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9 Creative and Crazy Ways That Students Have Paid for College

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Some college students have gone to extreme lengths to help fund their education. A radical approach isn't surprising, considering that the average costs of college tuition, fees, and room and board total $21,370 to $48,510 per school year.

At the national minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, it would take a year of working 57 to 129 hours per week to pay your tuition bill.

What are students doing instead? Here are nine offbeat and interesting ways that students have earned money to pay for college to prevent years of financial problems.

1. Competitive Eating

A computer engineering major, Eric "Silo" Dahl, earned more than $18,000 toward his degree through competitive eating contests. At one point, the University of Wisconsin student even held the top spot in All Pro Eating rankings.

"I'm eating for my education," he told CBS. "It helps me get through."

Competitive eating isn't for the faint of heart though. Dahl has eaten 25 sandwiches in five minutes, nine pulled-pork sandwiches in six minutes, and wolfed down an 8-pound burger in 35 minutes. To train, he eats only one large meal a day and stretches his stomach capacity by eating 10 pounds of cabbage or broccoli.

2. Spend a Day Glued to a Billboard

When one PR agency was promoting a book launch, it hired a London college student named Dave Lions to help out.

His job was to be stuck to a billboard for a day. In exchange, the company agreed to help pay his college tuition. Lions said that the experience was, "like being stuck under a huge duvet."

3. Pay Your Tuition with Livestock

In one short-lived program at Lindenwood University, small farming families have bartered pigs in exchange for tuition. At the time, about 25 hogs covered an annual tuition bill of $11,200, and the exchange added pork chops to the dining hall menu.

The advertised slogan was, "Pork: The Other Tuition Payment."

4. Win a Scholarship by Making a Prom Dress Out of Duct Tape

Each year, Duck brand duct tape runs a unique competition. It offers two, $10,000 scholarships to high school students who make the best prom outfits entirely out of duct tape.

Last year’s Grand Prize prom dress winner spent 87 hours and used 24 rolls of tape to make a Victorian-inspired ballgown. The Grand Prize tux winner spent 30 hours and used 12 rolls of tape to make a gold and black suit with a hand-cut lion on the back of the jacket.

5. Haggle for Lower Tuition

Some students have found that they can haggle their way to a lower tuition bill. For example, a Tulane University student simply wrote a letter to her financial aid office asking for more funding. This approach helped her lower her bill two years in a row.

When haggling, look for any leverage you may have. Do you have an outstanding GPA? Can you use another school’s financial aid package to improve the amount of funding offered?

6. Crowdfund like a Suburban Mom

Raffles may be a common way to raise money for the PTA, but some students have found success using them to fund their college education.

Instead of a crowdfunding campaign where you ask for donations towards your tuition, a raffle means that you can incentivize contributions with the chance to win something. For example, one student offered prizes that were donated by local businesses. Legal restrictions pertain to raffles, so check with your state agencies to make sure you don't break any laws.

7. Go on a TV Game Show

The game show Paid Off can give you the opportunity to use your trivia skills to erase your student debt. However, some students opt to avoid the debt altogether by going on a game show while they’re still in school.

On Wheel of Fortune, one marketing student at the University of Alabama won $62,200 in cash and prizes,  and a junior at Cal Poly won about $50,000 in cash and prizes. On The Price is Right, a University of Arkansas student won $52,000 worth of prizes.

8. Start a Web Hosting Service

Sometimes, earning money for college may turn you into a student entrepreneur.

For example, one student got started when he was a high school freshman. After Nick Gray launched his web hosting service, he grew the business to generate about $17,000 per year in profits, covering more than half of his tuition.

Starting a business had a secondary benefit. Gray was able to list the business on his college applications, which may have helped him earn a $15,000 Presidential Scholarship for Distinguished Achievement through Wake Forest University. Even though his business didn’t go on to become a household name, it did help him pay for four years of college.

9. OneClass Will Pay You to Go to Class

This option isn’t too unique since thousands of students are already doing it. By becoming an Official Note Taker through OneClass, you could earn an average of $470 per class. All you have to do is take detailed lecture notes and upload them to the platform, making it an easy part-time job.

One UC Davis student, Andrea Silvera, told Reader’s Digest that she made $1,500 in less than a year. Additionally, as note-takers, students receive academic benefits too. About 68 percent of note-takers see a boost in their grades as a result of their diligent work, some by as much as 3 grade points.

Find out how OneClass has helped more than 2.7 million students improve their grades with shared access to class materials.

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