I remember the first night before college staying awake wide-eyed staring at my ceiling. You want to go into any new situation feeling comfortable and confident. This guide will help you understand your personal style and how to dress for your first day!
What to wear on your first day of college will of course be based on your personal style. Being a subjective matter, the key tips will be knowing what you’re looking to achieve with your ensemble and being true to yourself. You want to have fun with your look and be comfortable enough to exude confidence, while also not offending professors or getting a dress code violation.
You won’t have control over many factors in this new situation, but your outfit is one that you do have control over. You may be asking yourself a million questions before the first day like – “What would it be like?” and “Will it be that different from High School?” This guide will at least take the worry out of dressing so you can be the best version of yourself from head to toe!
What to Wear on Your First Day of College:
It’s a new year, a new school, perhaps even your first time away from mom and pops. It can be frightening but also exciting. Being out of our comfort zone is precisely where growth happens. It can’t happen while you’re doing the same thing everyday so congratulations to you for embarking in this step forward!
College is a wonderful opportunity to enhance an image you already like or create an entirely new one. If you were unhappy with your reputation in high school, you have a do-over here to start anew.
If you were a bookworm in high school, I encourage you to be true to yourself and stay a bookworm in college! You don’t owe anyone anything. Dress to feel confident in yourself, not to impress other people.
The balance here will be dressing in a way that feels most comfortable to your preferences, while also letting your professor know you’re here to learn. Don’t come off as the person that doesn’t give a crap on day one, but also keep in mind you can be casual while still appropriate.
A casual sweater and jeans is the look everyone will have by Senior year, trust me. So you don’t want to sweat the small stuff. You only want to look and feel the best you can, which is why you’ve come to the right guide.
Here are some tips based on the different styles you want to achieve and how to execute them:
You’re a yoga queen, kickboxing killer, and on the move! You don’t have time to change between working out or hitting the track, and class. It’s easiest to keep your day simple by wearing something that will work for both.
You’ll want a cami-stretch workout top that includes built-in sports bra. You’ll want a workout jacket or hoodie because it can be cold in some classrooms on campus. Stretchy yoga pants and functional tennis shoes are your game in and out of school. Stay true to this and be careful about too much midriff showing in tummy-exposing tops. A little is fine but do you look like you’re going to the club or the gym? You want to draw the right attention to your outfit or none at all, so keep it classy.
Any of the looks we discuss will include an awesome backpack or satchel to complete the look and carry your new college homework and textbooks. For sporty you may want something that can attach your yoga mat or have a water bottle side pocket. A simple black will go with everything.
President of debate club, valedictorian, Type-A and proud of it! You want your outfit to speak volumes about your intellect and capabilities. This will mean not too much bling and keeping it elegant. You want to start dressing now for the future you’re looking to attain. Styles always evolve over time but find a good starting place for yourself by practicing for the real world while in college.
You can’t go wrong with a comfy pair of Sperry shoes. A smart button up or cotton blouse will be comfortable and chic. You can pair with shorts (cause you’re in college now! Woo!) but careful not to make them too short. You can also look stylish and smart in jeans or a printed skirt.
The real key to being preppy is to be bold and colorful. You can add an extra touch of smart to your look with a watch and leather brown purse that will pair with all colors beautifully.
Hello girliness and hello charm. This is one of my favorite moods to be in (I have many and I’m sure you do too!).
Your style is how you exude your powerful femininity and contrarily your softness. Some ideas for this style are flowing skirts, maxis, and flat shoes or boots. The epitome of femininity are ballet flats which you can get with laces that tie up your leg for a beautiful affect.
Long cardigans or wraps are useful for warmth and you can be ultra-fem in jeans too. However, you work your womanly style, you can always dress it up or down with accessories.
Earrings are a nice touch that will add a small sparkle near your eyes and add a brightness to your face. Boys love shiny things; they just don’t realize it. We’re all animals so we like eye-catching things. Add those special touches to your look that feel true to your beautiful girliness.
