How to Make Money as a College Student

College, for some, is a time when they watch their bank accounts slowly dwindle. Worse yet, many people don’t even watch. Unintended costs can quickly pile up, forcing students to get jobs or, even worse, ask their parents for money. What should a new college student do in order to offset the amount of money he or she spends, while still retaining a maximum amount of free time for him- or herself? Here are three tips to help you stay out of the red in college.

Sell Yourself

No, not in that way. What I mean to say is capitalize on the things that you do well – having a skill or background in a particular topic can be profitable for you. If you are bilingual, you can advertise to proofread papers for language students or start a college essay writing service. If you are good at calculus, you can offer to tutor peers for a reasonable fee.

Remember – there will always be people who fail classes. Some of them legitimately do not want to fail. I’m sure that a handful of them would be willing to pay a reasonable price to get the help they need. Be aware of the fact that you must be proficient in your chosen area in order to retain your “customers.” Failing to adequately communicate information, misinforming, and being less than helpful will likely result in a low return rate. I cannot stress communication skills enough. No one wants to pay to have someone confuse them more than they are already confused.

Of the three methods I suggest here, this is the least reliable way of making money. Some departments have programs for “peer leaders” and undergraduate teaching assistants, which would be more a more stable income. At the same time, these routes are slightly more work. The attractive part of these jobs is that they can be put on a resume, but I will touch on that later.

To begin tutoring, post advertisements around the classrooms used to teach the subject you want to help teach. Talk to a faculty member you know in the department and ask if they would let you do a 1-2 minute advertisement for yourself before they lecture the corresponding course. Communicate!

Be a Research Participant

Soon after you arrive at school, start looking around for fliers and in the student newspaper. Depending on the size of your school and its major research departments, you will see a number of advertisements for research participants. Participating in research is a great way to make money. These studies often last just an hour or two, do not require much work on your part, and can pay much more than standard hourly wages for a “real” job. There are some studies that last several weeks, and the pay for these is often greater, due to greater commitment on the part of the participant.

To find these jobs, look for fliers, newspaper ads, and talk to people who have been on campus for longer than you (i.e. sophomores, juniors, even grad students). These individuals might have participated or be participating in studies that you could get involved in. These jobs can be considered somewhat stable, as you can often continue signing up for studies in a particular department after having signed up for one. There is usually a website for people who are registered where they can reserve spots in future studies. However, participants are usually not permitted to participate in the same study twice, so you may find that you’ve used up all of the studies in a department within a month or two. Likewise, many studies are looking for a particular demographic, such as females or smokers. Keep searching and you will likely find criteria that you fit.

Find a Job Related to Your Career Choice

“Find a job” probably wasn’t the piece of advice that you were hoping to find in this article. Regardless, having a steady part-time job is the most secure and highest paying way of making money in college. “Wait,” you might say, “I’ve had part-time jobs in the past, and there’s no way that I want to wait tables or work a cash register in college.” This is completely understandable.

For this reason, I suggest that you look for jobs that relate to the career you wish to pursue. If you wish to be a physician, a job filing medical paperwork at a nearby hospital or being a biological research assistant in a lab will probably be a lot more palatable than a job that has little relevance to your future plans would be. If you are intending on going into business, an internship with a local company would give you real-world experience. In these cases, the monetary pay is just one of the benefits of having a job. The others are building relationships with people that can write you recommendations and attest to your qualifications in the future, strengthening your resume, and networking with others in the industry you wish to enter. Finding one of these jobs and sticking with it will look great on a resume when you go to get a job or apply to graduate or professional school.

If you are interested in getting one of these jobs, start doing research before you arrive at school, or as soon as possible. If you have a connection with a faculty member at your school, ask them if they know anyone looking for an undergraduate researcher. Ask your grad student TAs. On the whole, be assertive and informed. If you are trying to get a job in research, have an idea of what you want to research. When you are asked what you’re interested in investigating, don’t say “Biology.” Be able to articulate a subfield that interests you personally. “Mammalian development” or “neurotransmitters” would be better answers, and an answer that reflects what you want to study will be much more likely to net you an enjoyable job. Your school will probably have a list of internships, but ask professors if they have any local connections in your field of choice. Other jobs will likely be available on campus. If you can’t find anything related to what you want to do, consider getting a job in a library, where you can do schoolwork and be paid for it.

If you find a job, remember that it should never come before your schoolwork. Don’t overwork yourself, as some are wont to do, and be communicative with your employer (if you have one). He or she likely has experience working with undergraduates and should be sympathetic to the amount of work they do, as well as individual needs. Remember that you are paying much more to go to college than you are being paid to work while at it.

To recapitulate, college is costly. Even if you don’t intend to spend much money, it is likely that you will go over your budget from time to time. If you don’t want to have a typical part-time job, there are several good ways of making money, including selling a service, being a research participant, and getting a job related to your intended career. These suggestions leave free time for you, your friends, and your studies. Remember to be assertive when looking for these opportunities and you will likely find a source of income that fits you as an individual. The above suggestions are in no way all-inclusive.