Updated June 23, 2023
Working through college is one way to reduce the amount of debt you’ll have after graduation. You know, make some money now and take out fewer student loans. Big. Win.
But finding a job with decent pay that’ll allow you to schedule shifts around your classes and extracurriculars can be harder to find than a healthy taco bar. And maybe you’re not too keen on flipping burgers at your local fast-food joint.
Well… have you thought about ditching the demanding work schedule and finding flexible work instead? You’ve got options, after all.
27 Ways to Make Money in College — Without a Fast Food Gig
From part-time jobs to apps and websites that let you make money online from your dorm or apartment, you have plenty of options that won’t cut into your study time.
1. Watch Movie Previews
Most of you already know about InboxDollars, but did you know that it will pay you to watch movie previews, celebrity videos, the latest news and dozens of other videos? Plus, you’ll get a bonus $5 just for signing up.
You need to watch all of the shows in a specific playlist to earn your bucks, so be prepared. InboxDollars lets you know how long the playlist runs before you start watching, and playlists range from a few minutes to about a half hour.
2. Share Your Opinions
No, you won’t make a ton of money doing online surveys, but you also won’t have to spend a lot of time or effort. Heck, you won’t even have to leave your dorm room.
One survey site we love is MyPoints. It rewards you in gift cards for taking polls and answering surveys. It’s a great way to pass time while you wait in long lines at the dining hall. You’ll earn a $5 bonus when you complete your first five surveys.
Then there’s also the reader favorite Swagbucks, which offers a wide variety of ways to make money beyond taking surveys. Plus, you get a $5 bonus when you sign up and earn 2,500 SB within your first 60 days.
If you’re looking to make a bit of money in those free minutes between classes, it doesn’t get much easier than this.
3. Invest in Real Estate (Even as a College Student)
Want to try real-estate investing without playing landlord? We found a company that helps you do just that.
Oh, and you don’t have to have hundreds of thousands of dollars, either. You can get started with a minimum investment of just $500. A company called Fundrise does all the heavy lifting for you.
Through the Fundrise Starter Portfolio, your money will be split into two portfolios that support private real estate around the United States.
This isn’t an obscure investment, though. You can see exactly which properties are included in your portfolios — like a set of townhomes in Snoqualmie, Washington, or an apartment building in Charlotte, North Carolina.
You can earn money through quarterly dividend payments and potential appreciation in the value of your shares, just like a stock. Cash flow typically comes from interest payments and property income (e.g. rent).
(But remember: Investments come with risk. While Fundrise has paid distributions every quarter since 2014, dividend and principal payments are never guaranteed.)
You’ll pay a 0.85% annual asset management fee and a 0.15% annual investment advisory fee.
4. Get Paid to Exercise
Bottom line: HealthyWage will literally pay you for losing weight.
Not only are you getting more healthy, you’re also making some money. How’s that for motivation?
Here’s how it works:
- Read our full HealthyWage review, and sign up.
- Define a goal weight and the amount of time you’ll give yourself to achieve it.
- Place a bet on yourself of at least $200 a month.
Depending on how much you have to lose, how long you give yourself to do it and how much money you put on the table, you could win up to $10,000!
Wondering if it can really work? We talked to one woman, Teresa Suarez, who lost 68 pounds — and made over $2,400.
5. Drive With Lyft
Need a fun, flexible way to earn money while also meeting lots of new people?
Try driving with Lyft!
Demand for ride-sharing has been growing like crazy, and it shows no signs of slowing down. To be eligible, you’ll need to be at least 21 years old with a year of driving experience, pass a background check and own a car made in 2007 or later. You can drive days, nights or weekends — it’s up to you!
6. Get Rewarded for Your Good Grades
Don’t have a lot of spare time outside of studying?
Check with the dean of your college or university to see if your school offers incentives for getting good grades. Some actually offer cash bonuses to college students who maintain a good GPA.
7. Be a Human Guinea Pig
From medical tests to market research, being a test subject can be an interesting, educational and — above all — lucrative way to spend your time.
