By Laura Morrison, July 2014
You've stocked up on pens and notebooks and charged your laptop, but before you head to your first day of classes, there's one more step you need to take. It's important to have the right wardrobe when you head off to graduate school.
It may seem like a strange time in between student life and professional life, but when it comes to dressing up for your studies, there are a few key points to keep in mind so you can look your best.
Ditch Your Hoodies and Sweatpants
As an undergraduate, you were likely far more concerned with making sure you could get up for that 8 a.m. class than with what you ended up wearing to it. Everyone is familiar with the seemingly universal college student wardrobe - sweatpants, a branded university sweatshirt, and flip-flops or slip-on shoes. That may have cut it in the lecture hall, but graduate school is a step up from undergraduate studies academically, and you should dress accordingly. Nobody's saying you need to dress to the nines every day, but you certainly don't want prospective colleagues and professors confusing you for an undergraduate student when you show up for office hours.
Your Wardrobe Should Graduate With You
According to Jezebel, the No. 1 rule when it comes to post-undergraduate fashion is to dress like an adult.
This may sound nebulous, but it's a useful heuristic for when you're trying to navigate the aisles at the clothing store. Instead of sneakers, the source recommended a sensible and comfortable flat shoe, such as an Oxford flat or a loafer for the gentlemen. You don't have to trade in your sweats for a more expensive wardrobe, but make sure your clothes are tailored to fit rather than the "hanging off of you" look common among pajama-clad undergraduates.
Keep it Clean
This should really go without saying, but it's important to make sure the clothes you wear are clean and well taken care of. Everybody went through that period in college when the sniff test was the primary maxim guiding dressing decisions, but as GradHacker reminded, that's not going to cut it when you're spending your days networking with research fellows and interviewing for apprenticeships.
Of course, you'll want to take your specific field into account when planning your outfits for the year. After all, your clothing choices will likely be affected by what you find yourself doing for the majority of your days. For example, Jezebel noted that if you find yourself working in a science lab, you'll likely want to steer clear of loose, flowy outfits and dangling accessories or even sweatshirt drawstrings.
Pay Attention to Your Feet
If there's one area you aren't going to want to skimp on, it's footwear. You're probably already aware of how busy your life will be as a graduate student, and in practical terms this is going to equate to you spending a lot of time on your feet.
You may love that pair of heels or think those sandals go perfectly with your outfit, but keep in mind how much walking you're going to do throughout the day, and imagine what your feet would feel like after eight hours of running around. A couple pairs of high-quality, flat-soled shoes are veritable staples to every graduate student’s wardrobe, and can go a long way in tying your outfit together while keeping you on your feet.
Dress for the Job You Want
This old maxim holds doubly true for graduate students. After all, you're there to make professional connections as well as to study. For those days you have an important job interview or those evenings when you have to attend a faculty event, make sure you have a dressier option on deck so you can make a good first impression when it counts.
About the Author: Laura Morrison is the Web Content Manager for GradSchools.com. She earned an MBA from the Rutgers School of Business in 2010.