a sloppy outfit will distract the interviewer from the content of what you’re saying. The standard rule for in-person interviews is to wear business casual.

What is business casual?

Business casual is dressy and professional, but not formal. You don’t need a suit jacket or a tie, for example. Think slacks, blazers, and dress shirts. You want to dress nicely, but still feel comfortable.

Some ideas of business casual outfits:

  • Khakis, a button-down, and a blazer
  • A modest skirt with a blouse
  • Slacks and a nice sweater
  • A professional dress (if you would wear it for a night out with friends, it’s not the dress for your interview; think office attire)

If you’re not sure, err on the side of overdressed. You might feel a little silly in a dress if your interviewer is in jeans, but the overall impression you make will still be positive. If you show up looking sloppy, the interviewer will take note—even if subconsciously—and not in a good way.

DON’T: Forget The Details

It’s not just the clothes that make an impression. You need to be polished from head to toe.  

  • Shave or groom your facial hair
  • Remove chipped nail polish
  • Go easy on cologne and perfume
  • Iron your clothes if needed
  • Wear clean shoes

DO: Be Yourself

Don’t feel like you need to become a different person for the interview. Choose a professional outfit that still feels comfortable for you. If you love dresses, feel free to wear one. But if you’ve never worn a dress in your life, the interview is not the time to start.

Let your personality show through. Within the realm of business casual, you can have a little freedom; wear your favorite funky socks, carry your go-to bag… After all, the interviewer wants to get to know you as an individual.

DON’T: Wear Your Mom Jeans

We love a good mom jean, but the college interview is not the time to wear them. You should also avoid other overly casual items. Stay away from:

  • Jeans, in general
  • Sweatshirts
  • College or sports apparel
  • Revealing and/or tight fitting clothes
  • Sneakers
  • Anything that might be called “athleisure”

DO: Consider The Context

The location matters. If the interview is in a coffee shop, you can dress more casually than if it’s in, say, the office of the Dean of Admissions. If you’re interviewing for an art program, you may be able to dress more creatively than if you are applying to the business school. 

Your college admissions counselor can give you advice on what to wear for your specific interviews. Schedule an appointment with an expert today.

Questions? Let us know!