What to Wear to a College Interview | The Ultimate Guide

Man in suit
June 27, 2024
5 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 6/27/24

You’re hard at work preparing for your interview – but have you decided what to wear? It’s more important than you might realize! Read our top pointers on what to wear to a college interview.

Every college applicant has things that make them unique and special. But sometimes, these winning traits simply don’t jump off the page when admissions officers go through applications.

That’s why when it comes to applying to colleges, there’s no better way for admissions officers to get to know you than in the all-important college interview. It’s your chance to show off your knowledge, skills, and accomplishments and connect with those responsible for accepting you on a personal level!

In other words, a lot is riding on this. The impression you make will be instrumental in shaping your future, so you want to make sure it’s a good one. And one key part of a great first impression? A great outfit. Here’s everything you need to know about deciding what to wear to a college interview!

What to Wear to a College Interview

If you’re applying for college, you’ve probably got your hands more than full with preparations. You’re prepping answers for the interview questions you’ll receive, researching schools, looking into grants and scholarships, and ensuring your applications are error-free.

So, if deciding what to wear is a little lower on your priority list, we don’t blame you!

We've got you covered if you’re unsure what to choose as your college interview outfit. Here are some fashion pointers to help you look and feel your best in your admissions interview!

College Interview Outfits for Men

As a male-identifying student who’s not sure what to wear for this important meeting, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. The first is that while a college interview is a fairly formal event, that doesn’t mean you should dress formally – in the traditional sense.

What does this mean? Don’t reach for that fancy wedding suit or the waistcoat you bought for prom. Instead, go for a more business casual look. Rather than a full suit, wear a blazer over a more casual button-up with a pair of khakis. And great news: you can ditch the tie.

Be sure that everything you wear fits properly. Regardless of how good the outfit is, you won’t look good if it’s ill-fitting. Keep accessories, patterns, and other accents in check, ensuring they’re not distracting from the most important thing: you!

Outfit Example for Men

For a college interview, striking the right balance between professionalism and comfort is key. Here's a simple yet polished outfit that ticks all the boxes:

  • Top: Start with a well-fitted button-up shirt in a solid color or subtle pattern. Avoid loud patterns or overly casual designs.
  • Layer: Layer a tailored blazer over the shirt to add a touch of sophistication. Opt for a blazer that complements the color of your shirt and fits well across the shoulders and chest.
  • Bottoms: Pair your shirt and blazer with a pair of classic khaki or dark-colored trousers. Ensure they fit well and are tailored to your body shape.
  • Footwear: Complete the look with a pair of clean, polished dress shoes in brown or black. Avoid sneakers or overly casual footwear.
  • Accessories: Keep accessories minimal and understated. A simple leather belt and a classic watch can add a refined touch without overpowering the outfit.

Remember, the goal is to look put-together and professional while still feeling comfortable and confident. By following these guidelines, you'll be ready to make a positive impression at your college interview.

College Interview Outfits for Women

It has to be said, choosing a college interview outfit can be tougher for feminine looks. Compared to male fashion, women have far more options in the business casual category alone. And while this can be a blessing, it can also make decisions difficult.

You don’t want to overdress for the occasion as with male fashion. For one thing, heels are probably best left at home for your interview, particularly if you’ll be walking on campus. Opt for dress shoes, boots, or flats instead.

Dresses, trousers, and skirts are all great choices for a college interview. Try to choose something with more conservative colors and patterns, and make sure everything fits properly. Your outfit should make you feel confident and professional.

Outfit Example for Women

When it comes to choosing an outfit for a college interview, women have a plethora of options, but the key is to strike the right balance between professionalism and personal style. Here's a simple yet chic outfit idea that will help you make a great impression:

  • Top: Start with a tailored blouse or a classic button-up shirt in a solid color or subtle pattern. Avoid overly casual designs or loud prints to maintain a polished look.
  • Bottom: Pair your top with either tailored trousers, a well-fitted skirt, or a modest dress. Opt for neutral colors like black, navy, tan, or gray, and ensure the fit is comfortable and professional.
  • Footwear: Choose dress shoes, boots, or flats that are polished and comfortable for walking. Avoid overly high heels, especially if you'll be navigating campus terrain.
  • Accessories: Keep accessories minimal and tasteful. A simple necklace, stud earrings, or a delicate bracelet can add a touch of elegance without overwhelming the outfit.
  • Hair and Makeup: Keep your hair neat and styled in a professional manner. Opt for natural-looking makeup that enhances your features without being too heavy or distracting.

