How to Make Money in College: Side Hustle Ideas for Students, from Online Selling to Egg Donation
Making money while you’re studying full time can be a challenge, but having some extra cash in your bank account at this time in your life can open up a world of possibility. Tuition is rising quickly, and anything you can do to bring down the burden of student loans will make your future so much less stressful when you graduate. This is also the perfect time to explore exciting opportunities like semesters abroad or valuable internships, but all of these things come with a price tag. So what are your options?
The traditional paths to making money while you’re in college are still available: old standbys like babysitting, burger flipping, work-study and part time jobs in retail, but most of these ideas don’t pay much more than minimum wage. In order to make any significant amount of money, you’re going to have to trade a lot of time for that paycheck. You want to enjoy your college years, not spend every waking hour juggling classes, essays, and your weekly work schedule. Making real money in college doesn’t have to mean giving up all your evenings and weekends, and we promise, it also doesn’t mean getting involved in anything dodgy (ahem.) We’re lucky to be living in a time where technology, science, and the good old internet mean that flexible and creative income streams are available to everyone, if you know where to look. Here are a few examples of how students are making bank without burning out.
Exploring egg donation
The popularity of egg donation is growing all the time. At first thought it might seem like a weird or extreme option, but once you learn what’s actually involved, it’s a pretty inspiring way to add to your college fund. Confidentiality assured, so you can make the choice for yourself without worrying about your privacy. You’ll usually work with an agency and a fertility clinic, who will guide you through all your medical and legal questions and make sure you’re totally comfortable. Most egg donation is done anonymously, so there’s never any contact between you and the family who receive your eggs, and a legal agreement is drawn up to make sure you’ve fully consented and to ensure that you have no legal responsibility for any children that might be conceived using your eggs.
The egg donation process takes about a month from start to finish, though the screening stage can add on some extra time. It starts with general checkups and testing to make sure you’re in good health and a good candidate for donating your eggs. When it’s time for the donation cycle, you’ll need to take a course of fertility medications for about two weeks. These medications regulate your cycle and encourage your ovaries to produce and mature more eggs. Usually you only produce one egg when you ovulate, but for donation, you want 10 or more. The clinic will check you through this time with blood tests and ultrasound to make sure the eggs are developing well and to time the final “trigger shot” which will tell your ovaries to release the eggs. Finally, you’ll visit the clinic about 36 hours later for the egg retrieval procedure. This is performed under light IV sedation (like the anesthesia used for getting your wisdom teeth out at the dentist) so there’s no discomfort.
Egg donation is a very safe process: there are few side-effects, except in very rare cases, and you generally don’t have to take time off school to donate your eggs. You can usually schedule your appointments around your class schedule. Taking the day off after the egg retrieval procedure is usually a good idea though, in case you’re woozy from the anesthetic. If you’re donating out of state and need to travel, your agency should pay travel costs for you and a companion, and you can arrange to visit the clinic over a break: you’ll need between 5 and 14 days depending on the clinic.
To donate your eggs, you’ll need to be healthy, at a normal weight, and a non-smoker. You’ll also be asked to abstain from alcohol and sex while you’re on the medications. You should be okay with needles, as blood tests are a part of the process and you’ll need to inject yourself with medications. (Don’t stress…a nurse at the clinic will show you how.) For young women in good health, egg donation can allow you to make up to $10,000 over the course of a few months, all while knowing that you’re helping dreams come true for families struggling to have a baby of their own.
When you’re willing to look beyond the usual part time jobs, making great money while you’re in college can be insanely rewarding, in more ways than one. Why answer to a cranky boss for a few bucks an hour when you could be setting yourself up for the future? No matter which options you choose, it’s empowering to find ways to make money on your own, and it’s an amazing way to set yourself up for the future of your dreams.
