25 Totally Flexible Ways to Make Money in College Without Dropping Classes

Updated March 20, 2017
by Dana Sitar
Staff Writer
Working on horse manes is just one of our tips on how to make money in college

Working through college is a key way to reduce the amount of debt you’ll have after graduation.

But a well-paying job you can balance with classes and extracurriculars can be hard to find.

Have you thought about ditching the demanding work schedule and working for yourself instead?

There are tons of fun and weird ways to make money on the side — without cutting into your study time.

1. Get Good Grades

Check with the dean of your college or university to learn what incentives your school has for getting good grades.

Some actually offer cash bonuses to students who maintain a good grade point average!

Ultrinsic.com also encourages high GPAs by paying students. The site allows you to invest money in your future academic performance.

If you make your grade goal, Ultrinsic will give you interest on your investment. You can even earn up to a $2,000 bonus for maintaining a perfect 4.0 throughout college.

2. Drive With Uber

Ways to make money
Núcleo Editorial under Creative Commons

If you enjoy driving and don’t mind providing a bit of customer service, consider driving with Uber.

As an Uber partner, you set your own schedule, so you can work as much or little as you want. You’ll earn money based on the rides you give, so you have a lot of control over how much you can make.

To drive with Uber, you must be at least 21 years old and have an in-state driver’s license, three years’ driving experience, a clean driving record and pass a criminal background check.

Some cities require your car be made in the past 10 years, but specific requirements vary by state. It must be a four-door, seat at least four passengers, be registered in-state and covered by in-state insurance.

Here’s a link to apply with Uber.

3. Share Your Opinions

We’ve talked plenty about earning extra money taking online surveys.

What we love about VIP Voice is the gamification.

This site gives you points after every survey you take that you can use in sweepstakes and auctions to win rewards like gift cards, vacations, electronics, appliances and more.

After you join VIP Voice and take a few surveys, look for a special survey that offers a $25 reward.

Sign up for VIP Voice here.

4. Get Paid to Watch Videos

Ways to make money
islandjoe under Creative Commons

Swagbucks will pay you to watch YouTube-style videos — and give you an extra $5 just for signing up.

The videos aren’t cute puppies or Coke bottles exploding, but when you’re getting money to watch them, they don’t have to be quite that entertaining, right?

Instead, they’re sponsored by brands who want to be seen by as many eyes as possible. If you watch all the videos available to you, you can make up to $260/month. This is only available on your Android phone or desktop computer. 

5. Spy on Your Favorite Stores

QuickThoughts for Android turns you into a detective, taking you on scavenger hunts in your area.

These are grown-up scavenger hunts, but they can be just as fun as when you were a kid! Take a few friends with you, and see who can earn points the fastest.

Using your phone’s GPS, the app will prompt you for information on places you’ve visited recently or places it detects you’re visiting right now. You can even accept future Missions.

How are the lines at the McDonald’s you stopped at for lunch? Were the bathrooms clean at Walgreen’s last week? QuickThoughts lets you offer your input and stealthy photos to give businesses this feedback.

For your work, you’ll earn gift cards for Amazon and iTunes. Here’s the link for Apple users.

6. Be a Human Guinea Pig

Ways to make money
Andy Miccone under Creative Commons

From medical tests to market research, being a test subject can be an interesting, educational and — above all — lucrative way to spend your time.

Some tests, like clinical trials, may be more taxing and require a greater time commitment.

But some, like market research, may just take a couple hours of your afternoon and earn you free samples and some extra cash.

Keep an eye out on campus for opportunities within your university, too. These are usually quick and might yield $10-$20.

7. Buy and Resell Textbooks

Ways to make money
Patrick under Creative Commons

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.

Instead of relying on your own collection, buy textbooks online at sites like eBay and resell them at a site like BookScouter.com.

Before you shop, you can look up a book’s ISBN at 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!

You can also buy used books at garage sales to sell online, but it will require a bit more work and bargain hunting.

8. Sell Your Video Game Accounts

Ways to make money
Radly J Phoenix under Creative Commons

If you’re a gamer, try selling your video game accounts on gamer forums or eBay.

Tons of popular games like World of Warcraft, Second Life and League of Legends see players making big money selling their accounts.

