Last Updated: Jul 25, 2016
In college you’ll learn how to get rich slowly, legitimately, by hard work and pursuing a fruitful career. But during those four years in undergrad—and probably afterward—sometimes you just need pizza money. Fast.
Here are our recommendations for earning quick cash as a college student. (And if you've got any suggestions of your own, let us know in the comments!)
P.S. If you're looking for some serious money for college, why not scholarships? No, they won't come fast or easy, but you have nothing to lose by trying. And you can find scholarships that fit you here.
Donate blood or plasma
You typically earn: $20–$50/donation
Not only will you be helping meet a critical need, but those pints of plasma or bags of blood can earn around $20–$50 each (and you may even be able to donate multiple times per month). Never donated blood? You’ll have to answer a few questions, meet blood donation eligibility requirements (check out the Red Cross donation guidelines), be cool with needles, and have anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to spare, depending on the wait time to sit down with a nurse. Plasma donations are a bit more involved: you could be hooked up to two needles (depending on the machine), have little mobility, and it takes about one or two hours total—but you’ll probably spend that time watching a movie surrounded by lots of nice nurses! Just be sure to take it easy after donating and replenish your fluids with lots of water and juices.
You typically earn: $10–$15/hour
You’re responsible, compassionate, and don’t mind giving up your Friday and Saturday nights: you could make a great baby or dog or house sitter. Though there are professional websites and agencies out there you could join, you may have luck volunteering your services to friends or family you already know. (Per usual, be wary of taking money from strangers...) And why not offer to wash the dishes or fold the laundry for an extra $10?
Sell stuff on eBay
You typically earn: depends on the item...but it can vary a lot
Consign (resell) your clothing
You typically earn: 40% of the resale price, which depends on the item
Kinda like eBay IRL, clothing consignment shops are havens for the thrifty and fashion conscious. Take your old prom dresses, dress khakis, and other gently worn items and see what kind of cash you can get. (You can even bring in that new dress you've had for four years but never worn but keep saying you'll wear someday...it's time to let it go.) You typically won’t be paid until the items sell, but depending on the quality of the piece, you could earn a pretty penny. Though most consignment shops carry your favorite mall brands, you’ll also find some selling just higher-end stuff, so make sure you know what kind of merchandise the store is looking for.
Participate in consumer or medical research
You typically earn: anywhere from $20–$50 for a single visit to hundreds of dollars for a prolonged study
Whether you’re giving feedback after watching some commercials or letting people study your brainwaves while you sleep, there are scores of social and medical researchers out there that welcome college students with open arms. That’s not to say you should embrace every opportunity, but new products need testers and there are plenty of low-level trials you can participate in. Start with the US government’s official clinical trial website, then try contacting local hospitals or companies directly. And college campuses are often full of students and professors hosting research, so look on your school’s website for these opportunities too. Word to the wise: if you earn more than $600 in your clinical trial adventures, you'll need to declare your earnings on your taxes. Also keep in mind that as the payment goes up, so too will the commitment—as well as the potential risk.
Recycle your cans and bottles
You typically earn: around $0.05 per item
You and all five of your roommates have a not-so-healthy love of Mountain Dew. First, maybe switch to diet? Second, turn all those empties into a healthy chunk of change by bringing (rinsed!) cans and bottles to your local recycling center. If you alone drink two cans per day everyday, at an average 5 cents per can, you could have more than $35 at the end of the year, enough for a few weeks of laundry—or a steak dinner.
Throw a yard sale
You typically earn: $500–$700 (according to this yard sale tips website!)
If you live off campus and have a yard or can get permission from your school to use communal open space, organize a yard sale with your friends and roommates, maybe even your dorm community. Use the cash to throw a “Yard Sales are Awesome!” party. Realize you spent all your money on the party. Repeat as needed or until you run out of stuff to sell.
Short of selling a kidney on the black market, there are plenty of ways you can pick up some quick cash: Walking your neighbor’s dogs. Moonlighting at a local call center. Tutoring classmates. Being a secret shopper. Freelancing small writing projects. If it’s not going to cut into your study time—or your dignity—give it a shot!