The cost of college is a hot button topic in the US. University tuition costs significantly more than it did just a few decades ago, but student wages haven’t kept up. The glory days of being able to work a part time summer job to pay for a semester of schooling have passed. There’s an entire gauntlet of paperwork to go through for financial aid. Most college families apply for FAFSA. From there, students apply for scholarships, grants, work study programs, and other funding. Chances are, you already know the mainstream advice for how to finance college. But a few quirky college students have stories that might surprise you.
Alternatives to Federal Aid
If you don’t qualify for federal aid, or you don’t have enough federal aid to meet your needs, you still have options. You can apply for grants and scholarships. Different schools may have their own financial aid packages available to students who qualify. Another option is to borrow from a private lender. You’ll be given a contract up front that explains your repayment obligations, the interest rate, and any stipulations surrounding the loan. If you know how much you need to borrow already, use a student loan calculator from Earnest to determine how much you’ll be liable for after graduation. Some students have found enterprising ways to earn the money. They run their own small businesses and use the profits to pay for their tuition. It’s a hardworking combination of drive and a dream.
The Potential in a Rusty Lawnmower
A student named Gene Caballero began saving for college while still in high school. His goal was to have the money to cover his tuition, so he wouldn’t have to worry about loan debt. But it was hard to find a job with hours that accommodated his school schedule. That was when Gene examined his surroundings. He realized that there was a commercial grade lawnmower belonging to his uncle that was hardly ever used. Gene struck a deal with his uncle. Rather than paying to rent the lawnmower, he cut his uncle’s grass for free. In exchange, he was allowed to borrow the mower to cut grass for other people.
You might not think cutting lawns is a lucrative business. But Gene did enough market research to pull in significant amounts of money. His high school mowing business was so successful that he continued doing so throughout his first two years of college. Gene graduated debt-free with his degree. Instead of hanging up the mower, he created a full-time business to help people connect with lawn care in their area. Now it’s his lifetime career.
Restoring Sports Equipment
You’ve probably seen TV shows about flipping industries. Experts buy something in poor condition, fix it up, and sell it for a massive profit. It’s a popular niche for real estate developers. Sometimes car mechanics will restore old classics to rake in the big bucks. A student named Sean Potter had a different idea. He didn’t have the capital to buy an entire house or new parts for a classic car. But he did have one niche that he knew well: softball bats. For a while, Sean specialized exclusively in softball bats. He knew everything about them: their quality, their materials, their market price. When he would find a good deal online, he’d jump at the chance.
Then he would resell the bats to the softball leagues around his town for significantly more.
One bat might cost about a hundred dollars online. But Sean was able to sell them in person for up to three hundred dollars, tripling his money. He pulled in several thousand dollars in profit during his college years. After that business had been established, Sean began venturing into other arenas. He flipped concert tickets by purchasing them with a student discount, waiting for tickets to sell out, and then reselling them through Craigslist. (If you’re thinking about doing this yourself, be aware that different states have different laws regarding ticket reselling.) With his flipping businesses, Sean paid his college tuition, saved over 100,000 dollars by age 25, and was nearly ready to retire by the time he reached his 30s.
Being Tech Savvy Pays Off
Technology is an industry that’s constantly evolving, growing, and changing. And it’s confusing. Many older people grew up without smartphones and internet. They don’t know their way around electronics. The tech game seems to be one that’s built for the younger generation that grew up around these devices. It’s no secret that tech gigs pay well. But if you play your cards right, owning your own tech company can bring in income beyond what you’d imagined. At least, that was the case for Nick Gray.
Nick first got into web design as a high school freshman. As he created his own web pages, he realized that he needed a host. So did a lot of other people. Hosting servers are what store the information on your website so that others can connect to it on the internet. Instead of paying for an existing service, Nick went the DIY route. He made his own web server company and hosted other people’s sites. The company grew throughout high school, to the point where he received a monetary scholarship for high achievement. On top of that scholarship, his business was making around 15,000 dollars annually in profits. He used that money to cover the remaining college tuition.
Nick’s web hosting company was small, in terms of the technology world. There are some server hosts that make millions of dollars. But he was one high schooler creating his own business and pulling in enough money to graduate from school debt-free. Maybe you have some technological prowess yourself, or maybe not. But chances are, there’s something that you’re good at. There’s some skill or niche that you know more about than most people around you. Is it possible that you could use your knowledge to meet other people’s needs? And if so, could you make an income for yourself too?