These 3 student influencers are earnings thousands of dollars on YouTube by posting videos about exam tips and study hacks

  • “StudyTube” has become a popular trend on YouTube, and major advertisers are taking notice.
  • Some study influencers have seen a lift in brand interest since the pandemic took learning online.
  • Popular study influencers are earning thousands of dollars through AdSense and brand partnerships.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In 2019, the YouTuber Elliot Choy took a trip to Harvard University and filmed himself walking around campus and quizzing the college’s students as part of a competition. If a student answered all five of his questions correctly, they’d win an iPhone 11.

The deciding factor came down to one question: “Which music video on YouTube has the most views?” (The answer is “Luis Fonsi – Despacito ft. Daddy Yankee,” which has 7.2 billion views.)

At the time of filming, Choy said he had just $500 in his bank account after spending $2,500 on the two phones and a round-trip flight to Cambridge, Massachusetts, from Nashville, Tennessee.

“There’s the narrative of the broke college student — and that was totally me,” Choy told Insider.

Within the first week of the “Giving Harvard Students an iPhone 11 If They Can Answer THIS Question” video going live, Choy had made a just over $32,000 from YouTube’s AdSense program, in which the platform shares ad revenue with creators. In total, the video has notched up more than 23 million views and earned Choy more than $90,000 in AdSense revenue since then. (Insider verified the earnings of the study influencers included in this story by viewing screenshots of their AdSense dashboards.)

Choy, 22, said the success of his YouTube channel, on which he posts videos about productivity and college life, has enabled him to pay for his tuition and fund his way through college at Vanderbilt University, where he is a senior studying business. The channel now has more than 880,000 subscribers. Choy has worked with several brands, including Verizon, and launched his own clothing line.

Choy plans to take his YouTube work full time after graduation, he said.

“It’s really inspiring to know that one video could change everything for you,” he said. 

Choy is part of a growing tribe of “study influencers,” creators attending school or college who post content on social media such as productivity hacks, exam advice, and campus tours. A number of these hyperproductive, often high-achieving student creators have found success on “StudyTube” — shorthand for the YouTube version of the trend — and are generating notable ad revenue and forging marketing deals with major brands and colleges. 

Advertiser interest in study influencers increased during the pandemic

Hester Bates, the brand and communications director at the marketing agency Influencer, said her company had seen “almost 100% growth” in the number of campaigns it ran for education-focused brands in 2020. The trend is continuing into 2021. Bates said Influencer had delivered almost as many education-focused campaigns in the first three months of this year as in the first nine months of 2020.

Study content has long existed on platforms like YouTube, but the genre appears to have thrived during the coronavirus pandemic, while students have learned from home away from their usual support networks. Take “The StudyTube Project,” which launched in March 2020. UK study influencers came together to provide tangible help to students whose education was disrupted. The project’s videos have covered everything from the history of anthropology to advice on looking after your mental health.

Jasmine Shao, an 18-year-old YouTuber whose channel largely revolves around guiding viewers on how to maximize their productivity, partnered with several brands in 2020. A video she posted last year in partnership with Squarespace, for example, looked at trends on “StudyTube” as Shao assessed whether iPad Pros and Kanken backpacks were study essentials. Shao has also worked with brands such as Audible and McDonald’s, helping draw attention to the latter brand’s Education Workshops.

Jasmine Shao’s account largely focuses on productivity tips.Courtesy of Jasmine Shao

Shao said she never considered she could make an income from her YouTube content, or even gain a following to the extent she has. Shao, whose channel has about 715,000 subscribers, earned about $40,000 through AdSense last year. She said she had used the money partly to help cover her living expenses while she studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Study influencers find success largely because of their relatability factor, Ben Ricciardi, the founder of influencer marketing agency Times10, said.

“Young people best relate to their peers. They trust other young people that they believe share their experience and values,” he said. “And they actually want to be influenced by influencers.”

Hannah Ashton, 21, runs a study and productivity YouTube account and majors in entrepreneurship at Belmont University in Nashville. She started her account in 2010, long before she became a college student, posting stop-motion doll videos when she was just 10 years old. 

“In high school I found the niche that really helps me thrive, and that’s in productivity,” she said. “People wanted to know my routines, how I managed my time, and, in high school, how I was able to have multiple extracurriculars and do internships while running my YouTube and making money from it.” 

Popular videos on her account, which has 177,000 subscribers, include “Must have apps and websites for students” and “How I prepare for the semester.” Ashton’s overall AdSense revenue for 2020 came in at just over $8,000.

Hannah Ashton launched her own line of study planners in 2019.Hannah Ashton

Through posting videos within the study niche, Ashton said she was able to launch her first line of study planners in June 2019. She invested $5,000 from her YouTube earnings into the business. She also has a line of free downloadable guides on her website, including a monthly budget Excel sheet and college-grade and GPA calculators. 

Ashton’s long-running and varied career as a YouTube creator also offers a playbook for how study influencers can maintain their popularity after they graduate. Tim Xuereb, a talent coordinator at the British influencer agency Sixteenth, said the audiences loyal to these creators were also graduating and moving forward to the next stage of their lives.

“It is a similar experience to most of their audience, and I believe we’ll see a shift from more formalized education to the broader topic of education and learning through life,” said Xuereb, whose agency manages British study influencers like the Exeter University student Ruby Granger, the Durham University graduate Jack Edwards, and the Oxford University grad Vee Kativhu. 

To be sure, some study influencers’ YouTube fame could be short-lived, Times10’s Ricciardi said. But, he added, “for those willing to learn how to master the complexities of social media, a real opportunity exists to make this activity, in some form, a part of their professional future.”

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