You can also sell the virtual gold, weapons and real estate you’ve bought or earned over the years for real-life profit.

9. Audit Liquor Stores

Ways to make money
time anchor under Creative Commons

“Professional Beer Buyer” might not make your resume, but it’s a pretty awesome job for a college student.

Companies like TrendSource and Corporate Research will pay you to shop local liquor stores undercover.

Just note whether the cashier asks for your ID, and submit a short report on your experience.

To qualify, you’ll normally need to be between 18 and 30 years old, usually under 25. You can earn between $5 and $50 per audit, with the average falling between $20 and $30.

You’re also reimbursed for any purchase you have to make to conduct the audit. Free beer, anyone?

10. Sell Your Notes

Not all campuses are keen on the activity, but lots of students have made money selling notes and study guides to classmates who miss class or need extra help cramming for exams.

If you’re a thorough note-taker, you could earn around $10-$20 per class.

A strong understanding of the subject matter for a complicated course could mean a lot more for study guides.

Online study materials and tutoring marketplace Luvo says students earn an average of $400 per semester on the site.

11. Become a Tutor

Have you ever considered becoming a private 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 Wyzant.com, you can browse tutoring jobs and set your own rate.

When you connect with a student to offer tutoring services, you get paid!

12. Get Refunds on Your Amazon Purchases 

My new secret weapon is called Paribus — a tool that gets you money back for your online purchases. It’s free to sign up for Paribus and once you do, they will scan your email archives for any receipts. If it discovers you’ve purchased something from Amazon, Target, or one of the other 16 retailers listed on their website, it will track the item’s price and issue you a refund anytime there’s a price drop!

You don’t have to do anything!

13. Be a Genealogist

Yes, people will pay you to put together their tricky family trees.

Are you already a hobby genealogist or studying the subject in school?

You could charge between $70 to $700 per request, and take on as much or as little work as you can manage.

Set up your own virtual storefront, like this professional genealogist or list your services on freelance sites like Upwork or Freelancer.

14. Be a Virtual Employee

If you want more steady work and income still offering the flexibility you need to get to class and rest after all-nighters, look online.

You can put networking skills to use as a virtual recruiter, connecting employees or freelancers with the right jobs.

You’ll do things like post available jobs, screen resumes, conduct preliminary interviews and negotiate salaries.

Or be a virtual assistant and get paid to use the organization and communication skills you’ve developed to stay on top of schoolwork, classes and extracurriculars.

With more and more professionals diving into freelancing and self-employment, the demand for people to help with data entry, social media management, website maintenance, research and customer service is rising.

Transcribing also 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.

You can find these virtual gigs through freelance broker sites like Upwork, Freelancer or SimplyHired.

For VA gigs, also try Zirtual, People Per Hour and VA Networking.

For transcription, look at TranscribeMe, Rev, Tigerfish and Quicktate.

15. Sell Supplies on Etsy

Even if you hate crafting yourself, Etsy could be a good outlet for selling craft kits and supplies to those who love it.

Tools or supplies to make things circumvent Etsy’s rule that everything in its marketplace must be handmade or vintage. That’s an opportunity for you.

Decide what you’re interested in — maybe you have a little knowledge about cross-stitching or quilting? Maybe you have a lot of friends who make jewelry, so you know what they’re into?

Then look for supplies, kits and patterns at thrift stores and garage sales. You can buy them for bargain prices and resell to crafters on Etsy.

16. Hang Out With Dogs or Cats

Love playing with dogs and cats, but can’t have a pet in your tiny apartment or dorm room?

Try getting paid to spend time with other people’s pets!

Dog-walking is the obvious way to earn money caring for your neighbors’ best friends. But there are tons of other ways, too.

If you don’t mind getting a little dirty, you could be a dog washer or groomer. If you’ve got a weekend free, you could pet-sit for people when they go out of town.

Connect with seniors or busy pet owners in your area — offer to drive pets to vet or grooming appointments.

You can set up most of these gigs with a bit of networking, word-of-mouth and maybe a few posters around your neighborhood.

But if you want to be more efficient, try apps like DogVacay and BarknBorrow to connect with pet owners who might want your services.

17. Braid Horse Manes

This woman launched a $1,000-per-month business with zero experience and a $20 kit off the internet — for a pretty odd job.

She works on the weekends braiding horse manes for shows.

