6 Super Startup Ideas for College Students

By April Maguire

5 min read

It’s no secret that today’s college graduates struggle with joblessness and underemployment in record numbers. And with the price index for college tuition climbing almost 80% in the last 10 years, many of these grads find themselves crippled by loan payments as well. 

To help ease the burden, a number of college students are opting to launch their own startups while still in school. Not only does starting a business limit debt liability, but it also allows students to benefit from practical business experience as well as the insight and support of their college professors, all while taking advantage of marketing opportunities that come with living on a college campus.

Here are five super startup ideas for college students looking to make ends meet. 

1. Tutoring 

The savvy entrepreneur knows that the business you launch should reflect your unique skill set. As a college student, you may want to consider tutoring other students in your area(s) of expertise.

While many schools offer free tutoring, these services are often available on a limited schedule. By starting a private tutoring business, you can offer sessions in the evenings and late at night when college students are often cramming. 

Of course, once your tutoring business takes off, you can target a wider market. If you live in a college town, consider posting fliers in local libraries and shops; many parents would love to find a current college student who can help their high schoolers with application essays. You can also advertise your services online and through social media, or you can simply solicit referrals from people around campus. And because tutoring businesses have little to no overhead, almost all your income will be profit. 

2. House and Apartment Cleaning 

College students aren’t exactly known for their cleanliness. However, if you are skilled with a scrub brush, you may be able to earn a small fortune cleaning apartments and houses around campus.

Start by offering your services to friends, family and university faculty, and expand to the larger community once you’ve built a reputation. With many of the larger cleaning companies charging high rates for their services, college students may be able to get a jump on the competition by offering lower prices. 

Another benefit of a cleaning business is that it requires little to no startup costs. Just store a few cleaning supplies in your dorm room, or ask customers to supply their own products in exchange for a lower price point. If your business takes off, you can even consider taking on other students as staff and expanding your services to a commercial setting. 

3. Transportation and Delivery 

If Uber drivers earn cash by providing travel services within their communities, then why can’t the average college student do the same? Uber classifies its drivers as independent contractors, so in a sense, simply becoming an Uber driver makes a college student a small business owner. But there are seemingly innumerable opportunities for transportation-based businesses. 

If you own a car and live in an area where public transportation leaves something to be desired, consider launching a transportation and delivery business. From taking students to the local Target, to delivering takeout from nearby restaurants, the possibilities in the transportation industry are virtually endless.

If you’re capable of lifting a few pounds, you can also consider expanding your services to help students move in and out of campus apartments and dorms. With the average move costing $1,170, your profits can add up fast. 

Unlike the first two startup ideas, however, transportation businesses may require considerable startup costs and overhead. On top of that, many jurisdictions require specific licenses and insurance coverage for commercial transportation services; as such, be sure to check with your local chamber of commerce or transit authorities for compliance and licensing requirements before launching a commercial transportation business.

4. Web Design and Development

Tech majors, take note: college students can earn serious income by starting a web design and development business. From simple projects like logo designs, to complete website revamps, various opportunities exist for the web designer who is skilled in HTML and other site-building platforms. And if you already have the computer and necessary software, startup costs tend to be minimal. 

For the truly ambitious, you might want to team up with other students to launch your own site or application. This will require a significant commitment in terms of hours, startup costs and overhead, but as the college-aged founders of Facebook, Google and Apple will tell you, a chance at success in the tech industry is definitely worth it. And even for those non-tech-savvy students, simply having an idea and a buddy with development skills can translate to tech success. 

If you’re just starting off as a freelance designer or developer, start by advertising to your professors and fellow students who may have parents or other relatives in need of website help. After you’ve earned a few great testimonials, you can expand your reach to the larger community. As an added bonus, you can do the majority of the design work from the comfort of your own dorm room. 

5. Marketing

Like tech students, marketing, advertising and even creative majors can get their careers started early by offering services to local shops and businesses. Even savvy writers and art majors can offer design or copy services to create marketing materials for locals. 

You may want to start by creating a webpage and social media profiles that highlight your skills. Then, you can reach out to local businesses to offer services ranging from social media management, to blog writing, to logo design, to AdWords management and more.

Students may also want to consider affiliate marketing, in which businesses offer commissions for word-of-mouth and online leads or sales. Affiliate programs can be found online through sites like Amazon Associates, Commission Junction, LinkShare and ShareASale.  

6. Personal Training 

Anyone who’s set foot on a college campus knows that the meal offerings can be less than stellar. With all the carbs and late-night snacks they’re consuming, students are often seeking easy ways to lose a few pounds. If you’re a health and fitness aficionado, you may want to consider starting a personal training business based in your college campus.

From holding early morning yoga classes on the quad, to helping students make a plan for better eating, you can earn extra cash while contributing to the greater health of your peers. And because many trainers operate out of their clients’ homes, you won’t need to spend your hard-earned cash on office space.

With tuition rates skyrocketing, many college students are struggling to make ends meet while earning their degrees. Instead of taking on thousands of dollars in student loans, consider starting one of the above businesses to help support yourself during college. Not only will you finish school with less debt and extra cash, but you can also add this experience to your resume for an invaluable leg-up on the competition come graduation. 

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Information may be abridged and therefore incomplete. This document/information does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for, legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.

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