- Attending college can mean many unplanned expenses, including business attire, for classes and events.
- Students told USA TODAY that buying these clothes can be stressful and intimidating.
- In response, more colleges are offering programs that provide free professional clothing to students.
Renee Perez saves any extra money for her five children.Anything not for the 38-year-old, a business information technology major at Texas Christian University. Essentials, like professional clothing, are purchases that are difficult to justify.
She noticed that other students in the orbit of Fort Worth Business School didn’t seem to have the same concerns.At networking event, Perez meets experts Wear clothes that look good and look expensive. Wearing worn-out shoes and no blazer, Perez feels it’s better to blend in with a crowd than to approach people without having a sophisticated look.
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“If you dress ‘a little less,’ they may feel they don’t take you as seriously,” Perez said. I think wearing cool clothes gives you a different kind of confidence.”
Attending college already means a mountain of unexpected expenses. There are costs for books, lab fees, and parking permits. But low-income students can also be caught off guard by the cost of fitting into the workplace. This is the experience of a large group of students. Approximately one-third of undergraduate students in the 2020-21 academic year received a Pell Grant, a financial award for low-income students.
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Professional attire is one of those costs, Where to start rigging beyond the relative safety of college can be a challenge. Other grooming-related costs, such as haircuts, transportation, and dry cleaning, can quickly strain a student’s already limited budget.
A growing number of universities, including TCU, are addressing these concerns by offering professional clothing to their students. While some rely on donations from local communities and alums, TCU provides students with bespoke clothing. The university’s program, called Suit Up, is limited to students who are in financial need, and those who participate in the initiative also take professional development classes.
Ann Tasby, accounting instructor and director of the business school’s office of inclusive excellence, oversees Suit Up.Tasby said it was made Spring 2021, after a focus group with diverse students to understand their perceptions of the business school. They realized that many people avoided it because they didn’t have the right clothes.
“It was very difficult and scary,” Tasby said. “You don’t think about business attire until you wear it.”
Tasby took some of these students to the business school’s advisory board, which includes executives from national and global companies, to brief them on the challenge. Like any college program, he needs funding to continue, Tasby said, but that was enough to fund the program. The program serves about 40 students per academic year and cost about $20,000 to start.
For generations, students have relied on thrift stores and family vintage clothing. However, these attires rarely fit well, leaving wearers worried whether prospective employers would find the styles baggy, tight, or outdated. and tailor-made clothing is another indicator of class disparities that the university intends to narrow.
For beginners it can be overwhelming to understand Where to buy or how much to spend on professional clothing. A new suit from Men’s Wearhouse can cost about $200 before tailoring, and students may not be familiar with the fitting system. Is the 15″ or 16″ collar closer to the traditional medium? There are many other unknowns. Are skirts OK? Are stockings required? Is the belt brown or black?
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For some students, not wearing proper clothing leads to anxiety in addition to typical college worries. Arrived at He said it wasn’t what he grew up with and that buying a suit seemed like a headache to avoid, especially when you could spend the money on a nice shirt or street shoes.
That meant borrowing clothes from friends when presentations and events called for formal attire. , felt like a burden.
And shoes were always too big.
Through the Suit Up program, he owns a tailored suit, a shirt with his initials on the collar, and properly fitting shoes. Wood said the new suit will give him a “peace of mind” when attending formal events or business events.
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“They should,” he said. “If you want professional attire, or if you want something specific that people don’t have, you have to provide the medium to get it.
Another benefit of form-fitting clothing is that it boosts student confidence. After receiving his suit, Wood posted a photo of himself in the suit on his Instagram, promoting a throat spray he developed to soothe his vocal cords at his public speaking events.
Appropriate clothing may feel particularly urgent for students of color, where white spaces predominate. Appropriate attire also helps us embrace parts of our identity that are considered non-standard in a professional setting. For example, Perez said she was a fan of her hoop earrings and winged eyeliner, but her older sister took note of the style because she attended her school of business.
“No, no, I thought I would look good in my own clothes and be comfortable wearing winged eyeliner,” Perez said.
The clothes showed that the college was thinking about her needs, Perez said. Starting school at 35 was already scary for her, but thanks to the support from her university, she said she was able to succeed.
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Christine Cruzvergara, Chief Academic Officer at Handshake, a college job site, used to work in the career advisory department at her university.
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She’s happy that the university offers a professional clothing service, but employers aren’t going to dock students wearing clothes that are too loose or out of style. Recruiters want to know that students can express themselves in a professional environment.
Perhaps more importantly, they want to see a sense of trust from applicants. Professional networking and trying to find a job are already “a nerve-wracking experience.”
“I feel uncomfortable when I’m wearing shoes and clothes that don’t belong to me and that don’t fit,” Cruzvergara said.
She noted that employer expectations vary by industry and region. People working in the financial industry probably still have to dress professionally every day.
However, the pandemic has relaxed many rules regarding workplace attire. Expectations may be relaxed for in-office interactions and internal video calls, she said, compared to when employees interact with clients and other people outside the company.
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According to Cruzvergara, over the past decade, more colleges have created what they call “career closets.” The Northwestern University Cat Closet offers up to three individual items or one suit each academic year. At the University of Michigan, staff help students find professional attire in a “safe, clean, and private space.”
The University of Washington has offered a similar program since 2019, said Briana Randall, director of the university’s career services program. This program was born out of a desire to ensure that the university met the distinct needs of low-income, first-generation, or other non-traditional students.
“Universities have been more careful about making sure their enrollment numbers are very diverse,” said Randall. “Universities are not always so focused on supporting diverse students, from educational processes to career outcomes.”
Almost uniformly, students have responded positively to the University of Washington’s programs. The center asked students about their experiences with the program, and they reported that wearing professional clothing made them less anxious and more confident.
According to Randall, the biggest challenge is keeping closets stocked.
Randall fills the Husky Career Closet with donations from alumni and faculty. Despite good intentions, these items tend not to suit college students.
Her department recently applied for and received a $3,000 grant for the program, but faced the same problems students face. Purchasing professional shoes for just $35 a pair will pay off quickly.
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This reflects Cruzvergara’s experience while working at colleges and universities in the greater District of Columbia, including Georgetown University, George Washington University, and George Mason University. Career Her centers often have a fraction of the budget and human resources of other departments, such as admissions and admissions.
This disconnect speaks to the long-standing tensions between colleges and students. Scholars will say that the goal of college education should not be entirely career-focused. Students who have invested years and racked up potentially life-altering debt often disagree. They want to know that their time and money will be useful later in life.
“It’s a pity they are spending so much money trying to get students,” Cruzbergara said.
Contact Chris Quintana at (202) 308-9021 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on his Twitter at @CQuintanadc.