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Ideas, information and industry news for collegiate retailers

Freshman Scavenger Hunt

Posted by Stephanie Kubas on 7/1/11 9:38 AM

Gaining your student’s loyalty from the first day of their college experience is essential to your store’s long-term success.  Acquaint students with the services your store has to offer, while helping them navigate the campus, through an interactive Scavenger Hunt.  At each location, students will find a QR code, scannable by a smartphone, revealing a clue to the next location.


Step 1: Plan

Partner up with your college and local businesses to create a list of places students will go. Designate the route they will travel and decide the general rules of your scavenger hunt. Be sure to have your event start and end at the bookstore in order to organize and distribute prizes. Plan your event during the week of freshmen orientation or during the first week of school to gain the most participants.

Consider the following tips:
  • Have students find places on and around campus that will be beneficial to them. Use stops like libraries, lecture halls, dormitories, gyms, athletic stadiums, administration and dining halls on campus so students will know where to find them when classes begin.
  • Off campus, partner with businesses that are popular among students. Try local restaurants, music stores, or even convenience and grocery stores that students might shop at.
  • Mix up the types of clues you give. You can use trivia about your college, such as “What is the oldest building on campus?” or “You’ll find the (insert mascot) football team here for home games.”
  • Help out your off-campus partners with clues that advertise for them, such as “Check out this popular eatery for (insert signature dish).” If you’re feeling creative, you might also try posting only a photo of a certain location as the clue or coming up with a fun rhyme.
  • Increase student interaction and help them connect with other freshmen by designating specific teams when students arrive. This can be done simply by segmenting them once all participants have arrived or handing out numbered event packets to group them.
  • Require proof of each stop to not only to increase involvement but to ensure that no one skips out on the work to claim the prize.
  • Having students pick up an item from each location to prove they have been there and to spark some interaction. This can be as simple as a logoed napkin from a local restaurant or specific pamphlet from a campus building. Which item they need to collect will be revealed when they scan the QR code for the next clue.
  • Ask participants to take a picture at each location and tag your Twitter account to share live updates. 
  • Hire a Junior or Senior as an intern to help your store better understand what locations and information are most relevant to the freshman class and should be included in your hunt.

Step 2: Prepare

Download: Scavenger Hunt Flyer
Download: Get Schooled Guide
Download the Guide

Put together an event packet that will include directions for the Scavenger Hunt, as well as any other content relevant to your store. This provides a great opportunity to let students know about the products and services your store offers.

To make your job easy, we created a customizable Freshman Survival Guide that educates students about important aspects of college life, including key details such as how and when to buy their books, what buyback is, and why they can find the best value at their campus bookstore. This creative and compact design also provides them with important information on everything from what to stock their dorm room with to how to deal with roommate conflict!

For your convenience, there are two versions. Click here to download the digital ‘Quick Print‘ version, for easy viewing, or click here to check out the high-resolution format for a press-quality booklet.

Offering students this information helps to establish loyalty with them from day one! Customize the Survival Guide by adding your store name, logo, location and contact information to the first page. To further personalize the pamphlet with your own content, contact MBS Marketing ( for the inDesign files.

Compile all the information in a folder that displays your logo or include a branded pen as an added bonus. Most importantly, create each QR Code, along with its respective clue, and decide a distribution method.

Consider the following tips:

  • Outline a specific start and end time so your employees will not be used inefficiently waiting for participants to finish.
  • Use free sites such as Kaywa,or Delivr to convert URLs and generate each QR code. Once converted, you can simply download the image and attach it to whatever materials you choose.
  • Provide directions on how QR codes work and a list of downloadable scanners students can use in the hunt 
  • Offer an alternative clue or route for those students who don’t have smartphones.
Download: Scavenger Hunt Flyer
Download: Scavenger Hunt Flyer
Download the Flyer

Step 3: Advertise

Create flyers by personalizing our colorful template that can be hung in-store and included in orientation packets, write a news release to college and local news media, post to your social networking sites and include a link to more information on your or your school’s website.

Position your event as a way for students to connect with other members of the freshman class and gain exclusive insight about their campus. Include time, date, starting location, and any other necessary information on all promotional materials. Make sure to mention that prizes will be awarded!

Consider the following tips:
  • Locate specific Facebook groups created for the incoming freshman class and advertise on their Wall.
  • Contact your school’s resident hall directors to discuss opportunities for advertising during move-in day at the dorms.
  • Create a hashtag on Twitter specifically for the event, such as #scvngr[universityinitials].
  • Update your social media sites frequently to get students excited about the event.  Customize these examples as a starting point:
  • Include a list of upcoming events at your store in each participant’s folder.
  • Gain students’ attention with headlines like, “New campus have you feeling lost?” on promotional materials.
  • If you want students to form teams ahead of time, provide directions and requirements on your promotional materials.

Step 4:  Let the games begin

Have a few extra staff members on hand the day of the Scavenger Hunt to hand out your event packets and get students started. You will also need a staff member to be placing your QR codes shortly before the event starts so they cannot be scanned beforehand. Staff should also be present until the event ends to ensure a fair game and award prizes. Consider awarding a first, second and third place prize, such as gift cards to the bookstore in decreasing amounts.

Consider the following tips:
  • Assign staff to post live updates to Facebook or Twitter, using your hashtag, throughout the competition.  Use teasers similar to the clues to see who has made it where.
  • Encourage students to live-update during the game as well, with updates on their location to build excitement and competition.

Step 5:  Publicize

Recognize winners and participants to encourage further student involvement.  Announce winners on your website, through social media and/or a news release to local and collegiate newspapers. This is also a great time to thank the businesses who sponsored your event with a shout-out.

Consider the following tips:
  • Use the @ tag, or ‘mention,’ on Facebook and Twitter to recognize winning students and partnered businesses.
  • Ask for student feedback on the event through social media sites to gain ideas for next year’s event and to spread the word to students who may not have had the chance to participate.
  • Post pictures of student winners on your website, social media, and in-store to gain further publicity and enhance loyalty.

Step 6:  Reap the benefits!

Enjoy the perks that come from new-found business relationships, students who are informed about the campus and bookstore, and the loyalty you have gained with incoming freshmen!


Featuring a range of in-store events and online promotions, our customizable  marketing plans come with step-by-step instructions to help you increase  customer loyalty and drive interaction. Check Them Out


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