Have you ever heard the saying, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have”? This old adage applies for what to wear to a college interview as well. If you want to get into a top college, you’ll want to dress your best, too. But what exactly does that mean within the context of a college interview? A suit might be too formal; jeans, not formal enough.
And you’d be right. When considering what to wear to a college interview, you’ll want to remember that this is not the most formal situation you’ll ever be in, but professionalism does require some extra steps. First, take note of the items of clothing that are always inappropriate. Then, start looking in your closet for some more acceptable outfits.
First, let’s get the obvious outfit mistakes out of the way. Never wear jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts, or sneakers to a college interview. It demonstrates a lack of professionalism and a disinterest in the college. On the other end of the spectrum, you do not want to wear anything too formal; a tuxedo or an evening gown goes too far, and can make you stand out in a bad way.
As for what you should wear, keep it basic and conservative. Dark or khaki slacks are widely accepted, paired with a button up or collared shirt. Keep the patterns simple, and longer sleeves are preferred, unless excessively hot weather deems shorter sleeves acceptable. A sport coat and/or tie are not usually necessary, but wouldn’t hurt your chances either. It would also be acceptable to wear a similarly patterned dress or skirt. Shorter sleeves are considered more acceptable in a dress, especially if you pair it with a wrap or a light sweater.
Keep in mind that how you wear an outfit matters, too. Make sure your shirt is tucked in, you have a nice belt on, everything is ironed and it fits well. Hem the bottom of your pants or skirt where necessary, and make sure everything is not too tight or loose. Finally, make sure you’re comfortable in whatever you’re wearing. If you’re not used to wearing more formal attire, don’t go overboard. A college interviewer will be just as distracted by you fidgeting in your clothes as they would have been if you wore jeans and a sweatshirt.
You may need to bring a bag or a purse, which is acceptable. Just make sure that it is equally polished and professional. A briefcase or a black backpack fares much better than a tattered multicolored bag. Similarly, if you need to wear a coat, have it match the rest of your outfit in style and formality. Wear polished and simple shoes, and nothing with extreme heels. A modest open toe may be acceptable in summer only as long as the toes are well-manicured.
On a similar note, remove any extra piercings (lower ear piercings are acceptable). Keep it simple when it comes to your hair and makeup. And finally, make sure to have good hygiene, but maybe refrain from using perfume or cologne. It can be overwhelming for some people, and you wouldn’t want to risk your interviewer having a sensitivity.
In the end, you want to think of your outfit to a college interview as an enhancement upon yourself, or at least as something the interview doesn’t notice or think about. The worst thing you can do is wear something that distracts the interviewer from what you’re saying or who you are. By dressing well, you also demonstrate to the interviewer that you respect them, you respect the school, and you believe you are a respectable person who deserves admission to their college.