Selling stuff online
Starting a lucrative retail empire in between chemistry class and your creative writing group might sound insane, but it’s way easier than you think. Methods like dropshipping and print-on-demand mean that you don’t need to worry about cramming pallets of merchandise under the extra-long twin in your dorm: you don’t need to carry stock, you just need to set up shop online. If you have artistic leanings, starting a line of amazing t-shirt or stationary designs couldn’t be easier. A quick search will bring up dozens of websites which allow you to upload your files in minutes and then sell them instantly on products like clothing, phone covers, mugs and notebooks, with the money going right into your Paypal or bank account. Can’t even draw a stick figure? Don’t worry. Find some wholesale suppliers online with products you love, then go ahead and resell them on a platform like Amazon.
Of course, there is work involved. The two most important components of starting up an online business are market research and marketing strategy, and you’ll have to spend some time getting comfortable with how it all works. As you might expect, Google is your friend here. If you want to make real money, you’re going to need to learn about subjects like business registration and taxes, picking a niche, SEO (search engine optimization) and online advertising. But all that information is out there. In the time you’d spend in three shifts bagging groceries or folding a few hundred pairs of jeans at the mall, you can come up with a plan to start selling your way to a truly epic spring break.
Participating in research studies
Becoming a human test subject kind of sounds like the set-up for a scary sci-fi movie, but in reality, it’s a safe, smart, and altruistic way to make significant amounts of money in relatively small amounts of time. Many research studies don’t even involve taking medication: they may be looking at the effects of exercise or diet, or investigating how the brain responds to certain tasks. Some are behavioral trials which ask you to try out a lifestyle change. Some might involve just a series of interviews and questionnaires. If there are medications involved, by the time they reach the stage where they are being tested with human subjects, they’ve usually already gone through countless tests to make sure they’re safe. An exception is “Stage One” drug trials, which do look for side-effects for mediations that have not been used with humans yet, but you have the option to only apply for trials at later stages of development. Most medication studies are to test the effectiveness of a certain treatment for people who could benefit from it vs a placebo.
If you’re attending a big research university, there are probably opportunities to become a test subject right on campus. There are also websites such as ResearchMatch, which will send you email notifications about studies you might be a good fit for. To make money as a test subject, you usually need to be in good health, or (in some cases) to have the specific condition that the researchers are studying. For medical trials, it’s probably good not to have a fear of needles, as blood tests are a common part of the proceedings. Your friends might joke about “human guinea pigs” but research study volunteers can make hundreds or thousands of dollars for a handful of lab visits and an overnight stay or two. You also have the satisfaction of knowing that you’re making a contribution to science that could improve the lives of people all over the world.
Starting a freelance business
The “gig economy” is here, and it’s really a thing. Projections say that by the time you’ve graduated college, almost half of the US workforce will be freelancers. Why not get a jump on the competition? If you have a way with words, know your way around Photoshop, read and write a second language or can type quickly and accurately, you have everything you need to take your first steps into a freelance business. You don’t even need a fancy website. If you’ve got an email address and the will to work, you can set up shop as a freelancer.
The great thing about freelancing is that you can take on as many or as few clients as you like, and work the hours that suit you, fitting your paid assignments in around your school assignments. Just make sure you’re charging a rate that makes your time worthwhile. Avoid getting sucked into very-low-wage opportunities. Sites like Upwork or Fiverr can be good places to pick up a few early assignments, but they tend to attract clients looking to pay the lowest possible rates and you don’t want to get stuck writing hundreds of boring blog posts for $10 a pop or churning out logos for pennies on the hour.
Instead, think about the kind of companies you’d like to work with (companies with significant annual budgets) and build yourself a sample portfolio with a few examples of the type of work you’d love to be doing. Then go out and find your clients. The internet now makes it possible to pitch directly to almost any company in the world. Don’t worry about a lack of experience. An enthusiastic email full of information about how you can help them make more money will get you far. The best part is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel: the internet is full of incredible resources (many of them free!) which will show you the way. Follow the blogs of successful freelancers and seek out podcasts, online courses, and Facebook groups aimed at finding success in the freelance world, and you’ll learn everything you need to start earning money on your own terms.