How to Spread Your College Organization’s Name with Promotional Items: Guaranteed!

School might be over for the summer, but college organizations and clubs need to prepare for next fall. Next school year, college students will mill through activity fairs and collect all the swag in sight, but they will only hang onto the promotional items that they find useful. After all, dorms are small; hardly anyone has the room to store non-essential stacks of business cards and leaflets. But magnets? Cups? Water bottles? Now we’re talking.

Mood Water Bottle

Mood Water Bottle

College students are very likely to hang onto drinkware. It can be a coffee mug for the bleary early-starter, a water bottle for class time hydration, or a regular plastic cup for just about everything else. Everyone has to drink, so they might as well do it out of drinkware toting your organization’s name.  Try this coffee mug, water bottle, or plastic cup.

If you want to become a permanent name in a student’s dorm room, try a magnet. Almost every student drags a refrigerator to school, and nobody wants a boring fridge. Standard rectangular or circle magnets might not make the cut, but a magnetic picture frame or household word magnets are instant hits. Everyone enjoys creating (probably highly suggestive) sentences out of the words or framing a picture of their dog. Try this picture frame magnet or break-apart word magnets.

Drawstring Bag

Drawstring Bag

Bags are always a welcome addition to a college student’s life. Everyone needs to cart their books to class, so they might as well do it in a drawstring or tote bag with your organization’s logo on it. If the logo does not sway them, at least it will be seen by dozens of other students. Tote bags can double as reusable grocery bags, too. Even more unique would be a laundry bag. All college students need to wash their clothes at some point, so they might as well drag down the dirty laundry in your bags. Try this drawstring bag, tote bag, or laundry bag.

A good, but obscure, item to hand out is sponges. Before lifting an eyebrow at that, a sponge is actually useful to every student in college. Either they live at home, in an off-campus apartment, a dorm with a kitchen, or need to wash their Easy Mac bowl at 4 am. While not many people want to be associated with dirty dishes, think of how many people will look at your name! Try this sponge.

Not in love with the idea of a sponge? Chip clips are always useful. Whether they are being used to actually keep a bag of Doritos closed, or as a makeshift binder clip, a college student will definitely find one handy. Try this chip clip.

Promotional Pens

Promotional Pens

Above all, never underestimate the value of a pen! Promotional pens are one of the most inexpensive items, and yet they are probably the most useful item for a college student. Every college student needs a pen to takes notes, complete exams, or do homework. My college backpack was littered with pens from the different college organizations on campus. What do college students do when they are bored in class? Look down at their pen….and then their phone…but then their pen again! The constant reminder of your organization will have them heading to your events, reading your newsletters, and possibly joining. Want to make it a little more unique? Make your promotional writing utensil a mechanical pencil. Appease the math majors and written test-takers by offering them something that erases. Try any of these fantastic pens or this mechanical pencil.

Once your organization has decided on the product, take the time to think about what information you want placed on it. Besides your name, you’ll want to add an e-mail address and a website if you have one. Meeting times are desirable for organizations as well, but make sure that you’re either going to hand out all of the promotional items or that the time is not likely to change. You do not want your future members to show up at 12 pm on Thursday in the science building when you now meet at 5 pm on Wednesday in the library.

What other promotional items do you think would be popular with college students? Is there any swag from college that you still use? Are there better ways to market your organization to other students?

Mandy Kilinskis

Mandy is proud to be a part of QLP’s content team. A self-professed nerd, her interests include video games, sitcoms, superhero movies, iPods and iPhones but never Macs, and shockingly, writing. Her claims to fame are: owning over forty pairs of Chuck Taylor All Stars, offering spot-on coffee advice, and knowing an unbelievable amount of Disney Princess facts. You can connect with Mandy on


  1. JPorretto

    My goodness, if I could count the 4 AM Bowls of Easy Mac from my U of I days…

    Welcome to the Blog!!

