Freshers: Where they’re spending and what they want to know

Student spending contributes £80 billion a year to the economy (New Economics Foundation), which makes them a high priority audience for brands looking to target them. But timing is key in the student spending journey. Although brands’ marketing activity to students becomes more apparent in September when students move to university, we know spending can start well in advance. Our guide to freshers, where they’re spending and what they want to know will ensure you succeed.

We’re sharing insights and trends into the spending habits of prospective undergraduates; the influences on spending behaviour, purchase trends in preparation for university and market-leading brands. As well as this, we reveal popular content on The Student Room for freshers when it comes to uni life, whilst also giving you the first look into how you can get involved.

Freshers, where they’re spending before going to university

Our freshers hub is the go-to destination for new uni students to research what it takes to make the transition. New and returning students have long shopping lists, last year, our “What to take to university checklist” received over 143,000 page views from consumers who are looking to ensure they have the right tools for the challenge ahead. So, we surveyed this popular audience and generated over 1,100 responses to give you insights into the consumer behaviour of freshers.


We found a huge 58% of respondents bought or planned to buy a new laptop before starting university. We can make a safe assumption that these purchases take place around the peak July-September purchasing window so, make sure your awareness activity happens well before this period.

Apple was the most popular technology brand for students (51%), followed by HP (28%), Microsoft (22%), and Samsung (21%). How can you ensure you’re top of the brands list for freshers this year? By engaging with students and raising brand awareness in a place they trust, you can turn them into tomorrow’s purchasers and brand advocates. We can help you build a leading youth brand for this key purchase period.

Student banking 

Nationwide case study

75% of all respondents stated they did or will open a new student bank account before starting university.

We found the main reason for choosing a bank account was if their parents or guardian banks with them (45%), followed by incentives (23%) and recommendations (12%). For banks looking to incentivise students to switch bank accounts, the top persuading factors were good interest rates and discounts, both at 22%, so think about effective ways to increase exposure to your student offering ahead of the back to uni period.

We teamed up with Nationwide to drive awareness to their FlexStudent account, using our audience’s on-site behaviour to define what finance-related content is most popular, our editorial specialists worked closely with Nationwide on four engaging pieces of content generating a combined 37,600 unique pageviews.

By engaging with the needs of students today and building brand engagement, Nationwide are investing in the long-term customers of tomorrow.


With the majority of the “What to take to uni” checklist comprising of retail purchases, retail plays a huge part in student spending habits in the lead up to freshers.

We asked students to select what purchases they would make or did make before attending university for the first time. We found the most popular purchases were stationary (78%), homeware (74%), food (68%), kitchenware (68%) and 88% stated that they would make the decisions of what to buy even if their parents were paying for it. Find out more in our full survey which you can download for free.

The go-to destination for freshers

Last year, 296,000 university goers spent an average of 3 minutes on this part of The Student Room, with some spending up to 25 minutes in certain areas. 

The freshers hub offers an array of useful content covering areas such as:

  • freshers week

    freshers week guide on The Student Room

    Packing: The ultimate list of what to take to Uni

  • Life: How to survive your first year
  • Friends: How to make friends during freshers
  • Finance: Everything you need to know about student bank accounts
  • Studying: The best apps for uni life
  • Universities: Find other students at your university
  • Courses: Find other students on your course
  • Alcohol: The guide for freshers

Want to join the conversation? Use our student marketing solutions to get your brand in front of the right audience at the right time. 

Whether you’re in finance, technology, fashion and beauty, or retail, our freshers 2019 offering will put you front and centre of students minds at this key time of year.