Side Hustles for College Students

Side Hustles for College Students

28 September, 2021


College students get the bad end of the deal financially. Most can’t afford schooling out of pocket, which means they have to take out student loans, rocketing them into debt before even setting foot in the professional world. But they also don’t have access to job opportunities that could lessen the burden. Sustainable-wage jobs require years of experience these days and full-time hours. Unfortunately, college attendees usually have neither.

With busy schedules and mentally-taxing class work on their hands, it can be hard for students to find a job that fits them. That’s where the side hustle comes in. It’s the most flexible option to help you earn some extra cash, build up your work portfolio, and create future working opportunities. Here’s what you need to know about them.

What is a Side Hustle?

“Side hustle” is a relatively newer term, but social media frequenters likely recognize it. (Or anyone who winces at their weekly iPhone activity report). You can’t escape people boasting about their new jewelry business here or their freelancing gig there. And that essentially summarizes what a side hustle is. It’s work.

However, since it’s to the “side,” it doesn’t take the place of a 9-to-5. Instead, people use their down-time or weekends for it. While that sounds like a bummer, it’s a great way to pad your savings and earn spending money. Also, people tend to use them to explore their passions, like art or writing. So, you’re still using your time for something you enjoy.

Depending on the person, you may want to start your own side hustle, like an Etsy Shop. Or, you can start working on a freelance, part-time, contract, or on-call basis.

Reasons to Start a Side Hustle

There’s the obvious reason: you need money and it’s not bad to be honest about that. We all work to support ourselves in our daily lives and to fund our future goals. But there are more reasons to pursue a side hustle.

To start, college is the perfect place to start building up your professional persona. You’re in school to learn anyway. So, while you study to improve your book-based knowledge, you can also develop skills that will help you in the workforce. Essentially, you’re creating a chance to apply what you learn in class. Whether that’s writing, communication, or computational skills, you’re letting them grow in the real world.

And that real world experience is invaluable. It gives you a confidence boost that many don’t know until they’re already out of college, along with important learning lessons. That gives you a competitive edge over your classmates.

Finally, dipping your toes into the professional world will open future doors. You can build a network today that will help you tomorrow. Even if you don’t continue in your current industry, contacts often act as stepping stones to the next one.

Types of Side Hustles for College Students

There are dozens and dozens of jobs available to college students these days. Here are just a few that might pique your interest:


As long as there’s school, there will be a need for tutors. And there’s a ton of variety, making it easy to form-fit the job to you. For example, if you’re a college student with a car and extra time, you can do in-person tutoring. In that case, there are probably schools near you looking for tutoring help at an elementary, middle, and high school level. Your own college may be looking for tutors, too, such as in a writing center. Or, you can go through a tutoring service that connects you with local students, meeting at their homes.

But, it’s still possible even if you have a tighter schedule and no transportation. Instead, look for online tutoring gigs. A virtual role comes with more flexible hours and a wider pool of students. Some options include, Skooli, and TakeLessons.

Pay Rate: Around $21 per hour on average, according to ZipRecruiter

Walk Dogs or Pet Sit

Who doesn’t love spending time with adorable animals? Aside from anyone allergy-prone, taking care of animals can be a rewarding side gig. Even your university knows it – after all, that’s why so many implement “Pet Your Stress Away” programs during finals week. It reduces cortisol levels, meaning you feel less stressed by the time you walk away.

On that note, walking dogs is another great way to earn money, like through Wag! and Rover. For some, getting to the gym regularly is hard. But with this, you can structure some extra exercise into your day alongside a fluffy companion. And the nice thing about animals is that you can always tell when they’re happy to see you – unlike your scowling professors.

Pay Rate: Around $14 per hour on average, according to ZipRecruiter

Participate in College Studies

Try participating in paid studies on campus. Some universities offer studies through their psychology department. For example, Boston University’s Behavioral Lab offers $10 to $20 per hour for doing a study, which Harvard’s Decision Lab typically offers between $15-$20. And pro tip: 90% of the time the studies take less than an hour, so you really are earning more for your time! And you don’t even have to be a student at that particular university to participate. In fact, most schools appreciate more diverse study pools, so feel free to look for paid studies at any university near you!

Pay Rate:About $20 per half hour

House Sit

Maybe you’re hyper-allergic to cat dander, or maybe it’s already hard enough taking care of yourself. Either way, the pet route won’t work for you. There are still options available to you in the same vein of work – like house sitting. You can check out websites like Trusted House Sitters and Nomador.

The best part of this is the privacy. When you’re at college, you usually have to share a dorm room and a bathroom. There’s hardly any comfortable place that’s also quiet. Housesitting allows you to escape the noise and focus on your studies. Sometimes, homeowners are so grateful, they may even leave you bonuses in the form of gift cards or food.

Pay Rate: Around $34 per hour on average (varies by location), according to ZipRecruiter

Help People Move

This is the go-to option for guys and avid fitness fans. Your strength will come in handy when you have to lift heavy boxes or furniture for this job. More than handy, though, it’s necessary. All that labor comes at a physical toll you need to prepare for.

Joining a moving service might take more time than you can offer during the school year. So, this may be an option for anyone who wants to work in the summer instead. Actually, peak moving season tends to start around April and end in September. Therefore, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy during that time. You can go through a service, like Strong College Students, or join up with a couple of friends and accept online advertisements. The best part? People often tip.

Pay Rate: Around $15 per hour on average, according to ZipRecruiter

Become a Campus Ambassador

You probably already have apparel from your campus store. You’re practically free advertising when you wear your college’s name on you. Wouldn’t you prefer getting paid for it?

The job description for a campus ambassador likely changes depending on your school. For example, some may have you work in the Admissions Office. There, you talk to new or prospective students, check them in, organize their visiting schedule, and more. Other times, particularly in the fall, you act as a tour guide. That includes weekly tours, working during open houses, and other special events. You essentially act as a wealth of campus information for anyone and everyone to access.

Since it’s on campus, you don’t have to worry about a commute. And, it rewards you for your school spirit.

Pay Rate: Around $13 per hour on average, according to ZipRecruiter

Deliver Food

College students have an appetite unlike any other age group. As a result, you’re probably familiar with the big-name delivery apps like DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Postmates. This can be a nice way to earn some extra cash for anyone with a car who prefers more anonymous work. All you have to do is pick up the food or goods and drop them off with the customer.

According to research done by Zion & Zion, a digital marketing agency, people 18 to 29 are the biggest restaurant delivery users. So, you’ll have tons of hungry students waiting for delivery, meaning you’ll always have work. Plus, most of your customers will be concentrated near the college campus, which keeps your deliveries close by.

Pay Rate: Around $13 per hour on average, according to PayScale


Freelancing is a grab-bag of experiences and opportunities. It’s not the same work across the board. Instead, it depends on you, your skills, and your employment of interest. Because of that, there’s always something for any type of person.

Some of the most popular options include online tutoring, graphic design, content creation, website development, voiceover work, and video editing.

Of course, the type you choose will affect the amount you earn. For instance, Upwork, a marketplace for freelancers, reports that graphic designers charge an average of $25 per hour. However, more experienced designers can charge as much as $150 per hour. So, it varies. In contrast, Upwork copy editor rates fluctuate from $30 per hour to $100 according to their experience.

Pay Rate: Around $32 per hour on average, according to ZipRecruiter

Capitalize on Your Niche Interest

Everyone has something that fascinates them. Think about it. What’s the one topic you can’t wait to talk your friend’s ear off about? Maybe it’s a sub-genre of movies, true-crime stories, indie video games, or even deep ecology. Regardless, there’s always someone out there who will want to listen. It’s up to you to find that audience.

A blog is one of the simplest ways for a student to start. After all, you only need your laptop and web hosting, like Bluehost or DreamHost. On top of that, you decide your uploading schedule and from where. You don’t have to accommodate an employer or worry about conflicts.

Alternatively, if writing isn’t your forte, you can try other mediums. Podcasts are currently very popular, with over half of U.S. consumers listening to them. Or, you can try setting up a YouTube channel. It all depends on the method most comfortable for you.

Pay Rate: Around $15 per hour on average (varies greatly), according to PayScale

The Takeaway

Remember, these are just a fraction of the possibilities. Don’t be afraid to get creative or take advantage of campus opportunities, either. Your college likely holds an annual job fair where you can meet prospective employers for summer jobs, internships, or even post-graduate positions. Or, you can pay a visit to the campus career center. There, you can find a wide array of resources, from mock interviews to job advertisements.

Building up your finances takes more than active employment, though. You need to learn how to budget and save. Envel makes banking easy for beginners and students alike to gain control over their earnings. The best part is that there are no monthly fees or minimum balances. So, your money stays with you.

With Envel, you can create envelopes that make it simple to divvy your savings. So, you have a place to store your gas money, your spending cash, and more. If you’re still learning the ropes, Envel’s Autopilot mode allocates funds for you. So, it takes care of the budgeting while you focus on working.

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