What Should a Woman Wear to a College Interview?

Some General Guidelines to Help You Make a Good Impression

While not as formal as job interviews, college interviews can be a significant piece of the admissions process, and your clothing will help to make a memorable first impression. It’s important to present yourself in clean, well-kempt attire that’s appropriate for the season and type of college or program you’re applying to. Keep in mind that a college that uses interviews as part of their evaluation process has holistic admissions: the admissions folks are evaluating the whole applicant, not just looking at grades and standardized test scores. Thus, the impression you make matters.

Also, keep in mind that the guidelines below represent general advice. An applicant would likely dress quite differently when interviewing at a funky art school than when meeting with a representative from a conservative Christian college.

Not a woman? You can also read about men's dress for college interviews.

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Pants, Skirt or Dress?

Feel comfortable and read
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Depending on your program, the campus atmosphere and the time of year, dress pants, a skirt or a dress can all be appropriate interview attire. During the summer, a modest sundress or looser-fitting skirt may be appropriate, particularly at a more liberal college or university. In the fall or winter, wear dress pants or a straight or A-line skirt with stockings. The admissions counselor conducting your interview won't expect to see you in a formal business suit, but keep in mind the type of school and program you're applying to. If you're applying to a college of business, for example, business attire might be expected. In any circumstance, stick to neutral colors such as black, grey, or brown, and make sure you feel comfortable in what you're wearing.

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The Shirt

young woman shakes hands at interview
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The shirt you wear is likely the first piece of clothing that your interviewer will notice, so it's important that it makes a good impression. A blouse or a nice sweater will pair nicely with either dress pants or a skirt. During the warmer months, a modest tank top under a short-sleeved or three-quarter-sleeved cardigan is also acceptable. Neutrals, pastels or cool colors are preferable to louder colors or patterns.

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The Shoes

Ballet flats

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Choose a simple pair of pumps or ballet flats. Your shoes should appear professional, but make sure that you're comfortable walking in them, as well. Unless you choose to match your shoes to your outfit or purse (and make sure that this isn't distractingly noticeable if you do), black or taupe are both appropriate color choices.

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The Purse

Women's Purse
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Unless you're bringing along a sizable portfolio or other pertinent interview information, a briefcase isn't usually necessary, but you'll likely want to carry a purse for personal items, particularly if your outfit lacks pockets. A smaller black or neutral-colored leather purse is a safe bet.

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The Jewelry

Necklace with two interlocking rings
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Jewelry is a great way to add a touch of your own style to your interview outfit. Smaller necklaces and earrings, bracelets, watches and rings are all perfectly acceptable. Keep in mind that too much jewelry can be distracting, so limit your accessories to a few tasteful pieces.

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The Hair

Simple Chignon

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Your hairstyle will obviously depend on the type and length of your own hair, but as a general rule, simpler is better. You don't want to draw attention to your hair with a complex updo. Make sure it's pulled back away from your face, and if it's too long to leave down, wear it in a low ponytail, half ponytail, or bun.

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The Manicure

Manicure, Nail Care
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A good manicure is important to tying together your interview attire. Whether you choose to paint your nails or not, make sure that they're clean and trimmed. If you do use nail polish, stick to the classic lighter or neutral colors or a French manicure, or even just a clear coat.

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Piercings and Body Art

Close Up of Teenage Girl with Face in Hands, Vancouver, British Columbia
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Facial piercings and visible tattoos have become much more widely accepted recently, particularly on college campuses. There's nothing wrong with leaving in a small stud in your nose or ear for your interview, and a tattoo is nothing a college admissions counselor hasn't seen before. That being said, if you do have visible piercings or body art, keep them tasteful and appropriate, as large piercings or highly noticeable or offensive tattoos can be distracting.

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Final Thoughts

Young woman talking with a man
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What you wear to your college interview, of course, is the easiest piece to manage when interviewing. Far more important is the need to answer questions well and make a good impression. These articles can help: