Students Increase Discretionary Spending 260% First Year of College

Chegg, the student hub, recently revealed the findings of its second annual survey profiling the spending habits of college students.  According to the survey, entering college is a key inflection point in establishing buying behavior, brand preferences and influence over family purchases.  Marketers engaging this important group of 16 to 24-​year-​old consumers have a great opportunity not only to increase sales today but also to create brand loyalty for years to come. 

Five important trends emerged from the study:

  • PERSONAL SPENDING INCREASES SIGNIFICANTLY STARTING FRESHMAN YEAR. Students who just graduated from high school estimate they spent $2,941 on discretionary purchases (all non school-​related items) in the past year, while students who just completed their freshman year of college estimate they spent $10,525 ? an increase of 260%.
  • BRAND PREFERENCES CHANGE SIGNIFICANTLY DURING THE COLLEGE YEARS.  Current college students have new favorite brands in both high-​ticket items and daily purchases at rates that significantly outpace incoming freshmen such as laptops (68% vs. 46%) and shampoo (59% vs. 28%).
  • STUDENTS ARE WILLING TO BUDGET IN ONE AREA AND SPLURGE IN ANOTHER.  While 91% of students surveyed agree with the statement "I have to be conscientious about my purchases so that I don't get into debt," 68% report they are willing to spend more money on quality brands.
  • STUDENTS' INFLUENCE OVER FAMILY SPENDING GOES WELL BEYOND THEIR OWN POCKETBOOKS.  Students surveyed report helping their families research and purchase products including entertainment (56%) and travel expenses including airplane tickets (37%).
  • STUDENTS ARE AVID MEDIA CONSUMERS AND MORE CONNECTED THAN EVER BEFORE.  Even in today's media-​saturated world, media consumption grew by 30% year over year – reaching 49 hours per week among students. Driving this growth is increased time online, with students now spending 11 hours per week consuming online media via a mobile device (up 120% year over year).

"Today's college students are savvy consumers who make and influence spending decisions every day," said Elizabeth Harz, vice president of business development at Chegg.  "Marketers who understand the student mindset and embrace new ways of engaging this audience are well positioned to establish lifelong customer relationships."

[Source:  "Second Annual College Spending Habits Survey."  Chegg.  2 Oct. 2012.  Web.  9  Oct. 2012.]