Back to School: Gen Z takeover (part one)

student with an open book covering their face

After dealing with significant COVID-19-related disruption over the last few semesters, students are now looking forward to a Back to School season that will feel a lot more normal than the last. We spoke to future fashion merchandising student, Rachel, to discuss brand preferences, college ambitions and her Back to School shopping list.

What are you most excited about for college?

I’m just really excited to live in a new area and have new experiences, new sights to see, and time to be in touch with myself and figure out adulting. I’m not sure if it will be the same experience that most new college students have got in the past, but that’s just our new normal – it’s still so exciting to go to a new place, especially after the disruptive senior year we’ve had.

What are you most nervous about?

Taking that step in a new direction. It’s so easy right now to just be a kid in high school without too many responsibilities other than my little job, my studies, and my extracurriculars. In college, I’m going to have to figure out how to be successful in the real world, which is crazy.

What will be your main priorities?

My priority is to have an understanding of what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and how it makes me feel. That to me is going to be the key when at college, because you can’t just spend all that money and time on a degree that you don’t love and don’t understand.

What do you plan on buying to prepare for starting college?

I’m a very organized person, so I’ve already made pin boards and Amazon boards of stuff I’m going to need. I want nice stuff that’s not going to break like pens, notebooks, and a journal – I really want to start journaling when I’m at college because I’ve heard that’s a really great thing to do. Obviously, I will be going to a dorm or apartment, so I will want to buy stuff that will help me decorate. I also want decorations that are helpful to my studies – little extra things for my desk that can help me, because ultimately my focus is going to have to be my studies.

close of someone writing on a table with coffee

What will be on the top of your shopping list?

I already have a laptop, which is a definite necessity. I would say for fashion merchandising, I’m definitely going to need some sketchbooks, as well as some content creation kits to help me make my inspiration boards for projects. When you’re going into that kind of career, it is also important to make a brand for yourself on your social media. For that, things like good lighting will be a key as well as a good camera – and any other technologies that will help me in both my personal and professional life.

When do you plan to start shopping for college?

I’m going to bet really soon – I’ve got to get started! My grad party isn’t until the end of May, but I’m definitely going to start before that because I am planning to go to college earlier in the summer rather than later like most other students chose to do. This is because my school requires internships, so I want to get ahead on researching those. Honestly, it’s never too soon to start shopping for college. I could start today if I wanted to.

Do you plan on attending any Back to School events or joining any clubs or sororities when you start college?

Yes definitely. The school I’m going to be attending has a really great school magazine, which I’m excited to join if they’ll have me. There’s also a theatre club and a dance club that I’m interested in. I am an extrovert, but in new places I think everyone gets a little nervous so I definitely have plans to join a bunch of different clubs. I would rather do that than be social by going out and doing things that could get me into trouble – better safe than sorry.

Would you like to see brands promoting themselves on-campus during your first semester? Do you think it will be useful and good for your overall college experience?

I think having brands on campus is really great. As students, it’s good to know that our favorite brands are showing us that they hear us and support us. Regardless of whether you’re a student or not, people really need to be supporting people right now – that’s just the tea. This last year has been unlike the times we are used to. Whether they are networking, advertising, marketing, or doing other things to tap into students, it’s just cool to have their support and understanding that we are the future and we are going to change things for the better. People on social media now are also really starting to jump into doing things like brand deals, more than I have ever seen before. I think that is a super cool thing, too, because we are supporting brands that work for us and making content and building a following from it.

What do you look for in a brand when shopping?

Definitely quality over quantity – that is a big thing for me. I’ve worked for both a corporate company before and a small business, and the differences between the two are not what people would most expect. Another big thing for me is anti-cruelty and I think that is a direction a lot of people are going in right now. A lot of people are more aware of factory conditions and if workers are getting underpaid and treated poorly, and are looking out for these types of things when making a purchase. I have also found that a lot of brands are switching to environmentally safe packaging, which I think is amazing. In this world right now, so many things are changing for the better and a lot of it is being led by the younger generation, which is awesome. All of these things combined is what I look for in brands.

For more insights into Back to School, check out our Back to School hub for content to guide you through every stage of your college student marketing journey.

Gen Z and the Future of Ecommerce

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