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10 Creative Ways to Cover Your College Costs

College financial aid advisor Jodi Okun shares 10 creative ways to cover your students college costs - from scholarships to a side hustle
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Navigating the financial hurdles of college can be daunting, but there are numerous creative strategies to help ease the burden. From scholarships to unconventional gigs, there’s options available to resourceful students (and their families). I know that closing the gap between what aid is being offered and what your family can provide can feel tricky. So, here are ten creative ways to cover your students college costs:

#1: Apply for Scholarships and Grants

Start by researching scholarships and grants offered by various organizations, institutions, and even local businesses. There are scholarships for almost everything – from academic achievements to unique hobbies and backgrounds. Don’t underestimate the power of smaller, niche scholarships; they can quickly add up and significantly reduce your student’s expenses. The best part is that scholarships are free money and don’t have to be paid back! 

#2: Freelance or Remote Work

Encourage your student to leverage their skills by freelancing in their spare time. Whether it’s graphic design, writing, coding, or tutoring, there are platforms where they can offer services remotely. Websites like Upwork, Fiverr, and provide opportunities to earn extra income on your own schedule. This can even continue while at school, if it’s beneficial for your student. 

#3: Participate in Research Studies

Many universities conduct research studies and clinical trials and are often in need of participants. These studies can range from psychological experiments to medical trials. While compensation varies, it’s a unique way to earn money while contributing to scientific advancements.

#4: Utilize Crowdfunding Platforms

Websites like GoFundMe and Kickstarter aren’t just for entrepreneurs; they can also be used to raise funds for educational expenses. Create a compelling campaign outlining your educational goals, financial situation, and why you need support. Share it with friends, family, and your social network. Your family may even consider doing this in lieu of graduation gifts. 

#5: Become a Resident Assistant (RA)

Many colleges offer free or reduced housing for students who serve as resident assistants. In addition to saving on housing costs, RAs often receive stipends or tuition waivers. It’s a great way to build leadership skills, make connections, and offset living expenses. At some schools, these positions are only available for upperclassmen, so just check out the schools’ requirements and keep it as an idea after freshman year, if necessary. 

#6: Rent Out Your Space

If your family has an extra room or property near your college campus, consider renting it out to fellow students or through platforms like Airbnb during peak tourist seasons. This can provide a steady stream of income to help cover your own housing expenses. Renting is also a great option at home, if your student’s space is open! 

#7: Explore Work-Study Programs 

Work-study programs provide part-time employment opportunities for students with financial need. These jobs are often located on campus and can range from administrative roles to positions related to your field of study. Not only do they provide income, but they also offer valuable work experience. Schedules can often be crafted around their classwork, so it’s a great option if your student can handle it! 

#8: Start a Side Business

Tap into your student’s entrepreneurial spirit by letting them start a side business. From selling handmade crafts online, offering pet sitting services, or creating a niche blog with affiliate marketing, there are countless ways to generate income outside of traditional employment.

#9: Take Advantage of Employee Benefits: 

If your student is currently employed, check if their employer offers tuition reimbursement or educational assistance programs. Some companies provide financial assistance for employees pursuing higher education relevant to their job or career advancement.

#10: Negotiate Financial Aid:

Don’t hesitate to negotiate with colleges regarding financial aid packages. If your student received offers from multiple institutions, use them as leverage to request more favorable terms. Colleges want to attract talented students, and they may be willing to offer additional grants or scholarships to make their school more affordable for you. Read more of my tips on negotiating financial aid packages here

While the cost of college can be overwhelming, there are numerous creative strategies to help finance your education. By combining some of these unique ideas, you can significantly reduce your out-of-pocket expenses. Remember to explore all options, stay proactive, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to covering your college costs! 

More about Jodi and College Financial Aid Advisors

Jodi is a FAFSA financial advisor who helps with the financial aid process to help families of college students maximize their financial aid. From completing the FAFSA and completing the CSS Profile to reviewing the SAR, responding to requests for verification, comparing financial aid offers and understanding student loan options, Jodi is a fantastic resource when it comes to student financial aid. Schedule a 15 Minute Power Chat to learn more about finding ways to pay for college.

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