How Not to Seem Like a High-Schooler When Visiting Colleges

Visiting college friends is the stuff that dreams are made of. Dreams of totally ready to graduate high school students, that is. A break from the stress of test scores and application deadlines to actually step foot on one of those big, exciting college campuses? Pure bliss. But before you visit, there are a few things you’ll want to know.

No, we aren’t about to list the 20 most important questions to ask the admissions office or anything along those lines. Mom, Grandma, the school counselor and every other well-meaning adult you’ve spoken with in the past three months have already prepped you on that front.

These rules are a bit more, well, socially important. Though you may still have a few more months left as a high-schooler, we’ve got your guide to seeming like a collegiette when visiting schools. Parties, clothing, friendships — they’re all covered. Whether you’re staying with a friend you’ve known for years or being hosted by a randomly matched student, read on to learn how to drop the wide-eyed look and have a totally fun, totally college weekend.

Do get a feel for the social scene…

Let’s be honest. College isn’t all about academics. Sorry, mom. Take advantage of the chance to witness and participate in the, ahem, extracurricular activities when visiting. Sure, your first frat party will be a slightly intimidating eye-opener, but a tip from the wise, if we may: fake it ‘til you make it. If you act as though you know what you’re doing, people will be too preoccupied to notice that you don’t. (Read: take cues from fellow party-goers; don’t look shocked at the couple grinding against the wall; don’t jump at every hand, hip, butt that accidentally brushes against you.)

Plus, this is the perfect opportunity to see what you kind of a social atmosphere you’ll want your future campus to have. If you had an awful time at the frat party and one of your prospective schools is dominated by Greek life, you might want to rethink your stance. …

But don’t party too hard.

College will provide you with countless opportunities to drink too much and make out with the wrong boys. (Hey, some things just have to be learned the hard way.) Save the bad decisions for once you’re actually in college — especially if you’re being hosted by someone you don’t really know during your visit. Your friends will understand your incessant pining for that one guy, and they won’t judge you when you need them to hold your hair back after a long night. The same can’t be said for the girl you met five hours ago. Get your fill of experiences in, but don’t go overboard. You don’t want to start a pattern of bad habits before you even get to college.

Do break away from your standard T-shirt and jeans attire…

If your fashion taste is dictated by the cool kids or passing fads, go ahead and experiment with what you like. In general, there isn’t just one way to dress on a college campus. Mind you, there are certain situations in which you’ll want to follow the unspoken rules, starting with the bathroom. Shower shoes should always be worn while in the shower. (Trust us — this is for your own good.) Wear a bathrobe or towels to and from the bathroom. There’s no need to change in a confined, damp shower space when you can do so once you get back to your room. (We promise, everyone else does it.) But, no matter how liberal the college is, keep your terrycloth coverings, well, covering you once you step into the common area of the bathroom. You don't want anyone to get a look at your goods first thing in the morning.

Outside of the ladies’ room, the choice as to what to wear is yours. But, in a last-ditch effort to impart a tiny bit more of our sage wisdom: Parties are not the best time to try out the runway’s currently hot turtleneck trend. In this case, less is more. And if you attend a sporting event during your stay, show a little spirit, and don the school colors. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t your school, that you don’t have an athletic bone in your whole body, or that the basketball team totally sucks. Just do it.

…But don’t turn into a walking mascot or a total copycat. 

You may be tempted to really show how well you fit in on the campus by purchasing a bag full of logoed paraphernalia. Don’t. A T-shirt is fine. Or maybe some sweatpants are more your style. Choose one piece to serve as a memory of your weekend, not the entire store. Despite what movies show, students don’t walk around decked out in head-to-toe campus clothing so it’s probably best you don’t either. Plus, you don’t want to be saddled with a bunch of NYU gear if you end up going to UCLA.

Another sartorial no-no? Taking, or rather stealing, a little bit too much inspiration from your host collegiette. Just because she’s wearing skinny jeans when the two of you go out to explore the campus doesn’t mean your skirt and tights will be completely out of place. Don’t change into an exact replica of her ensemble because you think it’s what all college students wear. Fashion in college is about experimenting, so your weekend visit is the perfect time to start wearing what you want to wear. Still unsure what to wear? Here's more advice on how to not look like a high schooler.