What I would wear to grad school orientation

The first day of graduate school can be really nerve-wracking and what to wear to orientation is a small part of that equation! It’s hard to guess how casual or formal the rest of your cohort will look. The good news is that even though it feels like a small yet big decision, you can’t go wrong in your outfit choice. Still, here are 3 outfits I would wear to new grad student orientation if you want some ideas!

Consider your program

Consider the type of program you are going into–professional graduate programs (like law school and business school) might be a bit more polished than MA and PhD programs.

Look for pictures

I am not above a good social media stalking to see what the vibes are–does the department have an Instagram, or do they take a yearly staff picture at orientation? Check around–you might get a good idea of what people wore last year, at least!

Prepare for a long day

Here’s an option that is very similar to what I wore to my first graduate orientation–a breezy dress and sandals were helpful because it was way too hot out. More importantly, pay attention to what’s in your bag! I brought a notepad, laptop (there was some IT help time that was helpful) and water and snacks. It can be a really long day!

Dress (secondhand)



Consider if you’re meeting supervisors

If you have a campus position, like a TA or research assistant, you might be meeting your boss for the very first time. It’s still casual, but a shirt with a collar never hurts for making a decent first impression.


Shorts (old, similar)



How much walking will you do?

New student orientations looooove a walking tour, nevermind that it’s 95 degrees outside. Pick comfortable shoes if you see this option show up on your agenda. Campus errands, like getting ID cards and going to the library, also tend to be spread out!

Dress (old, similar)


Are there pictures?

When I mentioned the department staff picture earlier, I wasn’t joking–my first department took one every year! The first year I was completely unprepared and showed up in jean shorts in the front row, woops. There might also be headshots and ID cards. If there are headshots I definitely recommend getting to them early in the day before the summer humidity gets to you!

Top (secondhand)



The first day of grad school can be scary, exhausting, and exciting all at once! It’s totally normal to feel lost–I sure did. Good luck, learn everything you can, and let me know what outfit you pick!!

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