When it comes to packing clothes for freshman year of college, you may be wondering what you’ll wear to class every day and what kinds of outfits you’ll want for parties, formal events or just hanging out with friends. But the kinds of clothes you’ll need for career fairs, class presentations, networking events or interviews may not cross your mind until those events or opportunities come your way. Instead of scrambling to borrow a blazer from a friend or squeezing into too-tight flats from that girl who lives down the hall, start your semester with these professional must-haves that will come in handy throughout the next four years.
1. Signature pair of pants
Whether you’re giving a presentation for your public speaking class or interviewing for a position in a student organization, a professional pair of pants will instantly amp up your look. Plus, depending on what you wear on top, they can easily be dressed up or down. Plain black trousers are a popular staple and are especially important if you’re planning on pursuing a career or major that’s business-formal—aka anything in the business school, pre-law and even pre-med. It’s a good idea to invest in a good pair of black pants since they’re incredibly versatile and you’ll be able to wear them throughout your college career and beyond. Try these trousers from Ann Taylor Loft, on sale for $69.99. If you’re in a more creative major, like communications, arts or anything where you can incorporate design or color into your personal brand, opt for a pair of patterned pants, like these floral ones from H&M, just $14.99. Pair them with a solid top, and you’ll look so classy!
2. Simple blazer
Every business savvy collegiette needs a blazer. Try starting with a classic black blazer, like this one from H&M ($39.99). You can add it to a patterned dress or throw it over a blouse with black pants for an interview or presentation, or you can wear it with a t-shirt and jeans for an effortless-yet-chic look to a meeting with your professor.
3. Elegant dress
In college, it’s typical to see people wearing casual sundresses for class presentations and even networking events, but this isn’t always the most professional option. Instead of rolling up to an interview wearing the first spaghetti-strap dress you found in your closet, try a more streamlined look, like this lace dress from Macys, on sale for $35.73, or this gathered-waist dress from Gap, on sale for $35.
4. Comfy flats
There’s no bigger buzzkill than running around campus (or anywhere) wearing shoes that give you blisters. Don’t leave for college without a solid pair of flats that you feel comfortable wearing to interviews, presentations and career events. If you want to add length to your legs—especially if you’re wearing trousers that are more loose-fitting—try going for a pointed-toe flat, like these shoes from Target, starting at $12.48. You can also stick with a more traditional rounded-toe style, like these ankle-strap flats from Macy’s, on sale for $34.43.
5. Button-up shirt
An oxford shirt isn’t only good for that “Risky Business” themed frat party. A quality button-up shirt is a reliable option when paired with blazer and trousers, and you can also dress it down with your favorite dark-wash jeans for a cool, but not too formal look. This classic button-up from H&M, just $19.99, is a great option that you'll find yourself reaching for more often than you think. Depending on the occasion and dress code, you can dress up a plain collared shirt with a cool statement necklace, like this floral bib necklace, $62 from Baublebar.
6. Trusty tote bag
Backpacks are great for carrying your books, laptop and library must-haves on a daily basis, but when it comes to bringing copies of your resume and piles of business cards to career fairs, networking events and interviews, a simple-but-sophisticated tote bag will do the trick. Tote bags are also awesome for internships and jobs you may have during the summer, so it’s a good idea to start your college career with a bag that will be with you for a while! This tote from Target for $36.99 is a sleek option (and it’s reversible!), or opt for something like this foldover-style bag, $59.95 from Nordstrom.
When you're packing for college, don't forget these staples that are bound to come in handy as you apply to get involved in student organizations, land interviews, go to job fairs and give presentations for classes and clubs. With these must-have wardrobe items, you'll be sure to work hard and play hard—and you'll look fabulous while doing so!