What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

What to Wear to Your College Interview

What’s Covered:


The college interview is arguably one of the most nerve-wracking aspects of the admissions process. Most students want nothing more than to make a good first impression, which inevitably leads to the question: “What on earth am I supposed to wear?”


It is usually sufficient to dress in what’s commonly known as “business casual” for an interview. However, if you’re questioning whether your outfit is formal or professional enough, it is always best to err on the side of caution. While there is almost no downside to dressing more formally than is required, other than perhaps the embarrassment of being a bit overdressed, looking sloppy or underdressed might reflect poorly on you and could adversely affect your evaluation. Read on for our tips on dressing to impress for your college interview.


What Should Men Wear to a College Interview?


For men, business casual requires nice pants; this means slacks, khakis, or dress pants. Your shirt should be long-sleeved and collared, or you can choose to wear a nice sweater. If you wish to, you may wear a blazer, but a suit is definitely too formal, and a tie is almost never necessary. This is a serious event, but the casual in ‘business casual’ means that a suit and tie will likely come across as overly formal and a bit bizarre. As for shoes, you should do your best to wear dress shoes—at least, not sneakers—and dark socks.


On rare occasions, your interviewer will inform you that the interview is more casual. If this is the case, the above measures may not be necessary. That said, even if your interviewer expressly tells you that the interview will be more casual, you should nonetheless arrive looking neat and clean. A pair of dark, well-tailored jeans free of rips or tears will look acceptable with a nice shirt for casual interviews. And while a tie won’t be necessary in this scenario, sweatpants, sweatshirts, and sneakers are almost never a good idea.


In both scenarios, it should go without saying that your hair should be brushed and your overall appearance well-kept. This includes being clean-shaven.


What Should Women Wear to a College Interview?


The business casual dress code for women is similar to that for men, with addition of skirts and dresses. Dresses, should you choose to wear one, should fit well. If your dress does not have sleeves, you should cover your shoulders with a blazer or cardigan. Both dresses and skirts need to be at least knee length, and wearing tight underneath is usually also a good idea. 


Similar to men, a suit or pantsuit is likely too formal for this context. Like with the advice for men, a nice pair of slacks or dress pants is best, paired with a blouse that covers your shoulders or a nice sweater. A blazer is likely not necessary, but it wouldn’t hurt to wear one if you have it on hand. For shoes, a number of semi-formal and formal options are acceptable. Heels are definitely not necessary, and should especially not be worn if you don’t usually wear them and will struggle to walk. If you do choose to wear heels, they should be low. Any ballet flats or boots you choose to wear should look polished and free of major scuffs, rips, or dirt. Avoid sneakers and sandals.


If you are informed expressly by your interviewer that the interview will be casual, you can plan to be slightly less formal than the business casual dress code we’ve outlined above. As we describe for men above, women too can plan to wear dark jeans without rips and a nice blouse in this scenario, but sneakers, sweatpants, and leggings are still inadvisable.


Similarly, in all scenarios, your hair and makeup should look neat and professional. If your hair is long, it is always easiest to pull it back into a neat ponytail or a bun, which never fails to look well put together, especially if your hair is dyed in an unnatural color. Having your hair off your face also removes the temptation to touch it. If you’re wearing makeup, it should be minimal and neat—avoid glitter and distractingly loud colors.


If you choose to wear jewelry, follow similar guidelines as with makeup. Nothing should be too large, distracting, or flashy, but simple, non-distracting pieces are fine. Wearing a lot of jewelry, even very simple jewelry, is also likely to be a bit distracting, as are things like bracelets that may clatter together or make noise when you move. 


What Should I Wear If My Interview is Virtual?


A virtual interview may feel like a completely different experience from an in-person interview, but most of the guidelines remain the same. Dress in well-fitting, business or business casual attire, and make sure that you appear neat and well-groomed. 


In choosing a top to wear, consider the background of your Zoom interview. You wouldn’t, for example, want to wear the same color as the wall behind you, as this would be visually confusing. 


Finally, it may be tempting to only dress from the waist up, as likely this will be all your interviewer sees. We strongly recommend that you get fully dressed in the same clothes you would wear to an in-person interview. If you do need to stand up, or the interviewer otherwise catches a glimpse of your pants, this helps present the right image of a well-prepared candidate who is taking the interview seriously. Also, being fully dressed and prepared helps you get in the right mindset to ace your college interview. 


What Should I Not Wear to My College Interview?


As you plan your outfit, avoid logos, bright colors, or flashy clothing that your interviewer may find distracting. You want them to be focused on you, not trying to read or understand what you’re wearing. You’ll also want to make sure that your clothes are neat and comfortable – fidgeting, fixing, or rearranging your clothes definitely counts as distracting, and may make you feel self-conscious and unprepared. 


It’s important to look professional and composed, so make sure that your clothes fit properly. If something is too short, too tight, or too revealing, it is inappropriate for men and women. Ill-fitting or inappropriate clothing will make you and your interviewer uncomfortable, and it makes it seem as though you don’t understand the purpose of the meeting. 


Finally, as you get dressed for your interview, pay attention to how your clothes make you feel. This may be significantly more formal than you usually dress, but you should still feel prepared and at ease in what you’re wearing. Clothing that makes you feel self-conscious will distract you during your conversation with your interviewer and cause unnecessary stress. The best thing to wear is something that makes you feel calm, comfortable, confident, and ready to put your best foot forward in your interview. 


How to Calculate Your Odds of Acceptance


While the interview is often one of the aspects of the college process that applicants stress about the most, in reality it is unlikely to be the determining factor for your application. So, as you plan out your outfit, you may be wondering how the other, more crucial aspects of your application stack up at your dream schools.


To answer that question, check out CollegeVine’s free chancing engine. It takes into account just about every element of your application (other than your interview, letters of recommendation, and essays, which aren’t quantifiable), including your grades, course rigor, test scores (if you have them), and extracurriculars, to give you personalized odds of acceptance at all of your top choice schools.

Short Bio
After graduating from Wesleyan University, Francesca Jette is pursuing a Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at George Washington University. She has been helping high school seniors with college essays for three years now.