The College Dress Code

Whether you imagine college students wearing sweats or fashionable attire, I’m here to set the record straight, and I’m not about to sugar-coat the truth. Yes, this may be the third time I’ve worn these sweats this week, but as you are about to read, the college dress code may be a little different from what you pictured it to be…

If you are like I was when I began updating my “college wardrobe” right around high school graduation time, you probably are under the impression that college students dress cute and mature all the time.

I’m here to tell you that this idea is a huge misconception.

Sure, when you take college visits you will see plenty of fashionably-dressed college students who seem to have it all together. But the reality is that the only cutely-dressed students you are going to find are the ones who don’t have any exams, speeches, papers, or formal events that week. And that eliminates pretty much everyone.

So what do we wear? What is acceptable? Don’t worry, I gotcha covered. Here are some things to remember as you begin fretting over clothing and packing for the fall!

  • Sweats are your new best friend.

Think you’re already a sweatpants-aholic? Just wait until college, when rolling out of bed 10 minutes before class doesn’t phase you and jeans are often considered, “dressy.” Granted, you’ll start the semester off with fantastic plans to look cute for class every day, but if those last more than four weeks into the semester, maybe you’re not studying hard enough. Of course, there will always be those individuals I envy, who are consistently well-put together no matter how tired or stressed they are.

  • Re-wearing clothes doesn’t have to be disgusting!

Mothers, don’t read this! While you may find pride in completing your laundry early in your first semester, by October those ambitions will be gone and doing laundry regularly will become a thing of the past. A typical morning scene will be you and your roommate digging through your dirty laundry baskets ten minutes before class, in search of those black sweats you wore sometime last week.

The reality is that at some point in your college career (or many points!) you simply won’t have the time or energy to do laundry. Solution: invest in some febreze, and rock those sweats as if it was the first day, not the fifth, that you’ve worn them. After all, isn’t it more important that you turned that paper in on time, and not that you got even less sleep because you were up early trying to out-dress the rest of the class?

  • The few times you do need dress clothes

Of course, college isn’t all about wearing sweatpants 24/7. So before you clean off the shelves in the active wear department, keep in mind that there will be many occasions when formal clothes are needed. For example, job interviews, career fairs, auditions, and formal speeches call for a business casual dress code. Attention business majors: you of all majors will be wearing plenty of dress clothes, so be prepared!

  • There are benefits to not wearing sweats.

After a two-week binge of wearing and re-wearing nothing but sweats and sweatshirts in the middle of my first semester, it was refreshing to pull on a pair of jeans. As a matter of fact, wearing clothing that made me feel more mature and put together made me a more productive person. Similarly to why they advise you not to wear sweatpants to ACT testing, wearing anything other than comfy clothes can keep you awake and motivated. This doesn’t mean you need to wear a dress or suit to class every day, but even a pair of jeans and your favorite top may dress you for success!

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Kaitlyn Taylor

Kaitlyn Taylor

Kaitlyn Taylor is a freshman at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, pursuing a degree in broadcast journalism and a minor in Spanish. She comes from a small farm town of 1,000 in West-Central Illinois, making the transition to a large campus challenging. At school Kaitlyn is involved with the University’s Women Glee Choir, and also sings in her Church choir and is involved with her residence hall’s Resident Board. She enjoys writing, biking, and volunteering.
Kaitlyn Taylor

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