For a college student, back-to-school season means dorm rooms, football games and partying (with some studying in between). But if you’re going back to school as a grad student this month, your priorities might be slightly different.
Whether you’re going to grad school straight from college or waited a few years before hitting the books again, you’ll want to convey an image that says you’re serious about your work. Nothing can undermine that more than looking like you just rolled out of bed. Some campuses are known for their polished students donning heels and sundresses, while others are notorious for swarms of sweats and logos. Whatever the norm may be at your school, you’ll want to opt for the more professional look. There’s no such thing as sweatpant chic.
Because here’s the thing: There’s a difference between undergraduate style and graduate level style. Don’t want to be confused for an undergrad? Treat it like the “real world” and dress like a pro.
Things to avoid? Tattered jean shorts, short shorts/skirts, athletic wear, crop tops, beachy flip flops, heels you can hardly walk in, tops that show off the girls, and anything you’d wear to the bars. School spirit is fine to an extent, but if you look like you’re headed out to a pep rally after class, you may be detracting from your perceived professionalism.
Things to wear? Dresses and skirts that hit just above the knee, dark jeans, low-heeled shoes or sandals, and pretty much anything you’d find at LOFT or J. Crew. J.Crew’s entire Fall/Holiday line and October’s “Looks We Love,” is a great place to start. “Business casual” can be a vague term, but it’s one to keep in mind when you’re trying to decide whether an outfit is appropriate or not.
While you don’t have to dress like you’re headed to a board room meeting at work, you should be of the mindset that this is your job. Because right now, it is your job—to show up on time, do the readings before class, turn your work in on time and impress the hell out of your professors. If you’ve made a good impression—with your work and your style—they just might be the ones who hook you up with your first gig out of school. And that’s why you’re there.