When it comes to paying for college, it’s time to get creative and think outside the box.

Of course, the bulk of your college costs will likely be covered by savings, grants, scholarships, financial aid, and student loans. Still, anything extra you can add to the pot will make a difference. So, whether your goal is covering your books or a full semester, here are some innovative ideas to help you grow your college fund.  

1. Find a Program that Pays

Put a part-time job or service hours to double use by finding a program that offers tuition coverage. For example, Marcus Johnson, assistant director of admissions at Kalamazoo College, joined the National Guard to pay for school. Without the National Guard, which wound up paying for his full tuition at Baylor University, he “would never have been able to attend a private out-of-state university,” he says.  

Johnson was able to complete his basic training and job specialization during the summer weeks before his senior year of high school and again before the start of college by using the Guard’s Split Training Option. Organizations like AmeriCorps can also help cover some or all of the cost of tuition in exchange for volunteer work. After completing a year of AmeriCorps service, students receive an education award that can be applied toward college tuition. 

Another way part-time work can help beyond what you’re paid is through tuition reimbursement programs. Some companies, like Chipotle, Home Depot, and Taco Bell, offer programs to employees that cover education costs. If you apply for a job with tuition reimbursement in mind, be sure you fully understand the requirements for the programs and that part-time employees are eligible.

2. Sell Unique Items

If you aren’t interested in a traditional part-time job or want to supplement your part-time work, consider other money-making ventures like selling things you make, find, or own.

If you’re crafty, launch an Etsy or Facebook Marketplace shop. From quilting to woodworking to jewelry making, there’s a huge market for unique, handmade finds. If you aren’t a handicraft maven, there are still opportunities to sell things you create. For instance, if you have a talent for graphic design, you can sell printable art or even clothing designs. 

If you have an eye for in-demand items or enjoy bargain hunting, consider getting into the resale business. Do your research and scour yard sales, estate sales, flea markets, and online listings. Fix up your finds and then flip them for a profit. 

3. Capitalize on Your Skills

Put skills you’ve already developed to good use. Neil Khaund, CEO of Livius, a test prep and college counseling service, says, “We always suggest capitalizing on something you’re already good at. This might look like tutoring for the summer in a subject you excel at, picking up write-for-hire projects, coding for local businesses, or using social media savvy to offer services to small companies.”

For artistic students, Shaindel Beers, an instructor of English and academic adviser at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon, offers another idea: “Doing drawings or paintings of people’s pets or children is a great way to make extra money.”

4. Help Your Neighbors

You can also look around your neighborhood for people who may need help. Beers suggests asking pharmacies if they need drivers to shuttle prescriptions to people who aren’t able to pick up their own medication. Another recommendation from Beers is to “advertise personal shopping and delivery in places where elderly people are avoiding grocery shopping.” While there are apps that offer these services, not everyone is tech savvy enough to take advantage of them. Plus, a lot of folks would prefer to have a relationship with a shopper they trust. 

5. Sell Your Opinion

Market research firms want to know what you think and they want to pay you for it. Research firms run online and in-person focus groups to better understand consumer behavior. These experiences can range from answering online questionnaires to using a product while researchers watch from behind a two-way mirror. The time commitment and compensation will vary, so be sure you understand what you’re signing up for. Also, you’ll need to be 18 years old or have a parent’s permission for many of these opportunities. 

6. Get Paid for Your Passion

Finding work aligned with your passions or field of interest could pull double duty and develop your college résumé while offsetting expenses. For example, if you plan to study theater or acting, apply for local standardized patient opportunities, which enlist actors to play the part of sick patients to help train medical students. This job gives you a chance to make extra money, practice your acting skills and gain meaningful work experience. You could also apply for a job serving a political campaign or develop a niche blog around a topic or industry you’re already involved in.

There are plenty of creative ideas that can help make the financial demands of college more reasonable. Still, Johnson urges students to remember that often the traditional methods of paying for school will yield the best results. Use these less conventional ideas to add to the funds you gather together from savings, financial aid, scholarships, grants, and student loans.

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