As a high school senior in the 1970’s, I applied to four schools and visited the two of which I was accepted. One was in a major urban center and had been my “dream school” since my beloved grandmother and namesake had attended. I fancied myself setting out for the big city. My father had grown up in this same city but I guess they must have reconfigured all the streets since then (or maybe he was like any other child, not paying attention to his surroundings as a passenger in the car as his Dad drove) because all I remember was him getting constantly lost and cursing how much everything had changed. We walked to the Admissions Office where I was to meet with a tour guide and all I remember, to this day, is noticing how all the female students were wearing knee socks and penny loafers, straight out of The Preppy Handbook. Meanwhile, my mother had made me wear a skirt and stockings to make a good impression. I felt I did not fit in and, truthfully, this was probably the main reason I chose to attend the other school to which I had been admitted, a small liberal arts school with a beautiful suburban campus within an hour of a major urban center; and girls who wore jeans and t-shirts.
It seems silly, but you can probably tell a lot about the campus culture by what the students are wearing. I found myself taking note of it when my own daughters went on tours. At Northeastern University, everyone seemed to be in pajama pants. Maybe they tired of dressing in business attire for their coop stints? In any case, my daughter had never even worn sweatpants a single day to high school so I wasn’t too surprised that she never applied there. After touring the University of Virginia, I had a hard time explaining to my husband how the tradition of “Girls in Pearls” at football games might influence our daughter’s decision to not accept admission to this prestigious institution. “But she likes getting dressed up!”, he responded. The regional fashion styles were lost on him as a man and as a New Yorker. I had noticed one girl one our tour of UVA with piercings and purple hair so I thought for a second that perhaps I was generalizing too much; until I heard her admonish her father, seething, “Just because YOU went to school here, doesn’t mean I want to be here! I still want to go to VCU (an arts college)!”. I remember reading a forum thread on College Confidential about one of our local SUNY schools and a mother’s concern for her daughter fitting in with all the rich girls with their North Face jackets, UGGS and big sunglasses. Meanwhile, this seemed like pretty “basic” attire at our local high school where you would only be considered rich if you were sporting a Marmot jacket, Hunter boots and Michael Korrs sunglasses (from the store in the city, not the outlet).
There will be many factors that go into choosing colleges that will make the cut to be on your final list. Make sure that cutting edge fashion is one of them; and by that, I mean, apply to schools where you feel the fit is tailored to you. In the age of social media, in which one can make themselves appear perfect for the post, be true to yourself. After all, it’s exhausting to keep up appearances and you want to be accepted for who you really are!