If you’re interviewing for college this year, you may be wondering how to dress for something that isn’t exactly a job interview but is still pretty critical to your future. But do clothes really ‘make the [wo]man’?
Demonstrating who you are is an important part of the interview exchange. Many students feel comfortable wearing a more formal look to demonstrate professionalism, opting for a skirt or dress pants with a blouse and blazer. But what if that’s not you? How should you present yourself if your personality is artsy, laid-back, or anything other than business-casual? Should you suck it up in seer-sucker?
Here are 4 tips for dressing up for the college interview while allowing your personality to shine on through.
1. Be clean, pulled together and importantly, be comfortable! Don’t force yourself into a blazer or long sleeved shirt on a hot summers day if it will make you miserable, sweaty, or uncomfortable. It can feel intimidating enough going into an interview scenario, and the last thing you need to worry about is not being able to breath or that you are pretending to be someone you’re not. Dress weather-appropriate, comfortably and tidy. A wrinkle-free shirt and pressed [non-jean] pants—with a few key tuck-ins—can really go a long way if you aren’t into suits or skirts.
2. Don’t dress like it’s a normal day at school (or worse, the beach). Don’t get too comfortable. You might thrive in tattered jeans and tank tops most days, but it’s important to present yourself as professional and attentive in the interview scenario. (Think: ‘elevated dish.’ Even greasy mac n cheese can be put into a tiny ramekin with lobster bits. So can you. Figuratively.) Keep in mind that revealing clothes might be distracting to an interviewer, and definitely shows a lack of respect if you don’t attempt to up your style-game for the big day. Bottom line: Dress so your interviewer will be sure to discuss your character once you leave the room, not your clothes.
3. It’s safe (and encouraged) to add in elements of your own style. If you don’t usually wear khakis, skirts, or blazers, but decide to wear one for your interview, consider adding a few signature pieces that indicate your true style, from typewriter-key earrings to Toms shoes to artsy skull print scarves. These small but powerful style-choices may actually trigger a conversation about who you are outside of the interview ring.
4. Talk to your older friends. If you have any question in your mind about what is appropriate to wear, talk to older friends who have already been down ‘the trail.’ They may also be able to shed light on what the interview experience is like and what questions they were asked. Chances are, you will be told to dress clean and comfortably and to just be yourself!
At the end of the day, looking polished is a sign of respect and says that you care about the impression you make. But what you say means much more than what you wear. Be authentic, curious, and excited for the possibility that you might be attending as a freshman next fall.