Don’t #3: Don’t go to your college interview underdressed

This article is part of a series, 10 Tips for Acing Your College Interviews.

Little Britain, Vicky Pollard, played by Matt Lucas

A popular college admission guide gives the following advice: for a college interview, dress like you’re going out to dinner with your grandparents.

Not bad advice. Older generations tend to be more formal. They dress up for special occasions. They appreciate it when the young show respect by making an effort to be formal as well.

But if your grandparents are slobs, or incapacitated in some way, or, sorry to say, deceased, you may not know what this means exactly. Another way of putting it is: it’s better to err on the side of being overdressed, rather than underdressed.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, a college interview is a performance.

Much as all performances involve acting the part, they also involve costumes. And, to be honest, the interview costume is kind of dull. But try to look the part, nonetheless.

The interviewer won’t notice all that much if you observe the conventions—they’re taken for granted. But she’ll certainly notice if you break from the conventions. And in all likelihood, it’ll count against you.

Men and women: Shower that morning. Groom your hair. All of it. Use deodorant. Keep fragrances, colognes, and other scents to a minimum.

Women: Pants, or a skirt that at least approaches the knees, with a dress shirt or blouse. Perhaps a simple dress. Neutral colors. As the fogies say, nothing too “revealing.” Go easy on the makeup.

Men: Slacks or khakis, wrinkle-free. No jeans or shorts. Dress shirt or polo. Neutral colors.

Dr. Sean

Dr. Sean

Co-Founder at Readerly
Dr. Sean has over a decade of teaching experience at universities in the US and Asia. He earned a BA with honors from Columbia University and a PhD from the University of London. You can read more about his teaching and research here.
Dr. Sean