You have signed up for your college admissions interview, done your research on the school, and practiced your introduction in the mirror tens of times. But the big question is, what are you going to wear?
While your outfit may seem like the least important part of your college admissions interview, how you look will impact how the interviewer remembers you. The way you dress and present yourself in the world is a form of non-verbal communication and plays a key role in making a strong first impression. Taking your outfit into consideration shows respect, both for the interviewer and the school you are hoping to attend.
In addition, studies have shown that how you dress also influences your personal mindset. If you are dressed in a professional outfit that makes you feel confident, you are more likely to talk with authority and conviction.
Ultimately, the content of your interview will be the most important, but in the competitive environment of highly selective schools, small things like dressing well at your interview will help you stand out in a positive way.
College Admissions Interview Outfit: Do’s and Don’ts
Do: Dress in modest, business casual clothing.
Business casual is generally defined as no jeans, no shorts, and optional ties for men. It is professional, but not too formal. Slacks, blazers, mid-length skirts and dresses, button-downs or blouses, and flats and loafers are all categorized as business casual apparel. Think about an outfit you would feel comfortable wearing to an internship interview, church, or even dinner at a grandparent’s house.
Don’t: Wear anything too casual, i.e. sweatpants or athleisure.
In short, anything you would wear to the gym or to bed should stay at home. As we discussed earlier, this is an opportunity for you to present the professional, college version of yourself, and dressing in clothing that is too casual may make you appear too young or immature.
Do: Dress in comfortable clothing that makes you feel confident.
There is nothing worse than feeling uncomfortable during a big or stressful moment. Choose clothing that makes you feel like the best version of yourself. Now is not the time to try a new hairstyle that may fall in front of your face, test out high heels that are too tall, or wear your dad’s shoes that are two sizes too big. Wear pieces that allow you to feel at ease and items you know you will not fidget in. Comfortable clothing will allow you to focus on listening and engaging with your interviewer.
Do: Bring a bag or folder with your resume.
Usually, your interviewer will have limited knowledge of you before you meet. Bringing a copy of your resume is a great way to provide them with some additional information about you; you may even discover an unexpected common interest! However, to ensure that your resume remains crisp and clean, it is highly recommended that you carry it in a bag or folder. A leather-bound portfolio folder is a great investment piece that you will be able to use for this event and future interviews.
Do: Take extra care in grooming and your outfit details.
Small things make the difference. Be sure to shave or groom your facial hair, remove chipped nail polish, and go easy on cologne and perfume. Give yourself enough time to iron your clothes, clean your shoes, and lint roll your outfit if needed.
Don’t: Wear apparel with another college’s name on it.
This tip may seem obvious, but it can be easy to forget (especially when conducting a virtual interview).
Virtual Versus In-Person
Today, many colleges have moved their admissions interviews online, allowing students to video chat with their interviewer or submit a pre-recorded introduction with their application. Even though your interviewer/ admissions counselor may only see your torso up, it is still important to dress to impress.
College admissions consultants will always recommend that you wear a full outfit– including pants (or a skirt). While your interviewer will most likely not see your lower half, you never know if you might have to stand up unexpectedly– giving your interviewer a full view of your pajama pants! In addition, check out what your outfit looks like on camera before your interview. Make sure a patterned shirt is not too distracting and that there is enough contrast between your skin color and the clothing item on camera.
Equally important is the space you are conducting your interview. It is imperative that you have good lighting so that the interviewer can see your face well. Virtual interviews rely heavily on visual cues to show your interviewer that you are engaged and listening, so a dark or shadow-filled room will be distracting and disconcerting. Furthermore, make sure your background is tidy with minimal distractions. Just like your outfit, your settings are a representation of you and how serious you are taking this opportunity.
Other College Admissions Interview Tips
- Look up your interviewer before your meeting on Google or LinkedIn. It is helpful to understand if you are meeting with alumni, admissions counselors, or current students.
- Write out and practice your introduction beforehand.
- Spend time reflecting on why you like the college and why you would like to attend.
- For additional information on the college admissions interview, you can look to the Solomon Admissions blog where we give special college admissions consulting advice. In particular, check out our Ultimate Interview Guide.
Following these tips on how to dress for success will help you put your best foot forward in your college admissions interview. If you need help beyond your presentation, our team would love to provide it. As far as presentation goes: a professional, neat outfit will allow you to feel your best. And remember that the best addition to any outfit is a smile!