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College Advice

Side Hustles in College

DormEssentials April 27, 2018

No doubt about it—the side hustle is a staple of our generation. Whether it’s creating Facebook or Reddit, making it big in music like MGMT or Diplo, creating a lit blog or Instagram, or achieving prosperity using some other platform, millennial college kids have a knack for taking a hobby or an interest or an idea and transforming it into a culture-shifting force. And there is a reason college serves as the backdrop for do much of it: it is a time of new experiences. You are meeting new people and coming to see the world in new ways. You are in a dorm or apartment surrounded by these bright young minds with the world at your fingertips. And you have nothing to lose to work on your side hustles in college.

Being broke is also a staple of the millennial generation, a fact perhaps felt most acutely while accruing debt from tuition with exactly zero dollars in income. It is only natural to seek some way to earn money, but the question is how to go about it. You could probably get an hourly job at a coffee shop or a library. Perhaps you could do secretarial work or find a grocery store gig. Maybe you enjoy it. Maybe it pays well. Maybe you need the steady and immediate income given your particular circumstances. These are all understandable reasons—but how can you find a side hustle which exploits your unique and valuable position as a college student?

How to pick a side hustle

The easiest way is to find a side hustle that corroborates with your future ambitions. Do you want to go into healthcare? Then find employment as a hospital aide. You will be paid while gaining invaluable experience that prepares you for your future career and gives you a competitive advantage come application time. Want to go into research? Find a paid research position as a lab assistant on campus or at a biotech company nearby. How about finance, or law, or engineering, or education, or technology? They all have their analogous hourly, part-time gigs that help you learn more about the career, gain entry-level work experience, and get a modest income while still a student.

While finding employment is a secure way to steadily gain experience and a safe, secure income, maybe you are more entrepreneurial in spirit, and being a pawn for some corporation does not at all sound appealing to you. If so, self-employment is your outlet, and you should aim your efforts towards innovation. No doubt, reflecting on the superstars coming out of college, the innovators are the ones that shine brightest.

Align your side hustle to larger goals

There are many ways to find a self-employment hustle while a college student. Come up with an idea for a mobile app and work with your buddies to develop it into a company. And it doesn’t have to be a Tinder or a Snapchat. Think about the archaic tasks you have at hand which still have not undergone mobile transformation. Remember what it was like to print Mapquest directions when you wanted to go somewhere before Google Maps became accessible on your phone? Well, how about the pain of finding a good Doctor—could you imagine an app that is the Yelp for healthcare? What about anticipating the line at the grocery store, or having a way to check how crowded the dining hall, gym, or bus was at a given time? How about a platform to share study materials and advice on each course you needed to take from students who have already taken it? What about an easy way to find an apartment or a roommate? The list continues.

But maybe tech doesn’t quite tickle your fancy. Maybe you are more a trendsetter with a keen eye for fashion, or perhaps a photographer, a skateboarder, or even a poet. Maybe you are into fitness or yoga, vegan cooking, interior design, or music production. Start a blog. Make an Instagram account dedicated to sharing your work. Be an influencer.

How about social issues? Are you passionate about politics? Are you distraught by global warming? What about ensuring voting rights? How about access to education and healthcare? Find a few friends who share your interest, and do good in the community. Maybe start a non-profit. Change the world.

College is a great time to do these things because you are young, full of ideas, living without the deadline of real bills, and surrounded by people sharing your optimism and eagerness to do something meaningful. Finding the time for these side hustles won’t be easy. The side hustle isn’t just about scraping together money—it is about being passionate about something and turning that passion into achievement. The first step is always having a vision, and your predecessors have taught you to think big. Want more examples for inspiration? Look up Forbes’ 30 under 30.

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