If you like working with animals and have at least a little skill French-braiding your own or others’ hair, this could be a fun side gig during your college years.

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.

18. Do Odd Jobs — the Modern Way

Odd jobs and side gigs are an awesome way to earn extra money without committing to a job or schedule.

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 house-cleaning, assembling furniture or installing a new faucet.

You can use Instacart to shop and delivery groceries to people who don’t have time, resources or ability to do it on their own.

You can earn up to $25 an hour delivering almost anything by car or bike through Postmates, available in about two dozen major U.S. cities.

All you need to get started is your smartphone — and you could start earning money this week.

19. Sell Weird Things on eBay

Did you know you could sell empty boxes on eBay?

What about remote controls? Empty toilet paper rolls? Egg cartons?

Just about anything you have lying around is probably valuable to someone. Auction sites like eBay help you find them.

If you haven’t accumulated a lot of junk of your own (good for you!), look outside. Depending on your climate, you could sell pine cones, seashells or driftwood to crafters who can’t find these in their own backyards.

20. Get Paid to Exercise

Are you walking around campus counting steps on your FitBit all day?

You could be earning cash for that!

Meet AchieveMint, which rewards you for keeping up with healthy activities.

AchieveMint integrates with fitness trackers like FitBit and RunKeeper, even with social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare and more.

It rewards you for all kinds of “healthy” activities: going for a run, checking into a health-food store, even tweeting something healthy can earn you points that convert to cash rewards.

21. Clean Trash Cans

Washing garbage cans isn’t going to be a glamorous job.

In fact, as this woman puts it, it’s “downright dirty.” But it helped her earn more than $100 in an afternoon.

Most people don’t think about cleaning their trash cans. They just put them on the curb and steer clear of the foul smell.

But they can’t ignore it forever.

So when you — a young, able-bodied neighborhood do-gooder — shows up and offers to rid them of the stench, they’ll probably take you up on the offer.

It may be dirty and smelly, but the job is fairly simple and a quick way to earn some money in your spare time.

22. Be on Your Favorite TV Show

Do you watch “Jeopardy!” or “Wheel of Fortune” every afternoon 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.

Read our full guide to becoming a game show contestant for details on joining “Jeopardy!,” “Wheel of Fortune,“ “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,“ “Celebrity Name Game,“ “Let’s Make a Deal,“ “Family Game Night,“ “The Price Is Right“ and more.

If you’re more into scripted TV, read about how to become an extra in one of the most popular shows on the air: “The Walking Dead.”

23. Claim Class-Action Settlements

Ways to make money
verkeorg under Creative Commons

It may not be the first thing on your mind, but class-action lawsuits are a simple way to make some extra money on the side.

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. You can also check Top Class Actions for open settlements you may have a stake in.

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.

24. Sell Your Data Plan

Ways to make money
Matt Chan under Creative Commons

Are you one of the lucky souls who signed up for AT&T or Verizon back when you could get an unlimited data plan?

If you did, and were smart enough to hold onto it, you could make a pretty penny selling it on eBay.

Check out this listing, which sold for $310. This “guaranteed transfer” listing includes a SIM card and sold for $1,449.

Even though phone carriers frown on this activity, sellers have found a loophole of sorts.

They complete a Transfer of Billing Responsibility request to transfer the data plan to a new user to keep it aboveboard.

25. Resell Board Game Pieces

Ways to make money
Karen under Creative Commons

You know those tossed-aside, falling-apart, missing-pieces games everyone passes up at the thrift store?

They could mean money for you.

Spend the few bucks on an old game, and turn around and sell some of the valuable pieces to people who are trying to keep their own sets intact. 

This clever Penny Hoarder made $250 in six months selling board game pieces.

Not all games are created equal. Look for limited edition or special themed games. These are the ones collectors want to make whole.

Think “Lord of the Rings” Monopoly or “Harry Potter” Chess. Some vintage game pieces are highly profitable, too.

Your Turn: What are the weirdest ways you make money on the side?

Advertiser Disclosure: We are paid for some of our opinions in the post and some links may redirect to an affiliate partner. We’re letting you know because it’s what Honest Abe would do. After all, he is on our favorite coin.

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).

by Dana Sitar
Contributor for The Penny Hoarder

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