What to Wear to College Visits

Whether you’re preparing to enter college for the first time or considering graduate or doctoral programs, you want to make a good first impression when visiting a potential university. Choosing the most appropriate attire can help give you the confidence you need for interviews and positively influence your chances of being accepted into the college of your choice.

Casual attire is most appropriate for long walking tours of potential colleges. (Image: Nick White/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Tours

Campus tours typically require that you walk long distances. When taking a tour of the campus, you'll feel your best wearing casual attire and comfortable walking shoes. Casual attire includes plain T-shirts, casual button-downs and polo shirts; khakis or nice jeans; cargo or Bermuda shorts. Ensure that your appearance is tidy and modest; avoid flip-flops, baseball caps, short shorts, tank tops, spaghetti straps and athletic attire.

Interviews

As in the professional world, college recruiters expect you to wear business-formal attire for interviews. Men’s business formal includes a dark suit with a dress shirt, conservative tie, dress socks and leather dress shoes. Avoid novelty ties and casual shoes such as loafers or boat shoes. Women’s business formal includes a business pantsuit, or a professional-style dress with a blazer, and conservative heels. Your apparel should imply that you mean business and that you’re prepared to work hard for a college degree.

Networking

Barry Barnard, a director of college counseling, notes in his "New York Times" article “How to Make the Most of Your College Visit” that networking with university employees can have a major impact on your candidacy as a potential scholar. Business-casual attire is most appropriate for informal networking with professors and coaches. Men should wear khakis, chinos or slacks; a casual button-down, open collar, polo or dress shirt; and dressy casual shoes such as leather loafers. Women should wear a skirt, khakis or dress pants; an open collar polo or knit shirt; and dressy shoes. Your attire should appear relaxed but remain conservative and professional.

Dining Out

If you plan to eat at the dining hall or visit one of the nearby “hot spots,” you should expect to bump into your existing university contacts such as recruiters, professors and student workers. Sloppy attire can decimate the good first impression that you worked so hard to make. Dressy-casual attire will ensure that your accidental meetings do not negatively affect your candidacy. Dressy casual for men and women is largely the same as business-casual attire, but can also include dark-wash jeans that are in good condition and casual footwear such as boat shoes, driving shoes or good sneakers. Your attire should be polished and comfortable but also reflect your personal sense of style.

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