Youth Marketing 101: What makes college students unique among young people?

For student marketers, understanding the unique characteristics of the college demographic compared to the rest of Gen Z can make a big difference. This enables brands and organisations who want to engage college students to more effectively tailor campaigns to their wants and needs. Ahead of the release of our Youth Trends Report 2019 for the US market, we’re sharing our findings on the ways college students differ from other young people within the 18-22 age range.


Naturally, students are more likely to prioritise education, while non-students were more focused on work. However, we also found that non-students cared more about their hobbies and their health, while students took more interest in socialising. Could it be that those who chose to go into work instead of college did so for the health benefits?


Interestingly, college students have a notably more positive view of their generation than those who are not currently in education. They are more likely to see their cohort as more sensible, smart, knowledgeable, activist, ambitious, creative and caring than other generations. Could those not in education benefit from seeing more positive media representations of their age group?


As students see their generation as more activist than others, they are naturally more likely to take action around the issues they care about. For example, they are more likely to boycott brands, particularly those involved in gender pay gap, environmental and animal testing scandals. They are also more likely to have signed a petition or attended a march or protest.

Future thinking

Our survey reveals that college students are more optimistic about all aspects of their future than those not in education. They have more positive expectations for their quality of life, finances, career opportunities, and housing. This could mean they believe attending college will improve their lives, or that they come from more stable and well-off backgrounds that give them a more positive outlook.

Too much tech

Digital addiction is a big concern for Gen Z, especially college students. They are more likely to consider themselves addicted to their smartphone, social media and the internet, and to worry about using technology too much. They’re also taking more action to tackle this, including using apps like Screen Time, taking a digital detox, and putting their phone in Do Not Disturb mode overnight.

To hear more about marketing to college students and pick up your copy of our brand new US Youth Trends Report, join us at YMS19 NYC this September.