A Freshman’s Guide to Going Out Style

After choosing your classes, finding out your room assignment and going dorm shopping, you’re feeling pretty ready for your freshman year of college. Maybe you’re a little nervous, but you’re excited to finally experience college life. 

You’ve probably seen enough TV shows and movies to have a few expectations about what your social life will be like in college — and how people dress when they go out. While some of what you’ve seen in movies might be pretty accurate, other things might be…  a bit of a stretch.

Because college parties aren’t exactly how they look on TV, we talked to college women about the right things to wear when going out, and the style mistakes they made as freshmen, so you can avoid making the same mistakes.

1. Comfortable shoes > heels 

We get it — your high heels look amazing, and we totally understand why you’d want to rock them during a fun night out. But trust us when we say that you probably won’t feel amazing after wearing them for too long, especially if you have to wait in long lines to get into a club or social event.

Holly Judge from University of Aberdeen says one of her biggest style mistakes during her first year was wearing heels she could hardly walk in. “Go for comfortable high heels or flats like Converse or Vans so you can dance the night away and still walk to get your post-night out food,” Holly says.

Going out is about having fun, so why choose shoes that will leave you feeling uncomfortable?

2. Don't dress up too much

You might be tempted to go out in your tallest heels and your favorite bodycon dress (and if you want to, by all means do it), but being overdressed might be a clear indicator to people that you’re young.  Amanda Miller, a student at The New School, says her go-to look for a night out is black skinny jeans, a nice blouse and ankle boots or stylish sandals, depending on the season.

Also, going for a more casual look is much more convenient because you won’t have to spend as much time getting ready. This is especially practical when you have a busy schedule and are trying to manage a full-time course load, extracurriculars, a social life and, you know, sleep. 

Tygre Patchell-Evans, a student at Loyola Marymount University, usually wears leggings or black jeans with a tank top. “Something casual and comfortable like this means you don’t have to think so much about what you are going to wear, so you can get ready quickly when you come right from late classes or work,” she says. Hannah Harshe, a student at the University of Michigan, also suggests a simple look like jeans and a crop top for parties during Welcome Weekend, noting that if you’re going to a club or bar, you might choose to dress up a little more. To make that style a little more interesting and fun, she suggests wearing cute jewelry or spending some time on your hair and makeup.

If you end up deciding to go to a theme party during Welcome Weekend, don’t stress too much about finding the perfect outfit for the theme. Similar to dressing up for regular parties, it’s best to not overdo it. “Honestly, probably don’t even dress up for the theme at all, because you’ll likely be party-hopping anyway,” Hannah says.

Sure, wearing neon or bright clothes to one party is NBD, but you might feel a little out of place wearing your elaborate costume for an ABC party or a toga party to multiple parties.

Related: The Do's and Don't's of Freshman Year 

3. Expect to get a little dirty

OK, so there’s another reason why you might not want to wear your cutest outfit to a frat party — it will probably get dirty. As a freshman, Hannah says, you’ll probably go to a lot of large, open parties, which are not exactly the best place to wear your favorite clothes.

“Most frat party veterans have ‘frat shoes’ that they’re OK with [ruining],” Hannah says. “In the colder months, they have ‘frackets’ (frat jackets) because nice jackets will get ruined or stolen.

Avery from University of Hawaii at Manoa says one of her best friends also has a designated pair of “frat party shoes.” But it’s also important to remember that frat parties aren’t the only reason your shoes might get ruined during a night out — so you might just want to make a habit of leaving  your favorite pair in your dorm for the night. “I remember one time I went out, I had worn these new Vans I had just bought with flames on the sides and I wanted to show them off,” Avery says. “This was a mistake, as I ended up throwing up on them.”

Even if you make your best attempt to stay clear of any messes, they can sometimes be difficult to avoid. 

4. Consider convenience

At the end of the day, what you wear is up to you and what you feel comfortable with. When choosing an outfit, don’t compromise your own comfort and convenience. High heels aren’t the only style choice that could end up being not-so-fun during a night out (yay, fashion).

Samantha Cedano, a student at Illinois State University, advises thinking about whether you truly want to commit to wearing a romper when you go out. Yes, they look adorable. Yes, they even seem comfortable. But, also consider the possible consequences — like having to completely undress to use the bathroom. “Being basically naked in a gross bathroom is never the move,” Samantha  says. Truth. 

Another style choice that’s easy to overlook? The importance of pockets. It doesn’t help that women’s clothing often features tiny pockets, no pockets at all or even those pesky fake pockets (BTW we’re over this, fashion industry). Geneve Lau, a student at Boston University, suggests always wearing something with pockets or wearing a belt bag to a party. “My biggest mistake was trying to tuck my phone and keys into the waistband of my leggings,” Geneve says.

If belt bags aren’t really your style or your jean pockets just aren’t cutting it (because, same), Geneve has another tip: wear a leather jacket with pockets that zip. Your stuff won’t fall out easily, plus leather jackets are stylish and don’t show stains.

5. Wear what you want

Of course, these are meant to be helpful suggestions, but what you wear is your choice. Your own comfort and confidence should be your priority.

York University student Sam Goodyear suggests wearing what you feel comfortable in so you can truly have a good time without worrying about your outfit. “The biggest fashion mistake you can make as a freshman going out is not dressing the way you like,” Sam says. “There is sometimes a pressure to dress the way other girls are, but if you like wearing jeans and a t-shirt when you go out, you should do that.”

Regardless of what everyone else is wearing or what other people think of your style, wear an outfit that you like.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a style that fashion magazines say doesn’t ‘fit’ your body type, or if your friends say it doesn’t look good on you (and if they do say that, you need new friends),” says Audrey Lent, a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. “When you’re planning an outfit for a night out, your focus should always be on feeling cool and confident in your skin.” 

And if people recognize that you’re a freshman? Move on — everyone was a freshman at some point, and your outfit looks great.