The economic crisis and ever-rising tuition rates have brought new meaning to the phrase, “broke college kids.” Many students seem at a loss as to what they can do to merely scrape by. Because every penny counts, new ways to earn extra cash are always in demand. While such old standbys as delivering pizza or working at the school library remain options, more creative solutions are out there. Here are some ideas how to raise funds for college expenses or any other pursuit:
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Plead for Cash
Launched in 2010, GoFundMe.com allows people to create fundraising sites for their personal needs. Folks have set them up to raise money for everything from medical bills to weddings, says co-founder and Chief Executive Brad Damphousse. College students are, of course, using the site to help cover their college tuition. In fact, Damphousse points out a special section of the site that’s dedicated to those raising money for education—one of the most popular examples is asking friends and family for help paying for study-abroad trips. Should you decide to create a GoFundMe site, says Damphousse, being honest about why you need the money and thanking your donors can go a long way toward successfully raising funds.
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Local pawnshops will buy valuables for cash or make small loans with personal property as collateral. So a college kid could bring the gold watch he received from Granny at graduation to a pawnshop, collect a loan based on its worth, and pay off the loan to get the item back. (If the loan is overdue, the item becomes the property of the pawnshop.) Once considered shady, pawnshops have gained recognition in recent years, due to the economic crisis and growing distrust of big banks. The popularity of the History Channel’s reality show Pawn Stars doesn’t hurt, either. According to the Pawn Stars website, the U.S. has more than 12,000 pawnshops, and the average loan against a pawned item is $75.
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If the pawnshop brings to mind someone with a gambling problem giving up the family jewels for far less than they are worth, consider selling them outright to a gold buyer. As gold’s value rose during the economic crisis, more and more attention was paid to selling gold. The advice uttered time and again is to do some research and learn the value of your jewelry before selling it. Checking on buyers with the Better Business Bureau is a common way to determine the reliability and integrity of the buyer. SellYourGold.com is a decent online option, according to NBC’s Today Show, which ranked it first among gold buyers. Those who opt to hock Grandma’s gift should make sure they won’t regret their decision down the road. Unlike pawning an item, selling it means the buyer gets to keep it.
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Tap a Vein
Many ways to make extra cash involve using your body and its fluids. College students probably have sold sperm and eggs for reproduction, and people often mention selling blood as an option for college kids. Instead, they should be selling plasma. Plasma is the liquid portion of blood, and plasma donors actually have their red blood cells returned to them through the same needle when donating plasma. As a result, they can donate plasma more often than they can donate blood. Current government standards allow people to donate plasma once in two days but no more than two times in one week, according to the website of the plasma collection organization, CSL Plasma, in King of Prussia, Pa. The process can take up to three hours the first time and 90 minutes or so thereafter. While college students could not pay their full tuition solely by selling plasma, they could save some money for food, books, or entertainment. They earn anywhere from about $10 to $20 per donation. and they make a difference in the lives of patients who need plasma to treat such conditions as hemophilia and severe burns, among other illnesses.
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Take Part in Medical Studies
One of the most profitable ways to earn extra cash is by participating in medical studies. Some participants earn $100 to $300 per day, according to GPGP.net, an online directory for research volunteers. Of course, the studies should be regulated and approved clinical trials for a treatment or medications, and participants must comply with various regulations or requirements. In some cases, you must already have a particular disease or genetic trait to participate in the trial. Some of these studies require enormous time commitments—months or even years—so college students should know what they’re getting into. Of course, before signing on to a clinical trial, potential participants should find out what the side effects might be and decide if they want to take the risks.
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Sell Your Hair
Even if their jewelry box is empty, many college kids are healthy—and so is their hair, which they could put up for sale. At BuyandSellHair.com, college kids can post ads—with photos of their hair—for potential buyers. People seek human hair for wigs, and hair in good condition can sell for hundreds of dollars. The ads on the site, in fact, stress length, color, and health (“never been dyed” and “nonsmoker” are popular phrases). About one in 30 people selling hair on the site is raising money for college or something related to education, says Sandip Singh, who runs the site and is based in London. His advice for those interested in selling their hair is to live a healthy lifestyle, read the guidelines and suggestions on the site, and refrain from cutting their hair until they find a buyer, who will provide personalized instructions and thus maximize their profitability.
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Become a Mystery Shopper
Mystery shoppers are those who shop, eat, or consume the services of a client’s establishment anonymously to observe and report back on the experience—from the level of service to the quality of the product. Based on the suggestions from mystery shoppers, companies might change the way they conduct business to improve services and offerings or even the training of their staff. The Mystery Shopping Providers Assn. (MSPA) is a great place to start one’s quest to become a mystery shopper. Those interested can search for openings in their area and learn the ins and outs of reporting back to client companies. Most companies, according to the site, require an application, and typical assignments pay $12 to $20. While one rarely can mystery shop full time, it does provide the dual benefit of extra pocket money and an excuse to go out (not that most college students need one, but still).
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Have an Opinion
Much like mystery shoppers, participants in focus groups are helping companies get an outside perspective on their services and products. Again, the goal is to improve everything from customer satisfaction to the particulars of a product. Typically, a marketing company conducts a focus group, and participants meet at a certain location and have to answer questions, offer suggestions, and participate in certain activities, such as using or tasting a particular product. Participants can make $50 to $100, sometimes more, for each session in which they participate. Sometimes they receive perks, such as coupons or freebies for sharing their opinion. Often, the companies organizing the focus group have certain requirements or might be looking for a certain demographic into which participants have to fit. FindFocusGroups.com offers a range of opportunities that can be searched by geographic location, which makes it a terrific starting point for those interested in signing up for a focus group. Along the same lines, some companies invite people to fill out online surveys about their experiences with their business in exchange for a small fee, usually $5 to $10.
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While snagging writing assignments from popular and well-respected media both online or in print requires proper training, experience, and the right contacts, all of which are garnered over years, students with a knack for writing practical, nonfiction articles free of glaring errors can still put their talent to use on the Internet. At such sites as Suite101, writers can pen articles on topics that interest them, which are then picked up by websites in need of relevant content. When websites choose a person’s work, the writer gets a commission. The more a story gets picked up, the more money the writer will earn. Making millions from this job is unlikely, but picking up a few extra dollars is a definite possibility, especially if writers make their stories search-friendly.