What to Wear to a College Interview: Your Guide

Man in suit
August 28, 2023


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/4/22

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, accomplishments, and connect with those responsible for accepting you on a personal level!

In other words: there’s a lot 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 questions you’ll receive, researching schools, looking into grants and scholarships, and ensuring your applications are free of any mistakes.

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

If you’re not sure what to choose as your college interview outfit, we’ve got you covered. 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 as well, ensuring they’re not distracting from the most important thing: you!

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.

As with male fashion, you don’t want to overdress for the occasion. 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 of course, make sure everything fits properly. Your outfit should make you feel confident and professional.

What Not to Wear to a College Interview

If you’re starting to think about your interview outfit and you’re still having trouble narrowing down your options, then it’s time to think about what not to wear. 

In general, you should avoid anything that doesn’t feel professional. Would you head to a job interview, a meeting with your boss, or another formal event in your outfit? If the answer is no, it probably shouldn’t be a part of your admissions interview look.

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

  • Hats
  • Open-toed shoes (e.g. flip-flops, sandals, etc.)
  • Stiletto or platform heels
  • Sunglasses (unless you can put them away during the interview)
  • Three-piece suits 
  • Flashy jewellery 
  • Ties and bowties
  • Revealing clothes
  • Shorts
  • Leggings
  • Patterned or ripped tights
  • Sneakers (with the exception of clean, dressier sneakers)
  • Branded college apparel (from any school)

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 really show in your confidence during the interview – whether you know it or not.

Why Is Your College Interview Important?

As we mentioned before, the college interview is a crucial part of 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 a guarantee. So nailing the interview is of the utmost importance!

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

FAQs: What to Wear to 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, stay away from 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 crewneck 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 make sure you look your best – without being overdressed. 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. Depending on the fit, wash, and condition, a pair of black jeans can work with a business casual look. You’ll want to make up for it by making sure you wear 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 a great place to look for gently used business casual clothes.

6. What if My College Interview is Online?

It might feel strange to get dressed up just to sit at your desk, 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 was ever a time to get away with wearing shorts in an interview, this would be it!

Final Thoughts 

Clearly, there’s more than first meets the eye when it comes to 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 as well. And while it’s not as important as who you are, the way you look can help colleges get to know you as well. 

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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