most like brands in college

There’s no single American college experience: Campus life varies wildly across the country. Beyond the character of any single institution, geographical differences are often dramatic. Contrast the New England college with the Southern university, for instance, and you’re bound to find obvious contrasts in culture. From the clothes they wear to class to their favorite fast food, college kids across the U.S. exhibit different tastes and trends. In this project, we’ve uncovered these regional preferences using something they all have in common: Facebook.

Using a tool called Facebook Audience Insights, we can study the pool of users who like a given school, and then determine the other pages they tend to like as well, from television shows to political campaigns. By doing this for hundreds of colleges from coast to coast, we’ve gained unique insights into the preferences of alumni and current students of universities in all corners of the country. Ready to see how social media reveals the nature of college life nationwide? Keep reading.

Schools’ Top Styles

If sweatpants are your preferred class attire, you won’t be surprised by the prevailing trend in our sartorial data: Sportswear giant Under Armour was the dominant clothing brand among fans of 93 schools. While the company seemed most popular in the Rust Belt, it was also a hit among those who liked some large Southern schools, such as Auburn. That university’s supporters have particular reason to show Under Armour some love – the school invested $10 million in the company in 2015.

H&M earned second place in our standings, thanks largely to fans of schools clumped on either coast. Colleges based near New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco were hubs for H&M love, suggesting the brand resonates most with an urban student base. Elsewhere, more expensive retailers ruled: Nordstrom ranked first among fans of many Western schools, while Vineyard Vines carved out a sizeable Northeastern presence. Lilly Pulitzer garnered more love farther down the Eastern seaboard, taking the top spot for fans of several schools in Virginia.

Hungry in Higher Ed

While many college students have mixed feelings about the food served in their dining halls, they seemed pretty enthusiastic about certain chains instead. Jimmy John’s put all other fast food competitors to shame, earning top honors among likers of 129 universities. While this dominance was most evident in the Midwest, the sandwich maker was also quite beloved by fans of schools near both coasts. Perhaps college students in all regions can appreciate the brand’s use of memes in its marketing – a surefire way to woo the millennial crowd.

Second place Sheetz had a more regional presence, winning the hearts of those who liked colleges in Pennsylvania and surrounding states. The convenience store chain will surely relish its triumph over Wawa, its fierce competitor in that area. Lest you assume all our Facebook college enthusiasts were frugal, however, some slightly pricier establishments also prevailed. The Cheesecake Factory won over fans of colleges located near major coastal cities, while Outback Steakhouse seemed to be a hit in the South.

Unassigned Reading

Southern Living earned its title in our findings, claiming the top spot among fans of virtually every school in the South. Those who liked Northeastern schools demonstrated more varied tastes, with loyalties apparently divided among three storied publications: Mother Jones, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker. The same trend was evident for likers of schools in California, although The Atlantic seemed to have the upper hand on the Southern end of the state.

Dusty Old Thing, a repository of facts and photos related to antiques and their history, was a surprise contender in this category, outshining more established periodicals in many cases. In fact, it was the top publisher for those who liked some very erudite institutions, such as Cornell and Georgetown. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised: One of the benefits of a college education is a rich appreciation of history.

Students’ Favorite Public Servants

While we knew Bernie Sanders’ supporters skewed young, perhaps we didn’t realize just how beloved he was among college likers in liberal regions. Fans of colleges in the Northeast certainly felt the “Bern” – including those who liked the University of Vermont, of course. Sanders was also quite popular among likers of West Coast schools, although he shared the love in that region with local favorite Kamala Harris. Another outspoken progressive, Harris joined Sanders in supporting legislation to make college free for many families, a policy that may account for a part of their popularity among the university crowd.

While Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s popularity was limited to his home state, there’s no denying his cache among fans of local universities. Other conservatives on our list enjoyed more geographically varied support, perhaps due to their national visibility as past vice presidential candidates. Paul Ryan was most beloved by fans of colleges as far apart as Tampa, Florida, and Omaha, Nebraska. Sarah Palin received top honors from those who liked schools from opposite corners of the nation, such as Daytona Beach, Florida, and Spokane, Washington.

Sports Fans by School

While we knew those who liked certain colleges would probably support those same schools’ teams, their professional sports allegiances were somewhat less predictable. For instance, why would the New York Mets be the most liked team among folks who also like the University of Illinois, Chicago? Perhaps because UIC graduate Curtis Granderson shines in their outfield. Other unusual occurrences could not be so simply explained, such as Bard College’s apparent association with the Cincinnati Reds.

Some fan bases adhered more closely to regional loyalties, such as the Panthers popularity among those who liked colleges in the Carolinas. Likewise, fans of schools located in Philadelphia showed abundant love for the Phillies. The Boston Bruins were beloved over an even greater number of states, winning the hearts of those who liked schools located all over New England.

What Students Watch

There’s no doubting the South’s passion for college football, and that translated to a love of “College GameDay” among those who liked that region’s schools. That’s not to say the college football roundup show didn’t have plenty of supporters among fans of Midwestern schools, too – although the family drama, “This Is Us,” was heavily represented in that area as well. In the Southwest, professional football was more popular, with fans of several Arizona and New Mexico schools liking “Sunday Night Football” above all other shows.

Samantha Bee scored major points with those who liked Northeastern universities, taking the top spot for fans of many schools located between New Jersey and Maine. Rachel Maddow’s audience seemed more regionally varied, although San Francisco and San Diego were arguably her most concentrated bases of support. Her progressive views are likely appreciated in those left-leaning areas, although she also earned high marks from supporters of schools in swing states, such as Virginia and Florida.

Everyone Likes a Good Grade

If our findings reveal anything, it’s the tremendous diversity of preferences apparent among America’s colleges. Perhaps this variety is precisely what makes the college experience in our country so special: Experiences vary widely at various institutions so that students can thrive in an environment of their choosing. In other words, whatever your passions, politics, or preferred fast food – there’s a school out there for you.

However, there is one unifying goal most American college students share: making the most of their educations. That’s where StudySoup can help, with study materials customized to classes at your particular school. From notes created by top students to comprehensive study guides for your final exams, we’ve got you covered when it comes to your classes.


We collected data from Facebook’s Audience Insights platform. We studied the pool of users who had “liked” the official Facebook page of at least one American college or university. We then analyzed the five pages receiving the most likes from this group of users in each category (such as clothing brands, restaurants, etc.). We then studied which of these top five pages users associated with each school liked most often to render the comparisons presented above.


No statistical testing was performed, so the claims listed above are based on means alone. As such, this content is purely exploratory and future research should approach this topic in a more rigorous way.

Fair Use Statement

Want to share this content with your own audience? Feel free to use our findings and images for non-commercial purposes. We simply ask that you credit us for our work with a link back to this page. As anyone who’s written a term paper knows well, proper attribution is important.

Did you like this post?