15 Creative Ways to Pay for College

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There's no doubt about it – college is ridiculously expensive. From tuition, room and board, food and fun, the best four years of your life can really hurt your pocketbook. Rest assured, you aren't alone in your agony. Thankfully, there are several different ways to help lessen the burden of college tuition and living expenses. With a little patience and a lot of creativity, you too can start earning money to pay for college. Here are 15 creative ways to pay for college:

  1. Do Odd Jobs: If you want to work to pay for school, you should consider doing some odd jobs to bring in extra cash. Odd jobs vary in strangeness and pay. For example, you can donate your plasma, become a test subject at your school's health center, pose nude for a life drawing class or walk dogs for money every month and put it all toward school.
  2. Go to a Tuition-Free College: If taking out student loans or working three jobs to pay for college don't appeal to you, then why not consider going to a tuition-free college? Yes, you heard right, tuition-free! Tuition-free colleges, also known as full-scholarship colleges, are real four-year schools that pay for all students' tuition costs. There are only a handful of full-scholarship colleges in the country, but most are specialized institutions or have mandatory work-study programs.
  3. Apply to Scholarships: This may not be the most creative idea, but you'd be surprised how many students don't even try to apply for scholarships during their college career. Scholarships are still one of the best ways to get money for college. Not only are they free to apply for, but they can be used for tuition, room and board, food, textbooks or any college supplies you need.
  4. Get AP Credits: Before you enter college, consider taking college-level advanced placement courses and exams in high school that will help you earn college credit and save some dough. Depending on your exam scores, you may be able to enter college with enough credits to move into upper level courses because you've tested out of the basics. And fewer classes could be the difference between graduating early or paying for all four years.
  5. Enter Essay Contests: Entering essay contests is a great way to earn some extra cash for college. Each essay contest has a different set of writing prompts, eligibility requirements, rules and prizes. If you're a good writer, who's willing to put in the extra time to submit a bunch of essays, this may be your ticket to paying for college.
  6. Do Community Service: Donate your time to help others and get some of your student loan debt paid for through organizations like SponsorChange.org and CharityForDebt.org. These sites connect skilled college grads with volunteer organizations to complete service projects and get sponsors to help pay for their debt.
  7. Apply for Weird Scholarships: If you're not an athlete or straight-A student but desperately need financial help, you may have what it takes to get a weird scholarship. Weird scholarships award students who have unusual talents, qualities and interests. You can even win a weird scholarship by entering in several contests, such as the Duct Tape Prom Dress Competition or the National Beef Ambassador Program.
  8. Transfer Schools: Transferring schools can help students pay for college by lessening the cost of attending the same school for four years. Students often spend the first year or two at a community college to get their basic classes out of the way and save money, then transfer to a four-year college to get their degree. However, some students have to do it the opposite because they can no longer afford to attend a four-year university and have to transfer to a community college. Whichever way you do it, transferring is a huge money saver and may be your best option.
  9. Get Sponsored: You might have a rich aunt or generous family friend who's willing to throw some cash your way, but if you'd rather not beg them for money, try getting sponsored. One source for sponsorship is SponsorMyDegree.com, a free online service that links needy students with individuals and companies that want to sponsor them and help pay for their education. Each student gets to create his or her own profile page and can promote it as much as possible to get more money for college.
  10. Start a Blog: Blogging provides a therapeutic way to vent about your financial frustrations, but it can also help you fund your college education. Once you start your blog, determine your niche and start producing content, you can get businesses to sponsor you in exchange for featuring their ads on your blog. Sponsors pay you in hopes of getting more business with their ads.
  11. Find a Job in Public Service: If you don't want to fret about paying for college while you're in college, you can shift your sights on finding a job in public service after graduation. In addition to good job stability and favorable pay and benefits, public service jobs also have a loan forgiveness program that will pay any employee's remaining debt after 10 years of full-time employment.
  12. Sell Your Stuff Online: An easy way to make money and pay for college is to sell your belongings online. Online marketplaces, such as Craigslist, eBay and Amazon, let you list items that are for sale, post descriptions, pictures and an asking price. You can make a killing doing this, but make sure you aren't selling family heirlooms and keepsakes you'll want after college.
  13. Enter Random Contests and Competitions: Your campus and college town most likely have random contests and competitions going on every month that offer cash prizes for winners. From karaoke contests, talent shows to 5k races, you can put your talents to good use and get paid to be the best.
  14. Go to a College with Locked-In Tuitions: Avoid tuition spikes and paying out the wazoo for school by attending a college with locked-in tuition rates. A locked-in tuition program will keep the tuition rate you pay as a freshman the same until you graduate. There's a handful of four-year colleges that have a locked-in tuition program, but be aware that some offer this option for free and others charge fees.
  15. Recycle for Money: There are several ways to earn money for college by simply recycling your junk. You can sell back your old cell phone, electronics and get paid for recycling everyday items, such as plastic, glass and paper. You may not earn enough money to pay for tuition, but it can certainly help pay for groceries, clothes and other expenses from time to time.
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