For College Students

Business Ideas for College Students

Check out these startup ideas to make some money while you’re in college!


One massive benefit of starting a business in college is that you can make extra cash to pay for tuition and cover living expenses. Another advantage is that you can start a venture in college and create the next hot business that can change the world. Look at Google, Facebook, and Apple, which were started by college-aged founders and have changed how we interact with the world!

It can be challenging to stay on track with your goals in college when there is enormous social pressure to go out and have fun or once-in-a-lifetime experiences, but this is a chance to change your life by validating your ideas in a huge testing ground. Success is all about mindset and perspective.

Let’s discuss how starting a business can change your life and some easy, low-cost startup ideas!

How Can Starting a College Business Change Your Life?

  1. Student loan debt is crippling many American households and causing financial stress on young adults just entering the workforce. If you can pay your tuition in cash or pay off your loans quickly, you definitely should do so, and a business can help with that.
  2. Many students have to wait to start their careers until they’re done with college, but entrepreneurs can get a head start and gain valuable life experience.
  3. Networking in college can set you up for success, so connect with like-minded people to share ideas, build ventures, or push each other to keep working toward your goals.
  4. College is a perfect time to start a business because it’s a low-risk time in your life. You don’t have many bills yet like a mortgage, car payment, insurance, or providing for a family. So, you can take the time to start a business without having to worry about hustling to pay bills while getting your business off the ground. 

Let’s look at some ideas for businesses you can start as a college student with minimal overhead costs!

Maid Services or Dorm Room Cleaning

If you have a knack for cleaning, college towns are perfect testing grounds for cleaning businesses! Students, professors, and college support staff could all use your services, and you could gain satisfaction from helping take a significant task off people’s stressful schedules! To get started, get a business license and some eco-friendly cleaning supplies. Once you’ve anticipated your startup costs, you can set your hourly or per project rate and advertise your services by making flyers to hang up around campus.

Campus Delivery Service

Businesses like Instacart and DoorDash will deliver food and goods to homes but aren’t always able to deliver to campus facilities, so there is a vast potential market that can be filled, and this business idea is easy to expand to other campuses if you find students there that are willing to partner with you! Costs to start this include a bike or scooter, ways of transporting goods such as a bag or bin that can attach to your bike, a business license, and some advertising materials like flyers or business cards.

Tutoring or Instructional Videos

Have you ever sat through a class and walked away without an idea what the teacher just tried to teach you because it went right over your head? Yea, me too! If you understand a subject really well and your peers may be struggling to understand it, consider creating tutorial videos about that subject that break the concepts down into easy-to-understand material. Be mindful not to tailor your material around the courses the college teaches because that can be illegal and considered stealing intellectual property. Focus your efforts on creating generic videos about the subject material.

Research Paper Editing

Many students struggle with writing research papers or aren’t confident in their abilities, so an extra set of eyes could help them! If you can read, edit, and proofread papers while offering constructive feedback for improvements, consider starting a service that provides your skills for a fee. Startup costs are limited because you can do this online from your dorm room, and advertising can be done by word of mouth or social media.

Language Transcription

Universities that accept international students may have a high demand for transcription services for applicants, new students, and students’ families. Your services can include transcription of documents for applying and entrance documentation. You can choose to set up your own website where potential customers can communicate with you or set up a profile on freelance websites like Fiverr or Upwork.

Foreign Language Translation

If students or families need to meet with school officials, but English is not their primary language, you can offer your services to sit in on meetings or classes and translate into their primary language so that both parties can fully understand what is being said by everyone involved. This promotes inclusion and diversity while making everyone feel welcomed. You can create flyers to pass out or reach out to the admissions office directly to offer your assistance.

Dorm Furniture Rental

Many idealistic new university students buy expensive furniture specifically for their dorm room when they first enroll in school and end up selling the gently used furniture shortly after for pennies on the dollar or just giving it away because they don’t have time to sell it or don’t want to negotiate with prospective buyers. Starting a furniture rental company will reduce waste, help you make money, and save students money which is a win-win for everyone. Use social media and community boards to advertise your services and consider adding an upcharge for delivery, room design, and removal. One major hurdle to this business model could be finding storage for furniture in between rentals.

Niche Virtual Assistant

Virtual Assistants (VA’s) offer services from note taking during lectures to data entry to audio transcription for professionals in all fields from professors, admissions, business professionals, and so many others. College students looking to make some extra money could self-assess your current skill set to find opportunities to make some extra cash and then reach out to professors or local business professionals in the community to offer your services. 

Consultant Specializing in College Admissions

Getting accepted into your dream college or university can be difficult! If you managed to get into the university of your dreams successfully, write out the process of what you did and how you did it so you can offer this service to high school students that are looking to start applying themselves. Consultants advertise their services via flyers, social media, word of mouth, or by reaching out to high school guidance counselors.

Textbook Reselling

Textbooks are EXPENSIVE, and many schools reuse the same edition of a textbook for multiple semesters in a row but consider having a chat with university professors about whether or not older editions can still be used for their classes to give students confidence in buying used textbooks that will save them money and frustration. One way to help your business succeed is to have a steady supply of used textbooks in good condition before the start of each semester to establish your business as an authority in the local marketplace.

Bottom Line

Starting a business venture and learning entrepreneurial skills while attending college is a great idea! Before starting, think about whether or not you plan on running this business long-term and if you plan on staying in the college town or local area following your graduation. If you plan on staying in the area and running this business long-term, starting a brick-and-mortar business or opening a storefront may be a perfect idea for you. If you don’t intend to stay in the area long-term, consider one of these business opportunities that allow you to work online and transfer your business to the next place you end up living following graduation.

Before starting your business, do your market research and consider conducting surveys of students and/or faculty to determine if your business idea is viable for that market. Consider if the product or service you’re considering offering is being offered already and if there is a way to serve a slightly different niche that will allow you to get your own slice of the pie. 

I always do a soft open for new business ventures that allow me to keep initial overhead low and bootstrap the business as much as possible. A soft opening is when you offer services on a part-time basis or introductory rate to see how many customers are interested in buying from you. Bootstrapping is when you intentionally keep overhead costs low and use business profits to expand the business rather than using your own capital to fund expansion. These two methods of doing business allow you to keep your personal capital in your pocket as much as possible rather than using it to fund your startup.

Head over to our hub about earning money for college students for more advice!

About the Author

Jessica Anglin

Jessica was raised in a household where her parents didn't know how to pay bills on time and indulged in life's pleasures on a consistent basis in order to cover the misery from working jobs they hated for money that wasn't enough to live off of. She took on the role of caregiver to 4 siblings at age 15 and started her first business selling tie-dye t-shirts in order to buy food and provide a stable home. Nineteen years later, she owns three successful businesses, has earned an MBA in Finance, and works daily to set an example for the next generation on how to build wealth so they never face the same struggles.

Last updated on: July 8, 2024