Remember, the goal is to look professional, confident, and put-together while still staying true to your personal style. By following these guidelines, you'll be sure to make a positive impression during your college interview.

What Not to Wear to a College Interview

You should avoid anything that doesn’t feel professional, such as jeans and t-shirts. Instead, opt for business casual or professional clothing such as skirts, khakis, dress shirts, and blazers.

Remember, a polished appearance enhances your confidence and demonstrates professionalism to the admissions committee.

Here are a few things to leave in the closet on the day of your college interview:

In general, you shouldn’t wear anything that doesn’t feel like you. If you’re not feeling confident or authentic in your outfit, it can show in your confidence during the interview – whether you know it or not. 

Admissions expert Marina offers insight into interview attire from her experience as an interviewer for UPenn in our college interview webinar

“Be dressed well. I have had interviews where I’d be interviewing someone for UPenn and they’d be wearing a UCLA hoodie. Check that stuff! … It’s not a good first impression to make, so don’t do it. Make sure you dress appropriately. You don’t have to be wearing a suit or anything, but something that shows that you tried a little bit is helpful.” 

How to Dress for Online Video Interview

Understanding how to dress for a college interview is key. This is true whether it’s online or in person. So, here are some tips for creating a professional and polished impression for your online interview:

  • Choose Professional Attire: Opt for professional clothing that you would wear to an in-person interview. This typically includes a blouse or a button-down shirt paired with a blazer or a professional sweater. Stick to solid colors or subtle patterns as they come across well on camera.
  • Avoid Busy Patterns: While patterns can add visual interest, busy patterns like stripes or intricate designs might appear distracting or distorted on video. Solid colors or simple patterns are safer choices.
  • Mind Your Neckline: Ensure that your neckline is appropriate for a professional setting. Avoid plunging necklines or anything too revealing, as this can be distracting and may not convey the right impression.
  • Pay Attention to Fit: Clothes should fit well and be comfortable. Avoid anything too tight or too loose, as it can be distracting and may not present a professional image.
  • Consider the Background: Choose clothing that contrasts well with your background. For example, if you have a light-colored background, wearing darker clothing can help you stand out, and vice versa.
  • Accessorize Thoughtfully: Keep accessories minimal and professional. Avoid anything too flashy or distracting. Simple jewelry, such as stud earrings or a classic necklace, can add a touch of elegance without being overpowering.
  • Grooming Matters: Pay attention to grooming details such as hair, makeup, and nails. Keep hair neat and styled, makeup natural and professional, and nails clean and manicured.
  • Test Your Outfit: Before the interview, do a test run with your outfit and the video setup to ensure that everything looks professional on camera. Check for any potential issues such as wrinkled clothing or unflattering angles.

Remember, the goal is to present yourself as polished, professional, and confident during the online video interview. By following these tips, you can make a positive impression and increase your chances of success.

Other Notable Tips

With these extra tips in mind, you'll not only dress the part but also project confidence and professionalism throughout your interview, setting yourself up for success.

