Therese Ton, a student at Swarthmore College
The trick is to not work hard, but work smart. Working is the obvious way you can make money, but it is not the only way. I’m going to share with you some of the best jobs you can get on campus, as well as less traditional alternatives.
Tips for Applying to Campus Jobs
If you're on work-study, meaning that the money from your campus employment goes toward your tuition, colleges will make sure you get a job — so you can breathe a little. However, that does not mean you should slack off on your application.
Whether you're on work-study or not, make sure you stop by your college’s career service center so the people there can edit your résumé and cover letter. With résumés, you should quantify your achievements, meaning use numbers to describe your impact. For example, “I have created X Excel spreadsheets.”
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Avoid the deadly word “help” at all costs. It does not add any value to your résumé because it doesn’t tell the employer what you specifically did. How did you help? By coordinating? By leading a project?
Use resources like this list of action verbs to strengthen your résumé.
Apply to as many jobs as possible on campus so you can create multiple options for yourself.
Make sure you pick jobs you can dedicate your time to so that your college can give the unfilled spots to other students. Below is a roundup of top college jobs and other moneymaking activities to consider.
Best Ways to Make Money in College
1. Library Assistant
Everyone already knows this is one of the best jobs on any college campus. I can't speak for all colleges, but at Swarthmore College, the student workers scan and check out books, then resume doing their coursework on the side. Sometimes the librarians ask student workers to shelf books, but overall there's a lot of free time when you're sitting at the checkout.
“I saved so much time being a librarian assistant. Also, working at the library actually made me want to do homework instead of procrastinating,” says Samuel Yosh, a Cornell University alumnus.
Always look for a win-win situation where you can get paid and get work done!
Babysitting for your professor or coach’s children can be a lucrative way to earn money. Why? First, you can develop a good relationship with the professor or coach, which may lead to a strong recommendation letter for graduate school or employment.
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Second, babysitting usually doesn’t require a lot aside from watching the kids while you do coursework when they're asleep, and you're waiting for their parents to return.
Of course, the amount and type of work will vary depending on how old the children are. The older they are, the less you need to watch over them and the more time you may have to do your own assignments.
But make sure you actually like kids. Parents want to know you’re going to spend time with their kids, not just use them to make bank. This is a job, so take responsibility for what you promise to do.
Babysitting also looks great on a résumé because it shows that you can be responsible and act as a leader.
Bingxin Tu, a student at Swarthmore College, recounts her babysitting experience: “My coach sent his kid out to the neighbors to play so I had about an hour a day to work. Definitely a good experience if you like playing with and entertaining children.”
However, she adds that some parents are much more flexible than others, so it's not guaranteed that you’ll have time to do your own work.
3. One-Off Jobs
Don’t have time for a consistent job? Take up one-off gigs, which are perfect for students who have a varied schedule and workload:
- Usher at school theaters: Pass out show schedules and guide guests to their seats. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes because you will stand for a while as people are watching the shows.
- Photographer: Take pictures at school events for school or department websites, social media, and posters. I loved being a photographer because I could take pictures and eat some of the food at the events.
4. Mail Room Assistant
As with being a library assistant, you will have downtime being a mail-room assistant. Most of what you'll do involves getting mail or packages for students. There will be rush hours and quiet hours, so if you want to do work, make sure you figure out your schedule carefully.
“I can get 20 pages of reading in while working for two hours,” says Emily Sheng, a graduate of Swarthmore College.
5. Administrative Assistant
You may start recognizing the pattern, but most jobs that are relaxing and allow you to do coursework on the side are desk jobs. Being an administrative assistant is no different. This may be in the admissions office, career service center, or academic departments.
Bing Chen, who attends New York University, works as a desk assistant at the university’s gallery. Her job responsibilities include “greeting visitors, answering the phone, watching the surveillance cameras, and organizing catalog sales.”
6. Sell Textbooks
We all know that buying textbooks is expensive, but have you ever thought about reselling them?
Here's the secret: Buying and reselling textbooks is actually better than renting them, which is what most students do.
As long as you treat the textbook well and don't mark it up, most people would be willing to buy used textbooks in good condition. In fact, Josh Li, an alumnus of Hamilton College, made over $400 from selling his old textbooks.
7. Start a Business
There are many success stories of college students starting their own businesses. Reddit began at the University of Virginia, Facebook at Harvard University, and Insomnia Cookies at the University of Pennsylvania.
At Swarthmore College, Therese Ton, class of ’19, started her own baking business called Toscah Bakery. Realizing that she can use her family’s secret recipe for soft-baked biscotti to start a business, she approached a local café, which agreed to sell her biscotti.
“One thing led to another, and I started developing new recipes and baking a variety of baked desserts to sell to a bakery, including sea salt dark chocolate cake, London Fog cake, New York cheesecake, strawberry shortcake, sea salt molten chocolate lava cake, and carrot cake,” Ton says.
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Her business has been thriving on campus, and her story is one of the many that demonstrate how creative, entrepreneurial, and successful college students can be. So if you have an idea in mind, take the first step and go for it!
Ways to Make Money in College: Final Tips
In general, jobs that let you do your work without requiring to do much else are the best. However, it goes without saying that everyone’s preferences are different. Just as we all pursue different career paths, it’s the same with college jobs.
I’ve listed only a taste of job opportunities here — remember, you're not limited to just these options. Choose jobs that match your interests and schedule.
Now, go get that dough!