Like Phoebe in Friends, you wear 10 rings and love to hike in the mountains or free-style flow at a festival. You’re a free spirit, moon-child, nature-lover and own this fully. You want an outfit that will communicate your ease and comfortability.
This can be done with easy pieces that you don’t have to work hard at. That’s part of the bohemian style is just experimenting with weird, unique pieces and seeing what works. It doesn’t have to be perfect and being a bit messy will be more authentic.
Fringe is a fun touch for bohemian looks, wide-legged pants are back from the 70’s, bell-bottoms, and festival styles. Be sure to keep it semi-school appropriate but have fun with wedge sandals or grungy boots. The ones that came cross-country roundtripping with you in the Volkswagen bus are perfect!
One of my favorite moods, especially in cold weather! Every time I visit Seattle (as a Texas girl) I’m so excited to use my collection of leather jackets for every look.
This is the time to pull out your broken-in grunge leather boots. Hats are a surprising development in the rocker look that you wouldn’t think would work. But we’ve all seen that amazing babe in a Indiana Jones hat, leather jacket and fringe looking 10xs more rocker than Jagger.
Dark jeans with rips in them are a great touch but be sure they’re not the ones with holes on the tush or one cheek hanging out. Sexy but not school appropriate.
Keep accessories simple and you can add a flannel touch to make it extra grungy and 90’s punk.
Your brilliant self will be in the library most of the semester and want to dress for that. You also care about your education and want to make a good impression with the professor. You can be smart chic in jeans or slacks.
Any look can be made a bit smarter with a pair of glasses. Only wear them if you need but don’t opt for contacts if they cause you pain or discomfort. Glasses are a stunning touch to your face and can accent your beautiful eyes. A black pair with wide lens will make your eyes appear bigger.
Button down shirts, tees, and high-waisted pants are nerd-chic, and some say the larger the frames, the nerdier. Depends on what you’re going for.
In these modern days, the smartest computer nerds and gamers are usually in cargo shorts and a t-shirt. So dressing smart will be very subjective and I always go back to – find what you feel comfortable in. This will bring out the most confident version of yourself which will go along way in making new impressions with peers and professors alike.
Can we just be real? Fashion is fun and all but what’s the point if you’re miserable in skinny jeans two sizes too small or a corset that makes your entire appetite disappear. You want to be comfy and ready to move for any given situation that may come up in life.
Similar to the sporty, you’re on the go and comfort is above chicness. No shame in your game, you still want to look nice so college is a great place for these looks. As I said early on, by Senior year, you’ll notice most people will stop caring altogether and opt for this selection of style. I felt like the only girl in skirts at one point while everyone was in school-spirit shirts and tennis shoes.
We’ll all do it sooner or later so start now. You can wear jogger pants or sweats with a graphic tee and crocs. Simple backpack with holes for your headphones to reach through, keep it simple. Try not to fall asleep in class from being too comfy. Professors don’t like that.
School gear is an easy option to show school pride and blend in. If you don’t like attention, this may be the perfect look for you.
Checklist for The First Day:
Besides looking fabulous, there are some things you’ll want to be sure you have for the first day. Being prepared is another great way to feel confident and like you’re the boss-queen you are. Some things to remember are:
- Amazing outfit – check! Leave this out the night before so you don’t have to decide in a rush or risk being late. You’ll be sleepy if class starts early so don’t make yourself work at it.
- Backpack, large purse or tote – whatever is most comfortable for you to put papers, laptops, lunch, etc.
- Paper and writing utensils – this may sound stupidly obvious, but you’d be surprised how many kids will lean over to you asking for paper or a pen. It happens to everyone so just try to be there with some extras to pass out in case anyone needs them. Paper you can afford, pens for the whole class – no.
