If you make a wise choice in major and don’t go crazy with student loans, college can be well worth the investment of your time and money. Those that earn Associate’s degrees can expect to make an additional $500,000 more than those that obtain only a high school diploma. And a Bachelor’s degree can net you an extra cool million. That’s not chump change. Whether you’re starting college in 2014 or are in year five of your four year degree, it’s never too late to explore alternate ways to pay for college to reduce your reliance on family funds and student loans.
Check out these five ways you can help pay for college:
#1 Be a Student-preneur
There’s no reason to wait until you’ve got your diploma to think about starting your own business. Many students who started a company in school to help pay for books and beer ended up with a success on their hands. You can go it alone or team up with some reliable friends. Consider starting a moving or landscaping business, or clean gutters or houses to generate cash to take a bite out of tuition and books. Look for opportunities that don’t require an investment, fulfill a valid need and that people will pay for.
#2 Help Others to Help Yourself
Whatever your strong suit is academically, consider hiring yourself out to tutor your fellow students that are struggling to get by. Working as an official tutor through help labs at school won’t pay as well as freelancing. If you don’t think your skills are sharp enough to tutor fellow co-eds, hire yourself out to parents to tutor their kids. This pays better anyway – parents have more dough to spend than college kids. Put up flyers at local libraries, advertise your services on Craiglist and reach out to local PTAs.
#3 Freelancing Gigs
There is a ton of work available online for those that can write fairly well (and by college, you should be able to crank out an assignment on any topic), are semi-tech savvy or are willing to do anything for a buck. Fiverr.com is a cool site where you can write short articles, create logos or do other small jobs and get paid $5 and up. Elance.com is another place to find gigs that you can do from your dorm. Also check out programs like iPoll that pay you to do tasks with your smart phone – Field Agent is similar.
#4 Learn a Trade
Skilled trades can help you pay the cost of school if you’re willing to ply them part time during school or alternate semesters working and matriculating so you can pay as you go. Some trades can be learned via internship or from a friend/family member that works in that field. Plumbing, auto repair and welding pay great. Other skills require training that can take 6-18 months, such as learning to be an EMT, nursing assistant or lab tech. It’s also a great fallback if you can’t find a job after graduation.
#5 Live in a Van Down by the River (or on Campus)
If you haven’t seen the classic SNL sketch, check it out above. No, we aren’t endorsing living down by the river, but one intrepid grad student did live in his van on campus at Duke and came out with his Master’s debt free. We reviewed his book last summer – Walden on Wheels: One Man’s Battle to Beat Student Loans by Living in a Van. Van living is extreme, but there are other options – live at home or get a house or apartment off campus with a bunch of friends and save big on room and board.
Every dollar you save while in college will be that much more you have in your pocket when you graduate, and if you can drastically slash or avoid student loans altogether, your financial prospects after graduation will be sooooo much better. Keep track of your loans with Tuition.io’s free student loan tool to manage and optimize your debt. And read our blog to find out tips on avoiding debt, repayment strategies and options to refinance your loans to your advantage.