Is There a Dress Code in College?

Going to college is a very big change from high school and there are a lot of questions that come up before you move in for your first semester. I did not know what clothes I should pack and did not want to embarrass myself on the first day of classes.

Is there a dress code in college? There is not a dress code in college, unless your professor requires it. Most college handbooks will have some form of a dress code, but it will not be enforced unless someone’s clothing is negatively impacting another student or staff member.

There are a few reasons why a professor will require or suggest that you wear specific clothing.


There are multiple college courses that require specific clothing for safety reasons. Many lab-related courses deal with potentially dangerous substances and items so it is best to wear clothes that are not baggy, closed-toe shoes, a ponytail or a bun, and a lab coat and glasses. These requirements will be laid out in the professor’s syllabus and will be explained in the first few classes. There is no reason that you should try to go against these rules because they are designed to keep you safe and minimize accidents.

Military School

If you plan on attending a military school, you should prepare to wear a uniform. Military institutes require the entire student body to wear a uniform and look presentable at all times. These uniforms can include:

  • is there a dress code in college military uniformShirts
  • Undershirts
  • Pants
  • Boots
  • Caps/hats
  • Socks
  • Well-kept hair
  • Clean shaven/mustache
  • Watches
  • Identification bracelet


Many professors will require you to dress business casual or business formal during presentations. For males this includes: dress pants, dress shoes, a button down shirt, and a clean hair cut. You can also wear a sweater, quarterzip, blazer, or suit jacket over the top. Depending on the class you can get away with wearing casual shoes and jeans, but you should check with the professor first. Females can wear a full suit, a dress, or anything that they are comfortable wearing and can be seen as business appropriate. There is a lot more options for females and it usually will not be an issue!

Trips outside of the classroom

In college, professors have a lot more freedom when it comes to class trips and activities. A lot of colleges will have outdoor , swimming/diving , athletic, and theater/dance courses. Each one of these courses will require you to have proper attire and will help you stay safe.

Depending on your college’s location, you can end up taking a prerequisite geology class that take a trip to a nearby hiking trail. You will need to bring a good pair of hiking shoes or boots, comfortable shirt and shorts, a hat, a backpack to store your items, and any equipment that you professor tells you to bring to complete the tasks that he or she assigns. These classes are very fun and are a great way to get outside of the normal lectures.

Taking a swimming or diving class is a great change of pace that can allow you to get certified in diving at the end of the semester. At my college this was one of the classes that was almost impossible to sign up for if you weren’t one of the first groups to pick your classes. You will need proper swimwear for this class along with goggles and other required items that your professor tells you to buy. This course can get very expensive if you want to get the top of the line gear.

Going to school to get any kind of athletic degree will require you to buy clothing that can be sweat in and allows you to have a full range of motion. This can range from a one credit gym class to an occupational therapy student who is learning how to stretch out athletes. The school may give you a few pairs of clothing with their name on it, but it is always important to wear what you are comfortable in.

Theater and dance courses may require a dress code. If you are going to be in a play that requires a lot of movement or a dance that requires a uniform, you will need to follow the guidance of the instructor. Most of the early classes will allow you to wear whatever clothes you want, as long as they are safe, but once you get close to the day that you perform, you will need to be in full make up and attire in order to do a full run through.


When I was in college I make sure that I looked presentable when there was a chance that I could run into someone who could make a difference in my future after college. It is much easier to show your professor that you are serious about their class and your learning if you are dressed in an appropriate way. This does not mean that you need to wear a suit or even a button down to class, but you should make sure that you look presentable. Jeans and a t shirt and school sweatshirt was the normal outfit that worked for me and was comfortable without being sloppy.

The best way to think about your attire choices is: “If my future employer saw me on campus, would they want to approach me?” This is something that I would ask myself when I wanted to wear comfy clothes to class. Sometimes I would still go in sweats and an old t-shirt, but I tried to avoid it.


Dressing for the weather is just as important as dressing to impress. There have been times where I go to class and it is sunny out and I walk out two hours later in a downpour. You should always check the weather report in the morning and keep a small umbrella or a hat in your backpack or purse. You should also make sure that you bring a heavy winter jacket and pants that can get wet without becoming super uncomfortable. Colleges in the northeast are very prone to heavy snow and do not cancel classes unless it is necessary.

You should also make sure that you have appropriate summer clothes. Some college buildings were built decades ago and do not have air conditioning that works. Getting stuck in a lecture in a heat advisory will end up being a struggle for many students who are not prepared. As long as your outfit is appropriate, wear the lightest possible clothing.

Sporting events

Depending on what sports you college offers, you will end up at a tailgate or in the stands supporting your school. Even though it is not required, some schools dress up for games and it helps to build a community. This can be anywhere from wearing a t shirt with your school’s name on it to everyone wearing all white clothing for a “white-out” game. Wearing the opposite color of your own school will make you stand out in the crowd.

Related Questions

Where is the best place to buy college apparel?

The best way to get college apparel is to go to your school’s bookstore and to look online. Online stores usually have much cheaper options and more customization options. Some schools will give out free shirts, hats, water bottles, and other gear at on campus events and during games.

What if my religion does not allow me to wear required attire?

Most professors are understanding when it comes to religious matters that conflict with course rules. Go to them after class or during their office hours and politely explain your situation and they will most likely give you an exception. If they give you a hard time about it you should go to the dean and escalate the issue.

Where are the best places to buy clothes for college?

If you want to save money, the best places to buy clothes are through Amazon or by going to outlet stores. You will be able to buy designer clothes at a fraction of the cost. This is great if you need to buy business attire before a presentation or want to get a suit before an interview.


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