  2. Amy

    This is so true Mandy! I went to a job fair in February where companies had tables full of pens, stress balls, etc. and sadly the companies that had the coolest giveaways were the ones that stuck out most in my mind. Like the one company that was giving out mints with their name and information on it. I walked away thinking how crafty that was. A roomful of college seniors trying to make the best first impression and they gave out something to relieve anxiety… some at least.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      The last job fair I went to, I only remembered the companies that were hiring for something other than sales. It was sad how few there were.

      • Amy

        I know!! The fair I went to had big companies like Meijer, Panda Express and Jewel hiring for every position, besides what I wanted. Now I love P.E as much as the next girl, but I don’t think I could work there without gaining 500 pounds ha ha ha.

    • LK

      Good call on the flip flops, no one should ever step foot in a dorm bathroom, or in some cases the dorms in general, barefoot!!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Good call! I don’t think any organization in college handed out either of those items! Talk about being really unique.

  3. Jill Tooley

    Kudos to you for including custom sponges in this post! They’re overlooked all too often but they’re SO necessary. I don’t know many college students who put sponges on their shopping lists, either, so you know people would take them and use them if they were free.

    Do you know what I found when I cleaned out my old backpack from school? About 20 promo pens (not an exaggeration), a calculator, a pack of dental floss, spiral notebooks, and a metal water bottle…and every single one had a company logo on it. Who says you can’t buy a bit of brand loyalty? 😉

    Fabulous post, Mandy! Welcome to the team!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I’m with you, Jill! When I cleaned out mine, I pulled out a fistful of promo pens from organizations. I still use them!

      And thanks!

  4. Joseph Giorgi

    Great first post, Mandy, and welcome to the team! 😀

    A chip clip as “a makeshift binder clip”—I wish I would have thought of that when I was in college; it would’ve come in handy.

    I didn’t realize it until now, but I still own several of the promotional items that I was given throughout college, and I still use a couple of them. Goes to show that this blog is 100% accurate!

    • Mandy Kilinskis


      I’m using several college promo items in my cube right now and have even more at home.

      Also, I did the makeshift binder clip a few times…but only with the professors that I knew would let me get away with it.

  5. Jana Quinn

    These suggestions are perfect for fitting the needs of college kids.

    Pizza joints could make a KILLING with magnets that had calendars. If you turned in the calendar at the end of the month with your pizza order, you could get a discount. That’s a year-round promotional product that keeps a relationship open between company and consumer.

    If only there were a promotional product that would ORDER pizza for you…

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      That would be brilliant. Besides being great for college students, I would use that all the time.

  6. ASneed

    Great first blog Mandy! =)

    I would add pizza cutters to this list. Always handy for college kids.

    Welcome to the blogsquad!

  7. Mr. Protection

    Logo condoms!

    Come on… let’s not deny the fact that these are not only a NECESSITY, they will be remembered for ever when used as a giveaway.

  8. Jenna Markowski

    When I was applying for and visiting colleges, I received more of those drawstring tote bags than I can even count. But I somehow managed to find a use for all of them! Even if they are just storing crap under my bed, every time I swat through the dust bunnies to grab it I’m seeing that school’s name.

    • Jill Tooley

      You store crap underneath your bed? I bet your room smells nice! 😉

  9. Pat Malloy

    Have you noticed any relationship between the logo itself and how popular an item is? Or is popularity more a matter of the utility of the item itself?

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      I do believe that a well-designed logo is definitely part of what makes an item popular, and perhaps outside the college sector it would make an even bigger impact, but I honestly believe that when it comes down to promotional items tailored to college students, the utility is key.

      While Art, Design, or Marketing majors might weed out their items by looking at the actual logo, most students will take a pen just because it’s a pen. For most, it doesn’t matter if the logo is written in Courier font and misspelled (Not that I promote doing that), the fact that it’s working will be enough for them.

      Now, if you’re using promo products at an art/design-specific school, then I would say that logo itself would be more important than utility. Still, I believe that utility is universal across all campuses.

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