2012 Back-to-College Shopping: What are Students Buying?

September 04, 2012


As twenty million students head back to campus this fall, they’ll be bringing with them more than just books, notebooks and pencils. According to a new study by the 9-year-old social media marketing firm MRY (formerly Mr. Youth), students will spend on average $900 on back-to-college merchandise. The Cool for School: Back-to-College Insights study reveals that by August, 40% of college-aged students have already hit the mall for their back-to-school shopping – earlier than previous years. MRY polled 500 college students nationwide about their shopping habits this year and found:
  • Social Media – Second Only to In-Person Conversation:  As of August, 65% of students have had a conversation on Facebook about back-to-college shopping. 
  • Mobile – For Saving Money & Driving Retail Visits:  Shopping apps were used by 38% of all college students this fall. College students use their phones as shopping aids for saving money and curating shopping lists (35% of students created a shopping list on their phone). 
  • Students Foot The Bill, Feel The Pinch: A tough economy has more than half of students (52%) footing the bill on purchases this year. This has students stressed, with nearly half (48%) of all students worried about meeting daily expenses, and (44%) worried they won’t be able to finish college due to financial reasons. And over half (55%) are worried they won’t be able to find a job when they graduate.

    Click on image above to view the full infographic.

Students’ Must-Have List

So, what are the most wanted products this back-to-college season? MRY tracked dozens of items across several categories and found that while the big-ticket items like tablets, big screen TVs and gaming consoles are on students’ wish lists, they will spend the majority of their money on essentials for class: laptops, printers, software and clothing.

  • Laptops – 40% bought new, 36% plan to buy
  • Productivity Software – 24% bought new, 29% plan to buy
  • Credit Card – 35% signed up, 62% plan to sign up
  • Checking Account – 43% signed up, 42% plan to sign up
  • PayPal Account – 33% signed up, 34% plan to buy
  • Streaming Media Service – 34% signed up, 25% plan to buy
  • Fall Fashion – 61% bought clothes, $200 spent on average

For more information on MRY’s back-to-college study, visit

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