- Textbooks – this is if the teacher has said to have it beforehand. Sometimes these things are discussed on the first day so check your email and be accountable.
- Parking Pass – the last thing you want is to be towed on your first day or unable to park at all. This can cause stress and make you late to class for your first day. You don’t want to be the one walking in incredibly late, but 10-15 minutes is very understandable for the first day.
- Knowledge of where you are – I mean this in geographical terms and also just knowing you’re not in high school anymore baby! This is not Kansas Dorothy and you’ll want to know what you’re up against. (Unless you’re actually in Kansas, but you catch my drift).
You may want a map to know the campus better, but Professors will be more lenient with you on the first day for being late. They know you’re babykins-Freshmen on a large campus that you’re unfamiliar with.
They realize it may take you a moment to find the classroom and will typically be kind about this the first day or two if you come in politely and not disruptively.
Don’t make it a habit though, because professors are very different than your high school teachers.
- Humbleness – You’re paying to be here so don’t get on your professor’s bad side or be offensive to their authority. Shut up and learn. You’ll be thankful to yourself for getting the most out of it.
- Coffee – It’s going to be the hardest semester you’ve had so far and you’ll need a lot of coffee! I remember having a meltdown to my mom on the phone, in the bathroom almost a decade ago. I was crying that I wasn’t going to survive college and it was too hard. I was always a straight A student all my life but couldn’t get some of these concepts down and thought it meant I was a failure.
I promise, you will survive it. And coffee truly helps! College is challenging but it’s supposed to be, and it’s helping prepare you for the real world much more than high school ever did. This should be exciting and a little nerve-wracking. Nerves are good. It means you care about something.
Many other things such as books and requirements may be assigned by your professor and you’ll just have to wait for first day’s orientation to cover that information.
With all this to consider, fashion is really the least of your problems! But as a fellow fashionista, I know that I feel my best when I’m dressed amazingly. You want that confidence to meet new friends and make connections. When you look good, you really do feel good too!
Now that you can feel more confident owning whoever you are, keep in mind that labels are lame and I absolutely don’t mean to inflict any upon you. As I mentioned, I change any of these styles based on my mood. We are eclectic and complex creatures so you won’t dress to all of these styles each day.
You should experiment with all of them and find which is the truest you. Some tips for college to keep in mind for fashion and just what to expect are:
- Unlike your high school teachers that pass students that may not deserve it to avoid drawing attention to their poor teaching skills – Your professor does not care. They’ll just fail you and move on. They are respected by the school board and won’t be challenged for excessive failings. So don’t test their power.
- Don’t give up and remain focused on your goals. If you can attain them outside of college, save yourself the student loans and feel free to take the college-less route. It works for some but in these modern days, everyone has a degree and often you need it just to get in the door with companies. They’ll throw your resume in the trash pile without a degree. That’s just the sad truth of our present-day reality.
- If you’ve been complimented on that outfit, use that one! If it’s a piece people often ask you, ‘I love that, where’d you get that?” then wear that one. It’s a great way to meet new friends and break the ice.
- Have fun with it – all of the first day outfits from elementary to college should be a fun way to show your new classmates who you are. You don’t have to be fancy but if you are, own it. You want to show the smallest amount of professionalism just to show your professor you care.
This doesn’t mean a blazer, but it doesn’t mean a bralette as a top either. (Check out how to wear a bralette for a stylish look here!)
So, just be you! Cliché? Yes. True? Yes. No one can be you like you. So I can’t tell you how to dress as the truest version of what makes you comfortable and feeling like the best version of you. Only you can do that. That’s a lot of you’s in this tip but you get the point!
Your first day of College is going to be amazing and I have the fullest confidence in you to dress in the truest way to your soul and personality. I’m going to end this article on a cheeseball note that the best thing you can wear is a smile and good energy. This will bring more new connections your way than any look can accomplish.
Keep these nuggets of wisdom in mind and you’ll be the chicest girl on campus!