When preparing for a college interview, most students focus on content: they research the school and program, review their application to be prepared for any questions, and come up with thoughtful questions for the interviewer. All of that is very important!
But just as your application should be the best representation of yourself, you also want to put your best foot forward during the actual interview. This means dressing the part!
This doesn’t mean you have to be extra fancy for your first-choice schools or spend tons of money on a new ensemble. However, you should put thought into your outfit and choose clothes that are presentable, yet comfortable.
Below please find some helpful Dos and Don’ts to inform your interview day decisions:
- Do iron or steam your clothes; it shouldn’t look like you’ve slept in them!
- Do brush your hair and teeth. Bedhead and morning breath when meeting a Dean of Admissions is a definite no-go!
- Do wear clothes that fit: nothing too baggy or too tight.
- Do choose appropriate shoes: no gym shoes or flip flops. Nice sneakers can be fine, but make sure they are clean, presentable, and match the rest of your outfit.
- Don’t go crazy with colors or patterns. No brightly colored makeup or clothing that would distract during your interview.
- Don’t wear anything too revealing: nothing see-through, and avoid ripped clothing.
- Don’t choose an outfit without giving it a trial run. Even if you plan to wear new clothes to the interview, spend a few hours in them to make sure you won’t be uncomfortable.
- Don’t arrive dressed like you’re going to prom. Full suits, tuxedos, and gowns are inappropriate (and yes, I have seen them all).
When planning your look, it is also important to remember the structure and schedule of your interview day. Is this visit on or off campus? Are you going on a tour or visiting a class on the same day as your interview? If your day is going to be a long one, make sure you wear clothes you feel comfortable in for a long period of time. Do you have long hair? Bring a hair brush, a hair tie, or some other way to tame it. Do you wear makeup? Bring anything you might need for a touch-up.
Also remember that everything you wear when visiting a college campus should be presentable. After your interview, are you planning on ditching your dress clothes for something more laid back? Make sure your casual clothes are still clean and appropriate for the occasion; if you run into your interviewer out and about on campus, you still want to leave them with a good impression!
For those students interviewing remotely, it’s equally important to consider your environment. Where will you conduct the call? What does that space look like from the perspective of the camera on your laptop? A distracting or inappropriate background can definitely impact your interviewer’s final decision. So make sure your space is clean and free of anything that might detract from an excellent interview. This means posters of scantily clad celebrities (for example) should be put away!
If you are interviewing remotely, but not digitally, environment is equally important. Will you be at a local coffee shop? If possible, head to the location and scope it out well ahead of time. This will help prevent you from being late and might ease some of those pre-interview jitters.
Finally, it’s important to stay true to who you are in the interview. I worked with a student who wanted to go into game design and always wore a gaming pin on his jacket lapel. On the day of the interview, he asked if it would be inappropriate for him to wear the pin. I told him to go for it, as it showed a little bit of who he was. Turns out, the interviewer shared a similar interest and the two were able to connect on that level during the interview. So if you have a piece of jewelry or other (tasteful) embellishment that you feel connected to, wear it! It’s your interview—make it personal and have fun!
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