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Creating Irresistible Student Email Subject Lines

By collegemktgrp | November 8, 2016 | Brands/Advertisers

Every week, college kids are bombarded with hundreds of marketing decisions, and it’s impossible to make sound, educated choices at every turn. When this happens, human beings often rely on emotions to do the decision-making work. This is especially true of the inbox. College students don’t check email every day, and when they do, they don’t have time to go through each one. College students skim and then mass delete (just like us) while saving only the emails that piqued their interest or demanded their attention.

If you want to advertise to college students with email marketing, your subject line is probably the most important thing you can write. If they don’t open your email, you’ve lost them. Student marketers should not only send multiple emails (up to 6X); they should be testing their subject lines and offers every time.

When you use that next student email list, consider these psychological tips when writing your next subject lines.

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

College students hate it when they miss out on something their peers attained or were in the know about. Use this to your college marketing advantage by playing to this phobia.

  • “Oh no, your offer is expiring”
  • “[URGENT] You’ve got 24 hours to use this…”
  • “Get this by Friday, or it will be gone”
  • “Last Chance Student Discount. Don’t Miss Out.”

Looking Good

Let’s face it, we are all a bit critical of ourselves sometimes. Although they might not admit it, college students are still deeply connected to their peers and what their peers think.

  • “Don’t wear last year’s back-to-school styles”
  • “Look Great During Spring Break With These [Your Product]”
  • “Get noticed on campus with this [Your Product]”

Problem Solving

College students face tons of problems and annoyances. If your product or service solves a problem or removes an obstacle, talk about it in your campus advertising.

  • “Reduce study stress with this [your service / product]”
  • “Delicious new menu options under $5”
  • “This [product or service] will literally save you hours this week”
  • “Stop wasting money [your competitor’s product or service]”
  • “Your study issues, solved”
  • “Can’t Afford a Spring Break Trip?


Two universal truths. College students love free stuff and deals. Offer a good discount that isn’t too good to be true, or offer things for free.

  • “ALERT: Flash Sale”
  • “30% Off All Items – 3 Days Only”
  • “Two for two” or “Buy-One, Get-One”
  • “A price we’ve never offered before”
  • “Free Shipping On All Orders”
  • “Check out what we are giving away”

Help Their Lazy A**

People often take the path of least resistance. Try to provide an option for students that offers a shortcut or a resource that saves a lot of time and energy. Tap into that laziness with subject lines like these:

  • “2 simple solutions for [what your service or product solves]”
  • “Get your resume to the top of the pile by doing one simple thing”
  • “Activate today. We’ve already done the work for you.”
  • “Register in 2 clicks”
  • “3 easy tricks to help you pass your final exam”
  • “10 college term paper ideas”


Funny or witty emails can draw students in and help lower their guard. Here are a few from brands you know:

  • Gap: Mondays are suddenly AWESOME
  • BuzzFeed: Yes, We’re Still Talking About Kim Kardashian’s Butt
  • Groupon: There are no deals in this email
  • Warby Parker: Pairs nicely with spreadsheets
  • OpenTable: Licking your phone never tasted so good
  • Southwest Airlines: “Broken Up Over a Big Breakup?” (Day after the Pitt / Jolie split)

Other College Student Email Tips

You can use a free tool like Zurb’s TestSubject to see how your subject line will appear on a variety of popular mobile devices.

A/B test your subject lines, and keep track of what works for future promotions. Test which days of the week and times of the day work best, too.

According to a report by Experian, using emojis in your subject lines can increase your open rates by 45%.

Leverage good targeting. We have hundreds of student data points and access to millions of opt-in college student email lists. Contact us today for a count.

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