What Should Women Wear to a College Interview?

General guidelines to help you make a good impression

While not as formal as a job interview, college interviews can be a significant piece of the admissions process. It’s important to present yourself in clean, well-kempt attire that’s appropriate for the season and to the type of college or program you’re applying to. Colleges that use interviews as part of their evaluation process have holistic admissions. This means that the admissions folks are evaluating the whole applicant, not just looking at grades and standardized test scores. Your clothing and general appearance can help to make a memorable first impression. That said, these guidelines represent general advice. The dress considerations for an interview at a funky art school wouldn't be the same as those for a conservative Christian college.

01
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Pants, Skirt, or Dress?

Feel comfortable and read
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Depending on the program to which you're applying, 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, however, 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.

02
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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. Avoid plunging necklines or shirts that fit too tightly.

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The Shoes

Ballet flats

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Choose a simple pair of pumps, ballet flats, or boots with conservative heels. Your shoes should appear professional, but do 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 safe and 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, however, 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 Accessories

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, as is a tasteful scarf. 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. Make sure your hair is clean and pulled back away from your face. 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 for tying your interview look together. 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:

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