College Swag and Promotional Items for Recruitment

November 3, 2023

The best college swag ideas are here and perfect for getting noticed and promoting your university!

In the competitive landscape of higher education, attracting the brightest minds and athletes to your institution is vital. Luckily, with eye-catching personalized giveaways for college students you can market your logo with gear that gets noticed. 

Types of College Swag

Universities have lots of options when it comes time to invest in memorable recruiting swag. Best of all, the following college promotional products offer prime ways to show off your college name. 


Accessories cover a wide range of items, and for companies looking for lightweight items for transporting to college fairs, you can’t go wrong with branded items like hats, beanies, scrunchies, totes, keychains, stickers, patches, and the like. With so many options available, discovering the perfect swag in your budget just got easier.

Decor + Home Goods

For college students who are going away for the first time, having cool decor to show off their college is exciting! Consider items like custom towels, branded game balls, pennant flags, and more. 


Custom apparel remains a top gift for universities since recruits look forward to showing off their college spirit. If you’re looking for college swag ideas that won’t disappoint, look at tees, hoodies, jackets, joggers, shorts, socks, and more! 

Tips for designing trendy college swag for recruitment 

For swag-worthy promotional items on-brand, professional customization is a must! To get the awe-inspiring designs your students want, consider the following. 

1. Use school colors

While it may seem like branding 101, having your logo isn’t enough, you want recruiting swag that’s easy to identify.

2. Include school logo

It goes without saying but your recipients want to show off their future alma mater.  So when it comes to giveaways for college students put your marketing efforts front and center!

3. Consider Budget

While being limited to a budget isn't always fun, it does help narrow your selection! And, when it comes to college swag ideas, there are many ways to make your investment go farther. Talk to your Gemnote rep for ways you can save on customization, bulk orders and more.

4. Research items that are popular among students

When it comes to knowing what your college students want, just look to your Gemnote rep for the best ideas. They can even create a curated idea board featuring the best in branded college promotional items—all within your budget!


Impact of College Swag

You can’t underestimate the impact on trends college promotional items make!

Connecting students through a shared school spirit

College promotional products create a sense of unity among students, fostering a shared school spirit.

Supporting your college’s athletics program

Swag for college students can play a crucial role in supporting and boosting the visibility of your college's athletics program.

Promoting a positive association with the university

With recruiting swag items, you have the opportunity to promote a positive and lasting association with the university and a strong sense of loyalty among alumni and current students alike.

24 Ideas for College Swag and Promotional Items

Needing a little recruiting swag inspiration? Look no further than our list of trend-worthy faves!

1. Mesh Shorts

Mesh shorts are an easy favorite for marketing your school’s logo and school colors. Plus, when it comes to college promotional products students want, mesh shorts are a relaxed favorite on and off campus. 

Photo courtesy of OnlyNY; Shown: Only NY Mesh Short

2. Varsity Jackets 

Really looking to impress your recruits? You can’t go wrong with a custom varsity jacket that delivers the ultimate warmth on cold days and unrivaled college spirit! 

Photo courtesy of OnlyNY, Sporty and Rich, and Elfric Den; Shown: Varsity Jackets

3. Pen Holder

Unforgettable swag for college students doesn’t mean you have to reinvent the wheel! Case in point, custom pencil holders that score major points for fun and functionality. Talk to your Gemnote rep for even more ideas. 


Photo courtesy of OnlyNY; Shown: Only NY Trash Can Pen Holder

4. Pencils

This old-school basic remains a favorite! And, when it comes to personalizing, ensuring your branding stays sharp is where Gemnote excels. 

Photo courtesy of Aimé Leon Dore; Shown: Branded Pencils

5. Eraser Pack with Logo

Everyone makes mistakes, but when it comes to college swag ideas your recruits will actually use, branded erasers make for inexpensive college promotional items. They’re the everyday essential that helps everything flow just right. 

Photo courtesy of Aimé Leon Dore; Shown: 3-Pack Erasers 

6. Custom Backpack

Quite possibly the most important college essential after a laptop, help your college get the recognition it deserves by standing out at college fairs and on campus!

Photo courtesy of Aimé Leon Dore; Shown: ALD / New Balance SONNY NY Backpack

7. Game Towel

Are you representing your school at numerous college fairs this year to promote your university’s sports and academia? Game towels are perfect for showing off your logo! 

Photo courtesy of Aimé Leon Dore; Shown: ALD / New Balance SONNY Game Towel 

8. Rugby Shirt

A little retro, a lot of cool. The classic rugby shirt is back and with it comes lots of great branding options. Rugby shirts make excellent swag for college students as well as uniforms for your university’s events. 

Photo courtesy of Aimé Leon Dore; Shown: Script Paneled Rugby

9. Nylon Pullover

Pullovers offer an easy-to-care-for, on-the-go style students love. Plus, with fabrications like polyester that won’t shrink or wrinkle, a nylon pullover, could easily become their favorite staple. 

