Wondering how to make money in college, just by going to school? It’s easier than you might think! You can make money going to college or, at the very least, graduate without any student debt. Right now, I am a senior in college and I make money just by going to college. I’ve even studied abroad! How did I do it?
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Here’s how to make money in college (just by going to school)!
Step One: Find a cheap school.
Nowadays, you have so many options for your education: online, abroad, on campus, and then what campus. Tuition at schools varies from $2,000 to $70,000 per year. Multiply that by four years of school and you could pay from $8,000 to $280,000… plus books and housing on top of that. It’s no wonder people are wondering how to make money in college!
You do not need to break the bank for tuition. You can get an amazing education at cheaper schools. Compare schools online using the US Department of Education’s College Scorecard. You can also check out a list of schools with free tuition! (Yes-you read that right, it’s free!)
Step Two: Apply for scholarships.
I make thousands of dollars per year in scholarships. After the scholarships are applied to tuition, the extra money that is left is refunded directly to me. I use those funds to pay for housing, books, food and sometimes I still have money left over.
I don’t get many of the scholarships I apply for, and that’s okay! That’s why it’s important to apply for a lot of scholarships if you are determined to know how to make money in college.
The secret to learning how to make money in college is learning how to write a killer essay.
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I have a few essays that I tweak for each application. The key was writing a killer essay to begin with. I cannot stress the importance of your essay—you cannot just write it an hour before the application is due. I spent months perfecting mine. Many applications have word or character limits, so you need to outline what you want to say and say it concisely.
Writing a killer scholarship essay is a lot easier with good content.
The secret to mastering how to make money in college is to plan ahead so you can make sure you have excellent content for your essay. I recommend starting as early as 6th or 7th grade tracking your service, leadership, activities, and awards. An easy way to do this is by creating a document in Microsoft Office or Google Drive and updating it regularly. That way, when your application says, “what leadership positions have you held in the past four years?” you have the information ready to go.
Scholarship granters are looking to see if they can trust you with their money. Why should they pay you? The more experience you have in various activities and services the better your chances are. You can point to your accomplishments and say, “This is what I’ve done so far. Trust me—I’m going places and your money will take me there.”
Apply for local scholarships for a better chance.
In my experience, the more local a scholarship is, the better your chances of receiving it are. Some national $40,000 scholarships are really appealing, but they are also more competitive than your local $2,000 one. I’ve never won an award more than $6,000 but I still make money because the little ones add up. Ask your high school counselor what’s available in your area.
Don’t forget to check for department scholarships!
Many departments at your school offer scholarships, awards, and prizes exclusively for students in that department or major. I have received talent awards from my department and scholarships from generous donors donate to my department. These scholarships are less competitive because you have to be accepted to your major/department. Check with your academic advisor to see what department scholarships you can apply to.
Low income scholarships are designed to help low income families!
If you and your family are in a low-income bracket, you can qualify for scholarships tailored to your needs. Read more on Scholarships for Low Income Students.
Use scholarship search engines to find more opportunities.
I have used lots of different scholarship finders, here are a few of my favorites:
Step Three: Apply for other financial aid sources.
In addition to applying for scholarships, there is more financial aid you can qualify for to make money going to college. Remember, whatever is left after tuition will be refunded to you!
The military offers incredible education benefits. Veterans and dependents can get those benefits, too!
The military gives an immense amount of financial aid. If you are a service member or dependent of a service member, then you can qualify for up to full tuition benefits. See what chapter of benefits you qualify for on the VA’s website.
Additionally, if a service member was injured, killed, or disabled in service there are even more options. I have received some very generous financial aid from the military, but not without extensive research on what I am eligible for.
Here are some of the best scholarships sites I found for military and their dependents:
Apply for grants. Grants don’t have to be repaid!
Grants are based on income, and if you qualify for them you don’t have to pay them back! You can receive $5,000 or more tax-free for your higher education. Both federal and state grants are offered. Note that Pell Grants are only for undergraduates. Apply through your FASFA https://fafsa.gov, which is an annual application for federal student aid. Learn more at studentaid.ed.gov.
Step Four: Find a summer job.
Another way to make money going to college is to work. Working and going to school at the same time can be stressful! If you do get a job during the school year, I would recommend finding a job for 20 hours a week or less. You can actually get more money from maintaining good grades and getting scholarships than you can from working! Think of school as a full-time job. If you do get a job while going to college, make sure you still have time for class.
However, during summer work as much as you can! My summers are packed with work! Many fast-food and retail stores hire seasonally because they are busier in the summer months. So, you can work there during summer break and save your money for the next school year. Plus, these places will often re-hire you the next summer!
Step Five: Pay it forward when you can.
Financial aid is basically free money, and it has to come from somewhere. As soon as I am able, I intend to contribute to as many scholarship funds as I can. That money will then be used for the next recipient. This is so important!
College students are eligible for discounts and free stuff!
You can get SO much for free and discounted as a college student! Besides all the free swag you get from your university (think pens, pencils, t-shirts, water bottles and backpacks) you can find a whole list of free and discount things for college students here.
So, there you have it. You don’t have to go into debt for college. You can even make money going to college! Good luck in your college career! Higher education is definitely worth it.
Disclaimer: This advice is from my personal experience in how I make money going to college. It may not look the same for everyone.