CBS News recently published a list of unique gifts geared toward college students. Topping the list were: a chalkboard coffee cup; one-line-a-day journal; rechargeable mini speakers and mobile-phone friendly winter gloves. Each of those items is under $20 and promises to be fun and useful. Practical and cheap appear to trump shiny and expensive on college campuses this year. When asked what’s topping their Christmas lists, Bethel students were united by one need. “Clothes. I’m just ready for a break and I need some more clothes,” said freshman Ben Wilson. Virtually every student we talked to expressed a simple wish for shirts or pants under the tree this year. Apparently, the Bethel student body is sorely in need of clothing. Which clothes, in particular? “I like sweatshirts. That would be the top of my list,” said freshman Cheyanne Mumma laughingly. “You can never have too many sweatshirts.” Freshman Anthony Hanz hopes to receive clothing that shows his support for the hometown football team. “Notre Dame is undefeated so something Notre Dame, probably.” Bethel marketing professor Dawn Goellner says retailers use every advertising avenue available to reach college students. “One of the things they do is say, ‘What are the media habits of my target market?’ Assuming that college students are their target market, they’re going to be blasted with emails, have some communication over Facebook and they may get tweets. The traditional advertising strategies of newspaper, TV and magazines are being reserved for the older target markets.” Advertising to those looking for that special gift adds an additional marketing element. A product might not apply to you, but businesses hope it will catch your eye as a great present. Goellner says online companies have effective ways of marketing possible gifts based on purchase history. “Some of the clever trackers like Amazon will have suggestions that go back to purchase behaviors from a year previously. If they’re tracking purchases for me, they may tell me here are more books in this category or that category. But if they go back to what I was doing a year ago, they will be offering me a wide arrangement of gift suggestions. So they’re going deeper into their database and looking at seasonal purchasing patterns.” A few Bethel students are hoping for more than just clothes. Sophomore Briana Billups said she is looking forward to a new iPad but she isn’t sure if family or friends will spring for the gift. A futon is at the top of freshman Sarah Myers’ list. Junior Mallory Gillcey is expecting a practical but rather unique gift. “Car insurance. My parents are getting me a year of car insurance.“ In general, most Bethel students are not asking for a lot, which is probably a good thing since the improving but still rough economy will keep many gift-givers holding back this year. Whatever your hope this Christmas, keep in mind the greatest gift ever given arrived in a manger 2,000 years ago. Nothing on the shelf at Best Buy or in the virtual aisle of Amazon.com can beat God’s gift that is readily available to all.