As Dorothy noted to Toto when they arrived in OZ … she didn’t think it was Kansas anymore. Starting at college (unless you’re a Jayhawk, of course, in which case the analogy gets messy), is a similar startling realization … it’s not “home”, and it’s not your high school, and you’re not used to any of it.
College, of course, can be very, very casual … or it can be creased and buttoned-down as much as many work places. Every campus is different, both in culture and lay-out, and there are even major-by-major trends in styles. Naturally, the cliché for a lot of college students is that if you’ve got jeans and a shirt that have been washed some time this term on your body, plus some sort of footwear, you’re good-to-go for class … but this isn’t necessarily the case across the board.
Assuming that you’re not going from a mega-highschool to a tiny college, you’re going to be freed up from a lot of that “I need to make an impression NOW”, because you’re not so likely to be running into the same people all the time as you were previously. So, making that extra effort to be “trendy” or trying to duplicate the hottest fads is likely to be ignored. However, getting off on the right foot with your professors is a different matter, so showing up for your first round of classes should at least be focused on not drawing negative attention …
it’s amazing how professors will recall the one kid in extreme Goth gear (or dressed more for beach volleyball than for class) out of hundreds in an introductory lecture hall – often to their detriment for the next four years.
Despite the classic image of crisp fall days, and students making their way through crunching leaves, the first few weeks of college are pretty much in the summer, and although most schools now have reasonably ubiquitous air conditioning, you have a solid possibility of being hot and sweaty by the time you get across campus to your class. Figure this into your clothing choices … that “just right” jacket you’re leaving your dorm in might not be a better bet than a sweatshirt stuffed in your book bag that can be layered on if the classroom is 60°F. Oh, and getting around campus … go for comfortable on the footwear … it’s going to hinder your studies if you’ve managed to work up nasty blisters by rushing between classes in heels or dress shoes!
Especially for the first week, you could do worse than crafting a “junior business casual” look. Jeans or slacks with a button-down or polo shirt, or a nice skirt/dress will make that first impression with the professor a positive one, and any “peer pressure” that might come from your classmates can be adjusted for as the term progresses. Frankly, in some majors, the slacks-and-shirt might be favored as you’re training for a professional role, but in others you may find your teachers in shorts, t-shirts and flipflops.
It’s a fairly safe bet that as the work piles up, and your sleep declines, the desire to put together “a cute outfit” for class is going to fade, so what’s good for the first week of classes is likely to be “special occasion” wear by mid-terms … but making that first impression IS important.