Acing Alumni Interviews - Part 3: Dressing for the Interview

College Admissions


It never ceases to amaze me how many fashion faux pas I have seen in six years! One’s mode of dress is indeed a form of self-expression, and creativity is generally lauded.

But, not at an alumni interview.

This is not the time for a tee shirt and jeans, and decidedly not the time for shorts, sweat pants, or other athletic gear. Keep in mind that some interviewers are professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc.), and they are more likely to expect you to be clean-cut and well-dressed. Yes, the interview is informal, but that does not mean pajamas. You do not need to wear a suit or tie, but make sure that you have at least combed your hair, put on clean clothes that match, and look presentable. Also, make sure that you are dressed modestly, as that will emphasize your maturity.

Tips for the Guys

If you absolutely must wear jeans (though I do not recommend it), wear a decent shirt with them, and do not wear sneakers or flip flops. Muscle shirts, really tight shirts, and tank tops are out. If you wear a button-down shirt, only the top button should be open. What I generally recommend is slacks, a button-down shirt, and casual shoes. It is pretty hard to go wrong with an outfit like that.

Tips for the Gals

Again, if you must wear jeans, wear a decent shirt with them. No sneakers, no flip flops. While low-cut shirts might be in fashion in school, they are not in fashion at interviews. Neither are halter tops or tight shirts. If you wear a button-down shirt, only the top button should be open (if any, depending on the shirt). It is a good idea to have your shoulders covered and a neckline that does not go very far below your neck. Feel free to wear pants, a skirt, or capris (if you can make it look fashionable), but make sure that your lower accoutrement goes down to your knees. Here is a test if you are not sure: if your garment is not touching the ground when you kneel down, what you are wearing is too short.

Other Tips

Jewelry is fine, but should be tasteful. That means you should not be wearing big gold chains that go halfway down your torso. Perfume/cologne is not advised, but apply lightly if you use any. Please remember to wear deodorant!

You might be asking why this is such a big deal. It is not news to you that people are judged by their clothes, and, irrespective of whether or not that is fair, you want to be dressed such that the interviewer judges you as a mature person. It is kind of hard to pay attention to an interviewee when his/her immodest dress causes the interviewer to feel uncomfortable and look away. It is also kind of hard to keep track of the conversation and pay attention when the interviewer is sneezing through the interview because of the applicant’s cologne. And just exactly how impressed do you think an interviewer would be of an interviewee’s intellectual maturity when his/her hair is doing a good impression of a mop?

Since the interviewer is aiming to make you look good to the admissions committee, start the process with a smart, clean-cut presentation!

Check out the rest of this series:

Part 1: The Role of Alumni Interviewers

Part 2: Before and After the Alumni Interview

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