What Not to Wear: College Interview Edition

Two weeks ago, you pressed ‘Submit’. And for a split second it was like everything inside of you turned into a gooey mush. Partially from the terror. Partially from the relief. Another college application down. Another check off of the list. Another school name you can completely shove into that dark place in your mind where you keep all things relating to your future.

And then one morning you get that email. It sounds something like:

Dear [your name here],

I am an alumnus of [insert college]. The Office of Undergraduate Admissions has received your application and has asked me to offer you the opportunity to interview.

Said alumnus will likely go on to list potential dates, times, and locations – but by then you are hardly taking in the information because with that single word, “interview,” you are reminded that you haven’t come near clothing that is remotely professional since eighth grade graduation when your mom insisted that “all the kids will be wearing suits, honey.” Knowing it’s in your best interest to grab a hold of this opportunity, you hastily agree to meet and talk over coffee (or tea, if you’d prefer).

But how in the world are you supposed to dress?

Busines Cat Meme

1. Do your research, and when in doubt, shoot for business casual

There is a slight leniency on how to dress depending on what school you are interviewing for. For example, if it’s one of the Ivies, you’re going to want to lean towards something more formal – a dress shirt and nice slacks, maybe even a blazer. If it’s for a smaller liberal arts school, you may want to stray from the mono-color suits and include a bit more personality. In either case, your safest bet is business casual.

Girls: This generally entails a blouse, work dress, or nice sweater on top with slacks or a tailored (knee length) skirt on bottom. This is not the time to break out that new piece of clothing that shows just a little more cleavage than your used to – or, for that matter, any cleavage at all.

Boys: Slacks and a nice button down should suffice. If you haven’t done so already, invest in a belt.

Lookin Like a Fool meme

Be sure to note: wrinkly clothes can easily give the wrong idea about your ambition, so remember that irons were invented for a reason.

2. Don’t give the interviewer a reason to be distracted

You want them to be focused on your insightful answers, not on the nose ring that you got last summer in Cabo. In fact, with the exception of your ears, you should probably remove any piercings that you have. Keep your hair on the conservative side and don’t overload on the perfume or cologne.

Girls: Makeup should be natural and jewelry simple; try not to pair too many busy patterns on top of each other.

Boys: If you have facial hair, make it look presentable (yes, it is worth saying), and as cool as that graphic-tee with social commentary on it is, leave it at home – just this once.

I Hate College Tshirt

3. Shoes are part of the outfit

Girls: Really think twice about wearing those 3+ inch heels. Unless you want to be that girl who wobbles. Or trips. Or completely falls down. Trust me – flats are perfectly acceptable.

Boys: Despite what you may like to think, sneakers do not, in fact, go with every outfit. Try dress shoes. Or loafers.

4. Be comfortable

No matter what clothes you lay out the night before, they should fit well and – most importantly – boost your confidence. If a three-piece suit is going to make you stiff, than go for something a bit more laid back. You should wear the clothes; they shouldn’t wear you.

When it comes down to it, you are representing yourself in a college interview – not your parents, not your high school, not some hoity toity business firm. So (within reason) stay true to your own style and walk in knowing that whomever you are meeting with is going to want to hear what you have to say.

Need 60 seconds of procrastination time? Check out our cat-approved back-to-school wardrobe essentials.


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  • Elise Gout

    Elise writes articles for the Magoosh SAT blog to help teenagers during an exciting time in their lives. Despite residing in Southern California, where she attends San Dieguito Academy high school, she has no surfing abilities whatsoever; it’s actually rather sad. She is your typical senior high school girl who sword fights daily, and is pretty much convinced that bananas are a food sent from heaven. Elise will attend Columbia University next fall to study environmental science.

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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