Clinical trials might be more taxing and require a greater time commitment, but we’ve seen pay as high as $600. Market research usually only takes a couple of hours, but pays less.
Here are two resources to help you get started:
- Sign up for text alerts from Just Another Lab Rat to find the latest research opportunities.
- Find studies by searching the Clinical Trials database.
Keep an eye out on campus for opportunities at your university, too. These are usually quick gigs that could yield $10 to $20 for less than an hour’s work.
8. Buy and Resell Textbooks
When you were in high school, you had no idea how much money textbooks cost, did you? Ouch. You know you can earn a little cash back for selling your textbooks at the end of the semester.
But you can go beyond that — and actually start profiting from textbook sales.
Before you shop, you can look up a book’s ISBN on BookScouter and find out how much it’s worth. That way you’ll only buy books you know you can sell for more than what you pay.
Profit margins aren’t huge on textbook reselling, but if you can average $5 per book and sell five per day, you could earn $750 each month. That’s a solid side hustle!
9. Turn Saving Money Into a Team Sport
If you’re a fan of friendly competition, start recruiting team members to join you on Ibotta, a free app that’ll grant you cash back on just about everything. Yeah, if you’re 21, you can even earn cash back from the bar.
If you’re not yet an Ibotta member, go ahead and sign up. Once you upload your first receipt, you’ll earn a $5 bonus.
Then start building your team. You can refer friends and earn a $5 bonus. The more team members you have, the more shopping bonuses you’ll likely accrue. Can you say passive income? Plus, Ibotta ranks your earnings against your friends, which turns saving money into a friendly competition.
Just think how much you can earn if you get your whole dorm or sorority involved!
10. Become a Tutor
Are you looking for on-campus jobs? Have you ever considered becoming a tutor?
Look for programs through your university or specific departments where you could get paid to work with other students.
For more flexibility, consider becoming an online tutor. Through a platform like Wyzant, you can browse tutoring jobs and set your own rates.
11. Find Money You Didn’t Know Was Yours
State treasuries throughout the U.S. have more than $43 billion in unclaimed funds, according to The New York Times. Just sitting around! Waiting for you to come play lost and found.
Check for your unclaimed money with the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. Click your state on the map, and it’ll redirect you to your state’s appropriate search site. (Beware: There are several look-a-like sites out there. Be sure you’re searching legitimate ones.)
Penny Hoarder reader Kelli Howell heeded our advice, performed a quick search and found unclaimed money in her husband’s name.
“As I was scrolling through, I saw his name and his middle initial,” she says. She asked him to confirm his old Florida address; he grew up in Tampa. Sure enough, Mark Howell was entitled to $56 from a “matured insurance policy.”
Not bad for an unexpected check, right?
12. Become a Virtual Employee
If you want more steady work and income still offering the flexibility you need to get to class and rest after pulling all-nighters, look online.
Not sure where to start your search for a remote gig? Turn to ZipRecruiter. Click here, and it’ll send you to a list of geo-tailored work-from-home job openings.
Because you don’t yet have a degree and aren’t seeking full-time employment, we suggest looking into these jobs:
- Virtual recruiter: Put your networking skills to use and connect employees or freelancers to the right jobs. You’ll do things like post available jobs, screen resumes, conduct preliminary interviews and negotiate salaries.
- Virtual assistant: Are you super organized? Get paid to help a busy professional stay on track. You can use the organization and communication skills you’ve developed to help out with data entry, social media management, website maintenance, research and customer service needs.
- Transcriber: Know how to type speedy fast? Transcribing requires little to no prior experience and offers flexible hours and workloads. The work can be demanding, but the pay is a pretty good selling point: about $15 to $25 per hour for general transcription, and more if you specialize in a legal or medical field.
13. Advertise Your Skills as a Freelancer
Freelancing is a wonderful, flexible way to make money on the side. You set your own rates and your hours. It also can be a great way to gain experience and connect with potential employers before you even graduate.
14. Sell Crafting Supplies on Etsy
Maybe you love crafting, but you simply don’t have the time to knit scarves, quilt blankets or cross-stitch sassy sayings to sell. Well, here’s some good news: You can make money simply selling craft kits and supplies.
