Why Advertise to Students? (College Students as a Target Market)

Topics: Millennials + Gen Z, Campus Media

Posted by: Marketing

Campus advertising is valuable to an incredible range of businesses for several reasons. As we mentioned in our previous post, university advertising reaches a vast, diverse, and economically powerful consumer group. Learn why your company should advertise to students, and how it will benefit your business.



College students comprise a significant portion of the young adult population in the United States. 

When you advertise to students, you reach a large segment of the Generation Z audience. According to EducationData.org:

  • 15% of American adults are currently enrolled in college.
  • There are 19.36 million post-secondary students nation-wide.
  • 38% of American 18- to 24-year-olds are enrolled in college or graduate school.
  • 74.5% of all 18- and 19-year-olds are enrolled in schools of any type.


Infographic Thumbnail - Value of Campus Advertising



Campus ads reach a widely varied audience in terms of both gender and race.

  • Female college attendance has nearly doubled since 1976.
  • 41.6% of postsecondary and postgraduate students are men.
  • As a percentage of the entire student population, nonwhite student attendance has increased 125.5% since 1976.
  • 20.6% of the post-secondary student population is Hispanic or Latino, an 264.8%  increase from 1976.
  • Black and African American students make up 3.5% more of the student population than they did in 1976.
  • Postsecondary attendance among Asian or Asian American students has increased 11.1% since 2010.
  • 4.3% of the college student population identifies as multiracial.

Advertising on campus is also an excellent way for businesses to reach a variety of other niche audiences, like low HHI college students and major-specific audiences (those in STEM and tech-related majors, for example).


MSSmedia Buyer Persona Worksheet




Campus advertising reaches college students at a pivotal point in their development as consumers. 

As they transition from teenagers to twenty-somethings, college students take their first steps into true adulthood. They become responsible for meeting more of their own needs, and their consumer demands grow. They’re eating away from home, furnishing dorm rooms and apartments, taking responsibility for their own transportation, shopping for new wardrobes, and expanding their entertainment horizons. Many come from affluent homes and have plenty of disposable income.

Every year, millions of college students graduate and begin professional jobs, many earning more money than they ever have before.  In fact, the weekly median earnings of young adults with a bachelor’s degree are about 68% higher than those with only a high school diploma. 



“College inspired me to think differently. It's like no other time in your life." 



Companies that advertise to students are a step ahead of the rest. The college years are prime time for businesses and brands to get in on the ground floor, create connections with this group of potential customers, present solutions to their challenges, and build brand trust and loyalty.


+ Learn eight ways to overcome common roadblocks when advertising to students.


College students have significant purchasing power.

Because students from more affluent backgrounds are significantly more likely to enroll in college, many college students can afford higher-end housing, dining out, a variety of paid entertainment options, and other non-essential and luxury purchases. In fact, college students collectively have $593 billion available to spend. 

In addition to paying for tuition, here’s how some of that spending breaks down:

  • As a group, per year, college students spend $65 billion on food, $5.5 billion on alcohol, and $2.4 billion on entertainment.
  • In the course of earning a 4-year degree, the average college student will spend almost $53,000 on personal expenses, $16,500 on rent, and $4,000 on eating out.


Infographic Thumbnail - Campus Media Strategies




Those who advertise to students have a unique marketing advantage.

Campus advertising campaigns allow you to target your marketing efforts geographically. College students are a captive audience – living, learning, working, eating, shopping and socializing within a limited area. Strategically placed ads concentrate your campaign on your intended viewers and generate repeat exposure.


See our complete guide to advertising to university students.




Editor's Note: This post has been fully updated as of January 2024.

Here at MSS Media, Inc., we’ve been providing Education, Government, Real Estate & Lifestyle clients with succinct, optimized, and successful marketing solutions for more than 15 years. Consider MSS Media, Inc. a full-service, one-stop shop for all your Media and Public Relations needs. Your goals are our motivation. And our mission is to propel your message, further and faster, to achieve the outcomes you’re looking for. If you found this blog post helpful, please share!

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