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How to Get Into & Pay for College

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Launch Your Dorm Room Empire

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By: Gen and Kelly Tanabe
Founders of SuperCollege and authors of 13 books on college planning.

Gen and Kelly Tanabe can answer your question in Expert Advice.



To make extra money as college students, we always had part-time jobs. These included some truly odd jobs such as watching dozens of hours of boring video as part of a paid psychological experiment, cleaning homes in spite of an allergy to dust and flipping burgers on Friday nights. Okay, so the last job was not that unusual and was actually pretty fun. In any case, the extra cash that we earned from these occupations went a long way in making our college experience more enjoyable—after all it's hard to have a good time when you are broke.

In our entrepreneurial climate, students are increasingly shunning traditional part-time jobs and meeting their financial needs with a combination of resourcefulness and moxie. This does not mean that non-traditional work is easy. In fact, in some cases these imaginative entrepreneurial ventures are more difficult than conventional jobs. But the payoffs come in the flexibility to determine one's own schedule and therefore not have to sacrifice the full benefits of the college experience. For many, it is also their first foray into entrepreneurship, a valuable business lesson. For a few, it even leads to a career.

The following ideas showcase some of the successful alternatives that students have used to fund their education. While these money-makers have the potential to generate substantial income, they are best used to fill the gaps in your finances.




Recycle your way to riches.

See that pile of cans in the corner of your room? Look closer. Besides being an ant haven, it's actually a pile of cash. If you live in a state with a redemption tax, you are sitting on potentially hundreds of dollars in cans and bottles. But since you personally can only drink so many six packs of Mountain Dew, you'll need to harness the collective consumption of your entire dorm to make recycling profitable.

Some students set up recycling boxes outside their dorm rooms and at parties. Others have even provided regular door-to-door pick up of cans and bottles. One student in California, a state that has a 5-cent redemption, makes $50 a month just from his dorm mates' cans.




Organize an Ebay sell-a-thon.

People have stuff they don't use – even college students. With the limited storage space in a dorm room, combined with the annual move at the end of the school term, you have the perfect opportunity to help turn one person's junk into another person's treasure.

One college student began by organizing a monthly Ebay sell-a-thon in his dorm. (For the uninitiated, millions of people sell unwanted items on online auction sites like Ebay or Yahoo.) For a 20-percent commission, this student wrote the description, took a digital photo, posted the item for sale on the online auction site and shipped the goods to the buyer. Students were glad to pay the commission to get rid of their unused belongings.

You can also do this offline by posting communal "For Sale" signs around campus. On one poster, list everyone's items and your phone number as the primary contact. You handle all of the inquiries and negotiate the sales, and you get a percentage of each sale, while your friends get some money for their goods.




Bake your own bread.

There are two things college students can never get enough of: sleep and food. You can't help students get more sleep. But if you have a knack for baking or candy making, you could start a small empire supplying late-night snacks and brain food.

Begin small and build a reputation. The best types of food are non-perishable snacks like cookies, brownies and candy. One student made lollipops using her mother's secret recipe. In fact, she was so successful that when she graduated, she actually sold her recipe and supplies to an underclassman who gladly took over her business.


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By: Gen & Kelly Tanabe
Pages: 512
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