Back to School: Sophia’s Experience

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Back to School season is the perfect time to engage with students – for the first time, they’re able to shape their own identities and develop spending habits of their own. But don’t just take it from us. Dip into our conversation with Sophia – who studies Symbolic Systems at Stanford – to get some crucial insights into what motivates students in Back to School season and beyond.

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Sophia, 19 – Studies symbolic systems

What were you excited about when starting college?

I was extremely excited about meeting so many new people. Something that’s so special about going to college is that you’re with people from around the world and you’re joining a community that is not just undergraduate students, but postdocs and law students and business school students. Being on campus with such a wide variety of age and cultures and nationalities and being able to learn together all in one place is something that’s really special.

What were you nervous about?

I think one thing that was a little bit challenging for me at the beginning was learning how to budget my money and make financial decisions by myself: what I was buying, why I was choosing to buy it, and those kinds of questions related to purchasing habits for myself that previously I didn’t have to deal with because I was living with my mom or dad.

What did you buy to prepare for starting college?

I graduated high school in June and I started shopping immediately after. There were two reasons for that. First, I was buying a lot of items on sale from last year’s dorm collection, and also I find that a lot of the girl decorations for dorm rooms tend to sell out really quickly. I wanted a beautiful duvet and specific pillows and a lamp. I also watched a ton of influencers and college bloggers on YouTube, and a lot of them had created videos for college packing, like ’10 items I bought for college.’ They were really helpful.

What events did you attend during the first week at college?

First week I attended a lot of orientation events, which were required at my school. The student club fair was a great opportunity to see every kind of community or group you could be a part of on campus. I also attended my first college football game. When you sit in the student section, you’re with all your friends and you’re in head-to-toe gear from your college. It was an incredible experience. I have so many Snapchat memories and Instagram photos, I’ll never forget that week.

Would you do anything differently?

Probably not, because I really felt like I prepared myself going into college. Whether that was just watching other people’s experiences on YouTube or seeing how other freshmen were capturing their moments on Instagram, and my friends who went to college a couple weeks before me were sending me advice and texting me a lot. Also, when I got to campus, I explored it quite well, so I was able to navigate myself on the first day of classes and not feel like a freshman.

Do you remember any brands promoting themselves on campus at the time?

I saw a ton of Instagram ads about college shopping and The Container Store or Target. That’s something that I really noticed. Otherwise, there weren’t any specific brands on campus the first week of school. When I was moving in, there were things that I did forget and I kind of wished that brands were promoting themselves either around campus or on campus so that if I said that I needed something, I could immediately think of a brand and just go there to buy it.

What would you have liked to see from brands at that time?

It’s really important for brands to capture our attention because this is the first time that we’re shopping by ourselves, doing grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry. It’s really important that brands think about how they can capitalize on that, and help us grow and utilize their platforms or products or services because that first freshman experience is such a short moment that they can capture. After that, we’re kind of stuck in our habits as we go through college because we’re on a budget.

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