Why college students are good clients

Every business has clients they would rather not engage with. For some accounting firms, these clients are college students, who are normally inherited when the firm handles their parents’ or family members’ tax returns. Although it may not seem like a good strategy to take on a college student, here are four beneficial reasons a CPA should reconsider their stance.


Most college students have never prepared a tax return before or handled their own finances. These inexperienced clients are opportunities for CPAs to influence financial decisions and instill responsible habits early. By encouraging the client to retain proper tax documentation (such as Form 1098-T), the CPA is building the groundwork for more complex tax returns in the future. These practices will make the CPA’s job easier down the road, especially when the client starts a career, has kids, or buys a house. Plus, it is rewarding to watch a client start from the beginning and play a small role in their financial success.

Training opportunities

On average, college students generally do not have complex tax returns, which presents an excellent learning opportunity for new staff. Every year, thousands of interns come in for the summer, and they have approximately 10 weeks to contribute meaningful work. These junior employees could assist with the less complex tax returns, which would help free up time for other CPAs to handle the more complex work.

Additional clients

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 19.9 million students are attending college this fall. If a firm is just starting out or looking for additional clients, this segment of customers would be a good group to focus on. For firms that already have a few college student clients, it may be a good idea to encourage those clients to refer the firm. Many times, word-of-mouth referrals can be an important and cost-effective way to grow the firm.

Future trends

By leveraging college students’ knowledge of technology and social trends, firms can remain ahead of their competition and work on strategies early to meet the needs of future generations. College students can provide unique feedback on questions that older clients may not consider, such as, “What services do you value here? What features do you like about our mobile or desktop app? How can we make filing a tax return easier for you?” These questions can really help drive a firm’s growth strategy and create a competitive advantage against other CPA firms.

A college student client may not initially provide a lot of income for the firm, but with the right guidance, there could be a big return on investment in the future not only for the CPA, but for the student as well. With so many college students enrolled, there are always opportunities to find more clients or get additional referrals. Finally, remember that college students can provide knowledge about what upcoming generations value in their CPAs. By working with clients in this emerging age group, firms can stay up to date on emerging trends and stay ahead of the competition.