Look for supplies, kits and patterns at thrift stores and garage sales. Find good deals, and resell these items to crafters on Etsy. Take note from Janet Berry-Johnson who was able to make an extra $200 a month by selling supplies on Etsy.
15. Get Paid for Completing Small Tasks on Amazon
Have you heard of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk?
Create an account, and start performing “human intelligence tasks.” These tasks range from answering surveys to transcribing interviews to creating spreadsheets. You can pick and choose what you want to do.
Penny Hoarder contributor Michael Naab shared that he made an average of $500 a month through Mechanical Turk.
16. Braid Horse Manes
Are your friends always asking you to do their hair? Put it in a French braid or a fancy knot?
Well, you can get paid to put your skills to use — on horses.
Kat Tretina worked on weekends braiding horse manes for shows. She had zero experience and invested an initial $20 for a supply kit. Then started banking $1,000 a month.
You’ll find some small shows in the fall and winter months, but spring and summer are the most popular.
And because the work happens almost exclusively on the weekends, you should have no problem fitting it around your class schedule.
17. Help Your Neighbors With Odd Jobs — the Modern Way
Odd jobs and side gigs are an awesome way to earn extra money without committing to a full-time job or fixed schedule.
Sure, you could always find work the old-fashioned way — have your parents ask their friends if they need help with anything. But modern technology and our infatuation with the sharing economy have made gigs a much more effective way of earning a living.
Use an app like TaskRabbit to connect with people in your area who need help with cleaning, assembling furniture or installing a new faucet.
18. Become a Grandkid on Demand
The Papa app connects college students with senior citizens who need a little extra help in their day-to-day activities. Along the way, it provides companionship — and a steady side gig.
“The two loneliest generations are older adults and college-age individuals,” Founder and CEO Andrew Parker told us. “… By connecting these distinct generations, we are able to break down barriers and form real relationships.”
These part-time positions are only available to college students. Beyond that, no specific experience is required, but students studying nursing, medicine or psychology get bonus points. Other requirements for Papa Pals include a reliable four-door car and appropriate car insurance. All applicants must be able to pass a thorough background check, and the approval process takes between two and 10 business days.
Papa Pals make between $11 and $12 an hour, and additional compensation is provided for gas and tolls. The app is active in select cities in Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
19. Be on Your Favorite TV Game Show
Do you watch “Jeopardy!” or “Wheel of Fortune” every evening and feel like you’d crush the contestants?
You can be part of these shows more easily than you might think, and it can be a cool way to boost your budget.
To get started, read our full guide to becoming a game show contestant for details on joining “Jeopardy!,” “Wheel of Fortune,” “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, “The Price is Right” and more.
20. Claim Class-Action Settlements
Class-action lawsuits are a simple way to make some extra money on the side.
Heck, you’re probably already part of a class-action suit you don’t even know about. They come up more often than you might realize.
We share open settlements here when we hear about them, so keep an eye out.
To file a claim, you’ll usually just have to fill out an online form. Some settlements also require proof of purchase of a relevant product or service.
How much you get depends on how many claimants are part of the case settlement and the amount of the settlement. You could get anything from free tuna to a check for $5,000 from California hotels.
21. Deliver Packages for Amazon Flex
You know when you order a package through Amazon and receive it the same day? It’s not magic — it’s your friendly Amazon Flex delivery partner.
As an Amazon Flex delivery partner, you’ll deliver goods to consumers via Amazon.com, Prime Now, AmazonFresh and Amazon Restaurants.
Amazon Flex says you can make $18 to $25 an hour as a Flex associate, though that’ll depend on how much you’re able to deliver. It processes payments on Tuesdays and Fridays through direct deposit, so you should see your money on Wednesdays, Saturdays or both.
One of the biggest perks of this part-time gig is that you get to set your own schedule, using the Flex app to claim delivery blocks (or shifts) you want to work.
As a Flex delivery partner, you’re an independent contractor, so you’ll be responsible for expenses, including gas, parking and tolls — and paying your own taxes.
