You did everything you were supposed to do when figuring out how to pay for college tuition: Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), apply for college grants and scholarships, and save money by working part-time. Despite all of your efforts, you still might have a financial gap and need some extra money to pay for school.
While getting an on-campus job or taking up a traditional side hustle such as tutoring are good options, they also take up a lot of time. Here are some unusual — but creative — ways to pay for college while you’re still in school.
1. Donate blood or reproductive cells
Don’t worry, we’re not saying you should sell your kidney on the black market just to afford college tuition. What you can do is legally sell other things your body produces to make some extra cash.
One of the easiest options is to sell your blood plasma. The process is similar to giving blood but can take up to an hour to complete because of additional steps, like returning the processed blood to your body. For your efforts, you could be compensated up to $400 a month, according to major donation center CSL Plasma.
The only requirements are that you’re at least 18 years old, weigh a minimum of 110 pounds, and pass a medical screening.
Other body part options include selling your sex cells. For men, this means donating sperm, which can earn you between $35 and $50 per donation. Sperm donors must be at least 18 years old, healthy, have no family history of genetic diseases, and cannot be adopted.
Women, on the other hand, can make thousands of dollars by donating their eggs, if you meet specific requirements and are willing to go through a more involved process. Over the course of about four weeks, you’ll go through a series of appointments to prepare your body for producing a lot of eggs. Once your eggs are retrieved in a medical procedure, you’ll require at least one day of downtime to recover. For your commitment, however, you can receive $10,000 in compensation.
But the payoff is not without risks. Some women experience mild side effects with the hormone treatments, such as “minor bruising at the injection site,” to rare but serious risks — including infection — according to Weill Cornell Medicine. Due to the invasive nature of this process, it’s important to understand what you’ll be putting your body through (and whether it’s personally the right decision for you), before moving forward.
2. Participate in a research study
If you’re not into the idea of giving up your plasma or cells as a way to figure out how to pay for college with no money, then consider participating in a study. Organizations across the country are looking for participants to test everything from new medical products to the effects on an astronaut’s body.
The National Institute for Health has a database, ClincalTrials.gov, where you can search for human clinical studies around the world. The compensation varies depending on the time commitment required.
For example, one Virginia college student reportedly made between $300 to $750 a session for participating in sleep and medical trials. A list of New York University research studies reveals you can make $5 for a 30-minute speech study or $40 for a 90-minute communications research project.
3. Set up a crowdfunding website
Wondering how to pay for college without your parents’ help? Ask strangers (or other friends and family) for donations. There are some crowdfunding websites such as GoFundMe, ScholarMatch, and YouCaring that let you tell your story, explain your struggle, and ask generous people to donate money to your cause.
Boston University student Alexis-Brianna Felix was able to raise over $9,000 from 225 people to help her stay in school when she was struggling financially. The only time commitment is that you have to set up a fundraising page and then market it across your social media accounts.
Although it’s free cash without very little work, it’s important to note these websites charge various fees to set up a page and might take a portion of your donations. Make sure to read the fine print before deciding on which one to use.
4. Canvas for a political organization
The political climate is particularly hot right now, and more organizations are looking to have their voices heard. One of the great ways to pay for college is to become a canvasser, going door-to-door spreading the word for smaller interest groups, non-profits, or governmental candidates.
According to Glassdoor, you could make anywhere from $10 an hour to over $25,000 a year, depending on how much time you are willing to invest. Some organizations even offer benefits, and many have flexible hours so that you can fit it in between classes. If you are particularly passionate about a cause, this might not even feel like work for you.
To find gigs in your area, simply head to a job search website such as Indeed and look up “canvasser,” or research an organization you’re interested in and see if they have any canvassing opportunities available.
5. Buy liquor
This may be one of the most creatives ways to pay for college if you’re 21 or older. No, you’re not doing beer runs for frat parties. Instead, companies such as Sinclair and The Source hire people to buy booze at liquor stores to see if the cashier asks for an I.D.
After an incognito liquor run, you’ll fill out an evaluation of your experience and get paid. It’s that simple.
If booze isn’t your thing, these companies also offer other mystery shopper gigs. Opportunities include: Checking the quality of produce in a grocery store, ensuring customer service is top-notch, and making sure products are priced competitively.
All of these gigs pay differently depending on the company. Some are hourly, and others are per assignment, but according to Glassdoor, you can make about $15 to $20 an hour.
Depending on your flexibility and whether you’re willing to participate in some of these uncommon side income ideas, you could earn a significant amount of cash without having to ditch class.
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