This week, high school seniors across the nation have been laser-focused on one thing: their email inboxes.
That’s because April 1st is when many colleges and universities send out acceptance letters.
It’s also when college bookstores ready for a mad rush of T-shirt-seeking teenagers.
Count Rachel Fratt among that group. The 18-year-old is about to graduate from Forsyth County High School just north of Atlanta, and she’s eager to let everybody know she got into the Scheller College of Business at Georgia Tech.
Thanks to a sweet scholarship, the aspiring biotech major also has a bit of extra cash. And where better to spend it than at the Barnes & Noble on campus, Tech’s official bookstore?
“I brought some money, and I’m probably going spend all of it,” says Fratt.
Until now, Fratt has avoided visiting the bookstore—she didn’t want to jinx her chances of getting into the highly selective school. But now that she’s here, she goes right to the sweatshirts. “It has ‘Tech’ in big letters,” Fratt says, noting that’s a good thing.
With her mom and grandma in tow, she makes her way from rack to rack, picking up a T-shirt, pajama pants, a baseball cap, a water bottle. And when she makes it to the checkout line, the reality of the trip becomes apparent.
“Your total is $256.85,” says a voice from behind the cash register.
That’s tough on Fratt’s pocketbook, but great for the bookstore. The college bookstore industry brings in $10.2 billion a year, according to the National Association of College Stores. And a lot of that cash comes in when admissions letters go out.
Leah Antoniazzi manages the Barnes & Noble on Emory University’s campus. She says students rush to buy stuff about five times a year—the first of April is just one.
“During early admissions and during back to school—which would be August and January—we beef up our clothing and apparel,” Antoniazzi says. Acceptance emails even come with a coupon for Emory bling, she says.
But it’s not just the big universities where new students are stocking up on school-branded gear. Seventeen-year-old Kaley Lackey is heading to Atlanta’s Oglethorpe University—enrollment 1,000. Its bookstore is the size of a small gas station quickie mart, and sells about 2,000 Oglethorpe-branded shirts a year. Lackey walks in and buys the first sweatshirt she sees.
“I like how simple it is. It’s not too busy,” she says. “You look at it and you’re like, ‘Wow. She’s going to Oglethorpe.’”
And that’s exactly what she wants people to know, which is why she has no problem forking over $40 for a sweatshirt that says so.