To qualify, you’ll need a phone with the Flex app and a car. If you’re delivering Prime Now orders, any car will suffice; however, if you’re delivering for Amazon.com, you’ll need a four-door midsize sedan or larger. In some areas, bikes are acceptable.
The program recruits in various areas across the country based on need. If you don’t find your city on the list when you go to sign up, you can always join the waitlist.
22. Play Free Scratch-offs for a Chance to Win Real Money
You know that feeling when you find a $20 bill hiding in the pocket of those jeans you wore last week? Yeah, that’s the feeling of a lucky day. The Lucky Day app is just like that.
You could win up to $10,000 playing digital scratch-off tickets or even a whopping $100,000 in the daily lotto. You’ll also have a lot of chances to win gift cards to cool places like Amazon, Walmart, Dunkin and Target.
It’s all free to play, with no in-app purchases. The company has already awarded more than $3 million in prizes to winners since 2014.
No, it’s not guaranteed money, but it’s a fun way to pass the time when you’re just sitting around and, who knows, you could hit a big one!
23. Sell Your Instagram-Worthy Pictures
If you have a smartphone and a photographic eye, making money may have just gotten a lot easier. Oh – you’ll also need access to marketable scenery.
An app called Foap lets you turn your smartphone photos into cash.
Here’s how it works:
- Download the free app and create an account.
- Take a quality photo and upload it to Foap’s marketplace.
- Someone buys the license to your photo for $10. You make $5.
If your photo sells 20 times, you make $5 each time and end up with $100 in your pocket — all for about five minutes of work. Pretty cool, right?
24. Serve as a Mock Juror From Your Laptop
Who isn’t obsessed with with true-crime podcasts these days? “My Favorite Murder,” anyone?
If you want an insider look at what happens when a case hits the courtroom, you can serve as an online mock juror through a site like eJury.
As a mock juror, you’ll review evidence including documents, videos and photos. The fate of the mock-innocent, or mock-guilty, could be in your hands. The goal? Help the lawyers prepare for the real thing.
You can earn $5 to $10 per case.
25. Sell Your Clutter and Make Some Cash
Living that minimalist lifestyle is all the rage right now, so why not use this mentality to your advantage?
Start taking a good hard look at your belongings. What do you actually need? What can you make money from?
- Clothes: If you have clothes you haven’t worn in the last year, why do you hang onto them? Try selling them to folks in your area through an online marketplace like Letgo. It takes about five minutes to create your account and list an item, and it’s free.
- Books: Bookshelf collecting dust? We love books as much as the next person, but see whether your treasures are worth anything by listing them on Amazon. With Amazon Trade-In, you can trade in your used textbooks, plus other items, like electronics, in exchange for an Amazon gift card.
Ready, set, purge.
26. Get Your Nanny on
Whether you want to look after school-aged kids on Saturday nights or help tired parents after school, you can find opportunities to use your child care experience to earn cash.
Look within your circle of friends and acquaintances first, as parents are more likely to trust someone they know. Ask friends if they know anyone else who could use a few hours to themselves, whether it’s to grocery shop or simply to head to the gym.
You can also let parents find you through Care.com. Rates on the platform will vary by city, but the average rate for babysitters in 2017 was $16.20 an hour, according to Care.com’s 2018 Cost of Care Survey.
27. Cash in on Your Smartphone Addiction
Let’s be real: That phone habit is hard to break. So you might as well make some money while you’re scrolling instead of totally waste your time.
Download AppKarma, a free rewards app that lets you earn cash and gift cards when you try out gaming apps and watch videos.
Android users can download the AppKarma app directly through the Google Play Store.
iPhone users: AppKarma is not in the app store, but you can use it from your mobile browser. Click on the link from your iOS device to access the AppKarma web app. Complete the first offer (and earn 100 points!) to get started.
Bonus: Penny Hoarders will get 500 extra points when you sign up, plus you’ll get an email shortly after signing up with a special promo code worth another 750 bonus points.
You can exchange your Karma Points for gift cards to Amazon, PayPal, iTunes, Target, Starbucks and Walmart, among other retailers.