  • Stay True to Yourself: While it's essential to dress professionally, ensure that your outfit reflects your personal style and makes you feel comfortable and confident. Authenticity can positively impact your demeanor during the interview.
  • Plan Ahead: Lay out your outfit the night before to avoid last-minute stress. Ensure it's clean, pressed, and ready to go. This preparation allows you to focus on the interview itself.
  • Consider Cultural Context: If you're interviewing with a college or company with specific cultural norms or dress codes, research them beforehand and adapt your outfit accordingly. Respecting cultural nuances demonstrates cultural sensitivity and awareness.
  • Practice Good Posture: Your attire isn't the only thing that matters; how you carry yourself is equally important. Maintain good posture during the interview to convey confidence and professionalism.
  • Express Your Personality Through Accessories: While keeping accessories minimal, subtle touches like a unique watch, a meaningful piece of jewelry, or a stylish scarf can add personality to your outfit without overwhelming it.
  • Be Mindful of Your Footwear: Ensure your shoes are clean, polished, and appropriate for the occasion. Comfort is key, especially if you'll be walking around campus or standing for an extended period.
  • Stay Updated on Dress Code: Dress codes can vary depending on the industry, college, or interview setting. Stay informed about any specific dress guidelines provided by the college or employer to ensure you're appropriately attired.
  • Seek Feedback: If you're unsure about your outfit choice, seek feedback from friends, family, or mentors who can provide honest opinions and suggestions for improvement. A second perspective can offer valuable insights.
  • Arrive Early: Plan to arrive early for both in-person and online interviews. This extra time allows you to address any last-minute wardrobe issues, compose yourself, and enter the interview feeling calm and collected.
  • Maintain Professionalism Throughout: Your attire sets the tone for the interview, but professionalism extends beyond clothing. Practice active listening, maintain eye contact, and communicate effectively to leave a lasting positive impression.

Now that you have a better idea of how to dress for a college interview, you can start planning your outfit and prepping for your interview. 

For more college interview tips, you can take a look at our college cheat sheets! We offer downloadable guides for every step of the college application process, including interviews. 

Why Is Your College Interview Important?

As mentioned before, the college interview is crucial to the application journey. This is your best (and perhaps only) chance to sit down with someone face-to-face and truly make an impression, not as a name on a page, but as a person.

Typically, getting an interview is the last step of the admissions process. It means they’re interested in your application and want to know more, but it’s certainly not guaranteed. So, nailing the interview is of the utmost importance!

These days, colleges mainly use a holistic admissions method that considers the whole person – not just their academic record. So, everything from your volunteer work to your passions to your outfit can play a role in the admission officer’s final decision.

FAQs: How to Dress for a College Interview

Still wondering what you should wear to your college interview? Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the all-important interview outfit!

1. What Should You Not Wear to a College Interview?

T-shirts, sneakers, hats, shorts, and anything else suited to an evening out or a day at the beach should be avoided. Also, avoid anything too revealing and any clothes or accessories that will distract the interviewer.

2. What is Appropriate to Wear to a College Interview?

Think business casual. Button-up shirts (no ties) paired with a blazer or a crew neck knit. Structured dresses or pencil skirts with dress boots or flats. Or even a simple button-up shirt or blouse and a pair of dress pants!

3. Do You Dress Up for a College Interview?

Absolutely! This is an important meeting, and you want to ensure you look your best without overdressing. Some schools will have different expectations (e.g. business schools might want you to wear a suit), but business casual is the general standard.

4. Can You Wear Jeans to a College Interview?

No – with one caveat. A pair of black jeans can work with a business casual look depending on the fit, wash, and condition. You’ll want to make up for it by wearing a nice shirt or blouse. And if you can get some dress pants, opt for those instead.

5. How Do I Dress Up for a College Interview on a Budget?

This is an important question, as surveys have found that enrolment rates are decreasing due to financial hardship. The good news? Prepping an outfit for your college interview can be done for cheap! Build an outfit around what you have already. Thrift stores are also great places to look for gently used business casual clothes.

6. What if My College Interview is Online?

Getting dressed up just to sit at your desk might feel strange, but the answer is yes. Putting together an appropriate outfit will not only show the interviewer that you’re serious, but it will help you feel more confident as well. Although, if there were ever a time to get away with wearing shorts in an interview, this would be it!

Final Thoughts 

There’s more than first meets the eye regarding college interview prep. And while your fashion choices might not be top of mind, what you wear in your college admissions interview does, in fact, matter.

By putting some thought into your college interview outfit, you’ll come across as professional and thoughtful, and your confidence will shine through. And while it’s not as important as who you are, how you look can help colleges get to know you. 

Are you ready to nail that interview and get into the college of your dreams? Getting in touch with one of our admissions consultants can make all the difference.

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