7 College Side Hustles to Help You Graduate Debt-Free

Having a side hustle in college can dramatically help offset your costs.

7 College Side Hustles to Help You Graduate Debt-Free

There’s a common idea that most of today’s college students have been led to believe is true.

It’s the myth that you can’t get a college degree without going into debt. However, this isn’t true. No matter what you’ve heard, you can bank roll college and get a degree without attracting debt—especially if you have a college side hustle.

The College Debt Myth

If you’re a senior in high school, currently enrolled in college, or a recent college graduate, you already don’t like this.

You’ve been told for so long that it’s impossible to leave college without debt that you’re committed to believing it. You think that the only people who can leave college without owing money are trust fund babies or honor roll students with 4.0 GPA's and 1600 SAT scores.

Guess what? This simply isn’t true.

Is graduating from college with $30,000, $50,000, or even $100,000 of student loan debt normal? Yes…but this normal is no longer a smart decision today.

If you want to blindly follow all of your other classmates, then go right ahead and start racking up debt that will set you back 15 or 20 years in your career. But if you’re willing to look at this from an entirely different angle—and put in hard work—then you can leave college without a penny in student loan debts.

Let’s run some sample numbers on this scenario to give you a more clear picture of how having a college side hustle could help eliminate your debt.

Assuming you go to an in-state school, rack up normal expenses, and live within your means, you’re looking at the following breakdown per school year:

  • Average Tuition: $9,650
  • Average Room and Board: $10,440
  • Average Books and Supplies: $1,250
  • Total Average Cost: $21,340

That’s just the average. That means there are plenty of people spending less and plenty spending more.

If you approach funding your college education strategically, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to go to school for less. Especially if you have a college side hustle to chip away at costs while you're going. 

For the purpose of simplicity, let’s say it costs $20,000 total to attend one year of school with room, board, books, and supplies. If you finish your degree in the recommended four years, that’s a price tag of $80,000.

If you start earning money  to pay for college as soon as you graduate high school, this means you have 48 months to make $80,000. That comes out to $1,666 per month, or $384 per week. Break it down by the day, while still having weekends off, and you’re looking at $76.80 per day. If you’re willing to work on the weekends, things become even more manageable.

These are obviously just sample numbers, but you get the picture. The people telling you that you have to absorb tens of thousands of dollars in debt are either part of the student loan debt scam, or they’re misinformed. By working part-time with a college side hustle during the school year and full-time during the summers, there’s no reason why you can’t get your college education without racking up much debt.

7 College Side Hustles to Help You Reduce Debt and Earn More

Most people don’t have the time for taking on a full-time gig while going through a full class load during the school year. So, if you want to grow your income, you have to hustle your way there. Here are seven college side hustle ideas specifically designed with students in mind:

1. Search for Scholarships

We’ll start with something every student should really be doing anyway: Ambitiously searching for scholarships on the side. As Savant Capital’s Ryan Monette notes, “Most students do not take the time to search for and submit scholarship applications. Be the exception! There are many websites that can help you find available scholarships, including collegescholarships.org and fastweb.com.”

Searching for scholarships is essentially a part-time job.

It takes time but the payoff can be enormous. For example, let’s say you spend 40 hours searching for scholarships during the first week of summer. While you might apply for dozens and only get a positive response from a couple, the payoff can still be tremendous. If you get $5,000 worth of scholarships out of your time, then you essentially made $125 an hour that week. Pretty good, right?

2. Pick Up a Delivery Route

By now, you know that driving for Uber, Lyft, or one of the other ride sharing apps is an option. What you might not know, however, is there are options to make money in a similar capacity with delivery routes.

Postmates is one of the most popular on-demand delivery services and allows you to pick up and deliver items—usually food—to customers. Like Uber, you get paid based on distance/time (plus tip). You can earn as much as $25 an hour, but most average somewhere around $10 or $12 after everything is accounted for. It’s definitely not something you’re going to make a killing doing, but you could easily make $30 or $40 one night when you have a few hours to kill.

3. Start an Etsy Shop

Do you have some artistic talent or creative juices that can be put to use making physical items? Whether it’s jewelry making, woodworking, painting, or anything in between, sites like allow you to monetize your talents and scale a business in front of millions of users who could want to purchase your handmade products.

isn’t as easy as some make it out to be. However, if you have a unique product and know how to price it right, you should be able to find some success. The key is to create things that are small (easy to ship) and simple to make on demand. This allows you to only make what you sell and avoid costly shipping fees. Once your shop has been up and running for a little while, it’s fairly reasonable to estimate you could make a couple hundred dollars per month with relatively minimal effort. 

4. Offer Translation Services

Are you bilingual or multilingual? Being proficient in multiple languages is not only cool, it’s also pretty profitable. Individuals and companies are always looking for people who can speak, write, and understand different languages and will pay a healthy sum of money for translation services.

While the languages you speak, your current skill level, and location all matter, you can easily make $30 or more per hour offering freelance translation services to different businesses online and in your area. The good thing about these gigs is that they often go on indefinitely, meaning you can create a dependable stream of income while taking classes.

5. Coach High School Sports

Were you a star athlete in high school? Do you love being on a court or field? While your playing days may be over, you could always look into coaching opportunities with local schools.

The great thing about coaching high school sports is that the hours are usually in the afternoons and evenings (leaving most of the day for school), and the seasons only last for a few months at a time. The pay isn’t usually great, but it’s steady and fun. For even more pay, you can charge parents for offseason training sessions on an hourly basis.

6. Help Flip Houses

If you have construction or handyman skills, then you might be able to get your foot in the door flipping houses. There are always real estate investors in college towns looking for properties that can be purchased cheap, fixed up, and then sold or rented out. Their biggest pain point is often that they don’t have the time or skillset to handle the renovations and improvements. This is where you come into play.

The beauty of taking on the renovation aspect of the flip—and not the investing side—is that you have zero financial risk. You get paid regardless of what happens. And since investors want to get in and out, house flips tend to be completed in a matter of weeks. Get in with the right investor and you should be able to do a few flips a year, which should more than pay for college. You might even learn a thing or two about the investment/financing side of things and be able to do your own flip by the time you graduate.

7. Pet and House Sitting

Nobody forgot about you, pet lovers. No matter where you live or the size of your college town, people always own pets. Friends, classmates, professors, neighbors—everyone has pets. What happens when people go on vacation, travel for work, or fly home to see family? Most people pay an arm and a leg to send their furry friends to the doggy daycare center down the street.

This is where you enter the picture. You advertise for house sitting services and charge half or two-thirds of what the big daycare centers charge. All you have to do is keep the pets fed and take them on a walk or two and you earn easy money. In fact, most pet sitters do their homework while on the job.

Give Your Future a Head Start

A college degree should help you succeed in life. It will allow you to hold your head high and earn more during your career. Unfortunately, a lot of today’s college graduates end up being overburdened by tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debts. The average monthly student loan payment is right around $351, with most graduates taking more than 10 years to pay off their loans. Yikes!

While others might like you to believe there’s only one path to a college degree, it’s important that you recognize you have options.

Leaving college debt-free is plausible. As long as you’re willing to work hard and hustle.

What do you say? What'll be your college side hustle?