New Year, New Chic: The Importance of Looking the Part

By Brianna Pennella, Student at Ithaca College

It’s no secret that college students tend to take the relaxed route with their attire for classes and club meetings. Somewhere along the line, higher education became associated with lower wardrobe expectations.

Freshmen everywhere fall victim to the “I can wear my pajamas to class” concept and never break the habit. While sweatpants and messy buns may be comfortable, they definitely do not make the best impression. Every time you interact with a professor, an adviser or even peers during club meetings, you are interacting with someone who has the potential to help you in your future career endeavors.

If you show up to your adviser’s office looking like a shipwreck survivor but expecting serious career advice, you aren’t going to make the best impression. As a college student you are a young adult on the path to becoming a young professional, and it’s important to present yourself that way.

Don’t be alarmed! You don’t have to pull out the designer dresses for your 8 a.m. classes or hit the hair salon before your Habitat for Humanity club meeting, but you do need to remember that your appearance matters. This is particularly relevant for first impressions.

Any time I meet with a professor for the first time seeking advice about my future, I make sure that I look clean and put together. My go-to casual outfit for most occasions is a long cardigan like this tossed over a simple tank top and paired with either leggings or jeans depending on the season.

It’s easy to dress up any T-shirt or sweater with the right accessories, too. A long or chunky necklace can sometimes be the perfect extra touch. I also pay special attention to shoes. Sneakers can be fine, but it’s amazing how far a good pair of riding boots can take you when it comes to style. It’s important to avoid anything that gives the impression that you don’t care about yourself, because if you don’t, then why should they? Present yourself in a manner that says you are serious about yourself and you are a good investment.

Being personally acquainted with the professors and club leaders in departments related to your major is a big plus, but make sure they see you at your best. It’s been hammered into our generation’s minds to keep our social media sites clear of anything that reflects negatively on us, yet many people still fail to keep up their professional appearance. As sad as it seems, this means you might have to take down your “Sexy Devil” profile picture from Halloween.

Another simple way to appear professional is to be polite. Always thank the people who take the time out of their day to help you or even simply teach you that day’s lesson plan. A little goes a long way.

Being remembered is only a benefit if it’s a positive association. Leave the sweatpants for your dorm room, brush your hair, double-check your teeth and always be courteous. Eye contact in conversation and a sturdy handshake, even for the ladies, are vital aspects of any interaction with a potential professional connection.

Remember: When you look your best, you feel your best. Don’t be afraid to hop on the peplum trend and dress up any pair of jeans.

Confidence is key when heading down the road to success!

Want to find ways to keep your New Year's resolutions? Check out our New Year, New Chic board on Pinterest!

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic /

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