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Back to school and need a side gig? College students have options. Just don’t deliver food

Two people riding a bicycle.
Brothers Ryan, right, and Evan Abdollahi ride to class on the USC campus in August for the first day of in-person classes.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

School is back in session and that has millions of college students grappling with an age-old question. How can they earn a few bucks for books, beer and other necessities without messing up their grades or their social lives? Side hustles for college students deliver spending money while still offering the flexibility that a full class schedule requires. Some can even help students earn better grades.

What are the best side hustles for college students?

Take class notes

One side hustle for college students involves taking notes in class and selling them.

Three sites — StudySoup, NexusNotes and Stuvia — offer attractive pay for uploading and selling class notes to other students at your university. Each has its own pay formula. But you usually get a bonus when someone signs up to get access to your notes, plus a payment for each set of notes that sell. Students say they can earn $250 to $500 per class, per semester. Because this job requires taking great class notes, you’re likely to do better in school.

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Notably, most universities hire students for the same job through the school’s disability services department. Colleges typically pay per class, while note-selling websites typically pay per study guide or upload.

Become a tutor

Many younger students have fallen behind academically this last year as they struggled with distance learning. That opens an opportunity for those who have mastered a subject, from high school algebra to Spanish, to teach that subject to others. A number of tutoring platforms allow you to sign up and tutor online or in person. Some of the best: Wyzant, Varsity Tutors, and, for those who want to teach music, LessonFace.

Try being a survey taker

Although survey sites’ hourly wages are nothing to crow about, they offer the ideal way to turn a few minutes between classes into an income-earning opportunity.

The best option in this category is a site called Prolific, which helps researchers find pre-screened survey participants. What makes this site better than most is that it asks you to answer qualifying questions — age, income, family status, etc. — upfront. Then, the site sends you only the surveys that you’re qualified to take. You’re given an estimate of the time it will require to take each survey and how much it pays. You decide whether it’s worth your time.

Other sites, such as Swagbucks and Survey Junkie, will also pay you to take surveys. However, with these sites, you “qualify” on a survey-by-survey basis. That means you may waste a lot of time answering the same “qualifying” questions with each survey, only to find out that you don’t qualify to get paid.

Charge scooters and electric bikes

Big campuses are often littered with electric scooters and bikes that can be unlocked and ridden around campus. Riders can drop the scooters just about anywhere. So scooter companies, such as Bird and Lime, enlist “chargers” and “juicers” to pick them up, charge them overnight and return them to a designated area early the next morning.

If you have a late class, there are two benefits to signing up to charge. First, you earn between $5 and $20 for each scooter you return fully charged. You also get to ride the scooters home for free, which isn’t a bad way to get back to your dorm.

Assemble furniture

If you have the skill to put together IKEA furniture, you can list your services on TaskRabbit and make a few bucks. At TaskRabbit, you determine which services you are willing to offer and what you charge. Taskers charge from $15 to $45 an hour for furniture assembly and light handyman services, such as hanging pictures and moving furniture.

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Avoid food delivery

Notably, one of the best-known side hustles for college students is to deliver food through sites such as Grubhub, DoorDash and UberEats. But SideHusl.com does not recommend these jobs in a college town. Why? You use your own car and gas to schlep food around town. But most delivery jobs pay decently only when people tip, and college students are notoriously bad tippers.

Kristof is the editor of SideHusl.com, an independent website that reviews moneymaking opportunities in the gig economy.


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