Every summer, countless college students flock to summer jobs at fast food chains, department stores, and construction sites. More recently, college students have enjoyed the flexibility provided by sites like Uber, Lyft, and TaskRabbit for summer employment.
But these jobs that pay $8-$14 an hour are rarely the best use of a college student's summer.
After all, if you're well positioned at graduation, you should easily be able to find a job that pays $20-40/hr after college, depending on your field and location.
Rather than chasing a few extra bucks now, consider using the summer to develop skills that can make you more appealing to employers and help you reach your full earning potential sooner.
Below are 10 summer job alternatives that can help you make money, develop a portfolio, and ultimately land a higher paying job upon graduation.
1. Find an internship
Some internships pay great – like those $30/hr gigs offered by big banks in New York City. Others may not pay you at all. Regardless, an internship in your desired field can help connect you with potential employers and gain valuable work experience.
Many students receive their first job offers from companies where they interned. So, if you can find a summer internship in your chosen field, then that's a great way to spend your summer months.
2. Take college classes
It's possible to take 9 semester credits over a summer. Do this for three summers and you'll graduate a year early. This means that you can start earning serious money a year before your classmates. Plus, if you take those summer classes at a local community college, you may save several thousand dollars in student loans.
If sitting in a classroom all summer sounds boring, there are other options. For example, you may be able to earn science credits while scuba diving, or English credits via an exchange program in England.
3. Become certified in a new skill
Depending on your career goals, earning a certification over the summer could be a brilliant decision!
If you want to work in healthcare, why not get certified as an EMT and gain valuable work experience? If you're studying finance, why not explore a nanodegree in data science or programming offered by Udacity?
From project management to personal finance, there are thousands of certifications that you can earn to establish yourself as a leader in your industry.
4. Do remote freelance work
If you're a writer, developer, or graphic designer, freelancing is an easy way to make money while building a portfolio to show future employers. Regardless of your occupation, if you pick up a few related consulting or writing jobs over the summer, you'll have experience on par with an internship (but on your own schedule).
5. Sell a service on Fiverr
There are literally thousands of ways to make money on Fiverr. From writing articles, to creating logos, to recording testimonial videos, to teaching a language. Anything that can be done remotely, can be done on Fiverr.
If you're creative, you may be able to find a way to make money on Fiverr while positioning yourself for a successful career. Anyone interested in marketing, sales, or business can benefit from selling on Fiverr.
6. Write and self-publish a book
Becoming an author can establish you as an expert in any field. Take a summer and write a book on whatever subject you're studying. You can publish it professionally or just self-publish on Amazon. Either way, having a book to your name will very clearly set you apart.
7. Start a money-making blog and become an industry influencer
You can start a blog in as little as 15 minutes for under $25. Although it can take a year or more to make substantial money from a blog, it's possible to earn thousands of dollars a month.
Meanwhile, a website with a decent following can impress potential employers – making it easier to land that dream job.
8. Create an online dropshipping store
If you're a marketing major, learning how to sell products online is incredibly valuable. Meanwhile, an English major may have fun selling journals or a Computer Science major may enjoy selling the latest technology.
Not only does an online store make you an expert on the product you're selling, it also helps you learn the basics of Google and Facebook advertising, social media marketing, and other business skills.
9. Invent a new product
Come up with the right invention and you can make a fortune while establishing yourself as a thought-leader. Whether you're looking to start your own business or sell the idea to someone else, there are multiple paths to turning your ideas into cash.
For entrepreneurs in the making, consider pre-selling your invention on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo. It's possible to raise thousands of dollars to assist with the development and production of your product.
If you would rather make money from the idea without having to market and build it, check out Quirky – where you can earn a royalty on any product idea that you submit or help to develop.
10. Apply for scholarships
Applying to scholarships won't necessarily provide you with direct career experience, but it can do two things. First, it can make your time worth hundreds of dollars an hour (far better than minimum wage). Second, it can improve your persuasive writing skills – which are valuable in any career field.
Spend your summer applying for scholarships and you could walk away with tens of thousands of dollars. The key is to find obscure scholarships with few participants to increase your odds of being selected as the winner.
Although not a scholarship, you may also want to enter A Richer You's basic income giveaway – where you could win $500/month for the next two years!
Conclusion: Use your summer to prepare for your dream career
Thousands of college students find themselves in mediocre jobs after college. If you want to take control of your career, and be prepared for your dream job, then treat your summer as another valuable opportunity to develop the skills needed to excel. Not only will you be more competitive on the job market, but you'll likely have fun doing it.