Photo courtesy of Aimé Leon Dore; Shown: Nylon Collegiate Pullover

10. Branded Wool Hat

A collegiate-style wool hat is perfect for maintaining a crisp look in cooler weather. Plus, they offer the perfect backdrop for showing off your school vibes with embroidery or a patch too!

Photo courtesy of Aimé Leon Dore; Shown: Collegiate Wool Hat

11. Pennant Flag

For easy, inexpensive college swag ideas, think personalized pennants! They’re fun for showing off that college spirit on game days and using as decor. 

Photo courtesy of Oxford Pennant; Shown: Home Pennant 

12. Corduroy Hat

Hats come in all shapes, sizes, and fabrications, so if you’re looking for an upgrade to the common baseball style, corduroy is a great option. Talk to your Gemnote rep about options for design, customization, and even bulk orders!

Photo courtesy of Sporty and Rich; Shown: Wellness Club Corduroy Hat 

13. Branded Basketball

You don’t have to be recruiting athletes to provide sports-themed giveaways for college students, and your recipients will be glad you did!  

In the market for great fitness swag? Gemnote can help there too. 

Photo courtesy of OnlyNY; Shown: NYC Parks Basketball

14. Wide Mouth Water Bottle 

To keep your students hydrated while promoting your college, what’s better than a wide-mouth bottle that’s perfect for holding ice too? Mugs and tumblers are known to stand out amongst college promotional items.  

Photo courtesy of Aimé Leon Dore; Shown: ALD / New Balance SONNY NY Nalgene Bottle

15. Customized Velour Jackets

For a jacket that turns heads, you can’t go wrong with the silky soft velour that’s on trend and pairs perfectly with custom labels, patches, or embroidery.

Photo courtesy of Sporty and Rich; Shown: Faubourg Velour Track Jacket 

16. Reusable Tote Bags

If you’re looking for giveaways for college students, eco-friendly, sustainable totes always make the grade. Perfect for holding all the essentials, it’s the recruiting swag recipients can use long after their college career begins. 

Photo courtesy of Sporty and Rich and New Balance; Shown: Custom Totes

17. Athletic Short

Cool, comfortable, and available in all sizes and colors, custom athletic shorts make ideal swag for college students and are perfect for adding to your campus swag store.   

Photo courtesy of Sporty and Rich and New Balance; Shown: Action Logo Sports Short 

18. Personalized Hoodie

The prized college swag essential is here! When it comes to showing off their top school, well-designed hoodies go the distance in both eternal style and marketing recruiting power! They also make ideal swag for interns and gifts for employees. 

Photo courtesy of Anine Bing; Shown: Harvey Sweatshirt

19. Branded Crewneck

Whether you offer a branded crewneck along with other branded apparel like tees and socks, or as a stand-alone giveaway, it’s the one wardrobe basic they’ll reach for again and again. 

Photo courtesy of Abercrombie; Shown: Graphic Crew Sweatshirts

20. Timeless Planner

Organization is a must when it comes to hitting the books. So if you’re looking for sustainable swag your recipient can use long after the recruiting process is over, a customized timeless planner is always appreciated. 

Photo courtesy of A24 Films; Shown: Timeless Planner 

21. Laptop Sleeve

A universal favorite amongst college students! Help them protect their most trusted school companion with a custom laptop sleeve showcasing your university! For ultimate kudos, pair it with a patch so they can make it their own. 

Photo courtesy of Coach; Shown: Coachtopia Loop Quilted Cloud Laptop Sleeve

22. Custom Patches

What’s so great about a patch? Their effortless versatility! As for branding options, custom patches can be designed in all kinds of shapes, sizes, colors, and designs. And, best of all, your recipients can use them to market your school logo (and their college spirit!) on everything from backpacks and totes to hats and more.  

Photo courtesy of Espi Lane and DigtizingArts; Shown: Peachy Retro and Custom Chenille Patch

23. Hotel Keychains

Hotel keychains make for college swag that’s a little retro and on-trend. Plus, it’s a must-have basic that’s perfect for keeping keys together or even attached to backpacks and bags as a decorative accessory. 

Photo courtesy of Urban Outfitters and Lee Fiori Hotel Keychains

24. Sharpie Marker

What’s more useful than a permanent marker to label their things? One with your university’s branding of course! Just make sure you order extra since your staff will want one too.  

Photo courtesy of Aimé Leon Dore and OnlyNy; Shown; Sharpie Permanent Markers

Browse Customizable Swag and Promotional Items for Recruitment

When it comes to great swag that’s on-trend for even the most savvy of recruits, look to a company like Gemnote that specializes in creating unforgettable promotional products. There’s a lot more branded merch where this came from too! For additional ideas, talk to your Gemnote rep about getting a curated collection of items that are fit to be customized! Or, check out the Gemnote Lookbook for additional swag categories, brands, and major inspiration!

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