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The Perfect Outfit For Your Most Important College Visit
Why Visit a College?
Students choose to visit the campuses of the colleges they are considering applying to for a number of reasons. Campus visits are by no means required, and there are other ways to get the answers you need from a college without going to the campus (see How Can I Figure Out a School’s Culture Without Visiting the Campus?). However, if you find yourself able to make a college visit to some of your top choices, the experience can afford many benefits to you.
Firstly, you can get a feel for the campus culture. Every college has a different vibe, a different set of priorities, and a different way of doing things. Simply being on the campus and observing the way that things work can help you figure out what the culture of that college is. More importantly, you’ll be able to judge whether you feel at home with the campus culture and whether it’s a good fit for you.
What does it mean to “fit” with a college? Our previous blog post on finding “fit” explains it best.
Many colleges offer official campus tours and information sessions that are led by university professionals or current students. These information sessions generally go over the basic information you need to know about the university and its application, along with any upcoming deadlines for the current application season. So if you’re visiting the campus shortly before you start applying to college, these information sessions could be very helpful.
The guided campus tour gives you a chance to hit the best spots on campus without getting lost. Campus tours are generally led by current students, who can give an insider’s perspective into what it’s like to attend that university and answer your questions if they have time.
If you are planning to visit a university campus, you can also try to contact current students at the university—perhaps an alumnus from your high school—and arrange to shadow them for a few hours to get a look at what a typical day at that college is like. By shadowing a student, you get a unique perspective on the schools’ academics, extracurriculars, and social scene.
You could also arrange a meeting with a professor in your intended field of study at the university if you can manage it. This usually requires emailing and scheduling a time to meet with him or her ahead of time, and you should be prepared to arrange a time based on the professor’s schedule, not yours. Professors are generally very busy, so you should be gracious and respectful if they take time out of their day to speak to you.
Lastly, some students visit a college campus for an interview. In this case, you’ll likely be having an official meeting with someone from the university’s admissions committee or another official on campus. In this case, the campus visit takes on a much more pressing and important meaning.
These are just some of the main reasons to visit a college. Each one of the above scenarios require you to dress and present yourself differently when you arrive on campus. To determine what you should wear during your college visit, read on.
What To Wear If You’re Taking a Tour of the Campus
If you’re taking an official tour of the campus, the odds are that it will be an informal setting. Most colleges and universities do not require you to dress up if you’re just attending an information session or walking around with one of their tour guides. If this is the case for you, be sure to dress comfortably so that you can walk around the campus easily.
Our recommendation for a campus tour is that you wear some form of athletic wear, or clothes that you feel comfortable moving around in (and sweating in, if you’re visiting in the summer!). Most importantly, wear shoes that you can walk in comfortably. Many campuses are large and require a lot of walking to navigate, and some even have major hills! You want to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible so you can focus on the tour guide and the campus, instead of the blisters on your feet.
Additionally, you may want to carry around a small water bottle or a light snack during your campus tour. If you get hungry or thirsty while you’re walking around campus, you can’t ask the entire tour group to wait for you to go buy something from a vending machine or food stand—you need to come prepared.
What To Wear If You’re Shadowing a Student
Students tend to dress differently at each campus, so it’s impossible to completely blend in if you’re shadowing a student. However, here a few general guidelines that we recommend.
Try to aim for a business casual or casual type of outfit. Jeans or casual pants are okay, but make sure that you couple that with a button-down shirt for men or a blouse for ladies. Be sure to wear shoes that are nice, but comfortable.You don’t have to wear heels or dress shoes, but avoid wearing the dirty sneakers you wear to the gym every day too!
Also be sure to keep your hair clean and neat and not overdo it on perfume, cologne, or makeup. Finally, remember: chances are, no one will take much notice of you, much less scrutinize what you’re wearing. Be sure to present yourself nicely in case you run into professors or leaders of extracurriculars in which you’re interested, but you don’t have to put your absolute best foot forward. Many college students wear pajamas to class, anyway!
What To Wear If You’re There for an Interview
If you are visiting a college campus for an official interview, your interviewer or another official at the university may have already given you a dress code for the interview. If that is the case, follow that dress code. If dressing a little bit fancier than the dress code makes you feel better, you can go ahead and do it, but you should be careful to not dress more casually than the dress code advises.
If there is no dress code given for your interview, it is safe to assume that you should dress formally. That means professional attire, which includes slacks (or a skirt suit for women) and a button-down shirt (a nice blouse is okay for girls). Your shoes should match your clothes—so professional shoes for men or nice flats or heels for girls.
If you’re thinking about wearing heels to your interview, just keep in mind that there are certain standards that define what a professional heel and an unprofessional heel looks like. You want to keep your heels under three inches and keep them a neutral color (brown, black, blue, or gray). If you’re looking for a specific type of shoe, pumps are a good way to go.
When choosing your outfit, make sure to avoid anything with crazy prints or anything too flashy. When you’re interviewing with a university affiliate, they will describe you to the admissions committee based on what they remember from the interview. You want them to remember one of your accomplishments or something about your personality, not the wacky shirt you were wearing.
What To Wear If You’re There for More Than One of the Above (or all three!)
Unfortunately, the dress code for each of these activities won’t change if you decide to do more than one during your campus visit. For instance, your interviewer is not going to appreciate it if you show up in casual attire when he/she told you to dress professionally, even if you explain that you just came from a campus tour.
That means that if you can swing it, bring changes of clothing for different aspects of your campus visit. You can change in and out of outfits in bathrooms around campus so that you will fit in at your campus tour, interview, and other meetings. If you plan on bringing changes of clothing, however, beware of common nuisances like wrinkles and stains. If one of your outfits gets ruined while sitting in your backpack, you’re probably going to be out of luck.
If you don’t want to carry many different outfits around campus, always go with the fancier option if it seems practical. It’s always better to dress to impress than to dress down and draw unwanted attention to yourself.
When dressing for a college visit, you should keep in mind who you may run into on campus. Potential employers, future professors, and admissions officers are all walking around campus, so if you get the chance to meet them, you want to make a good first impression. It won’t hurt to look a little nicer than usual.
If you’re want to know more about college visits and how they can benefit you, check out the following blog posts:
Lastly, if you’re a high school student looking to set yourself up for college admissions success, sign up for CollegeVine’s Mentorship Program. This program is designed to help high school students discover their interests, develop self-motivation, and maximize their potential for college. We carefully pair each student with a mentor from a top institution who works individually with the student to optimize their admissions process.