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Entering university can be the most pivotal time in our lives with the anticipated newfound independence, the drinking and partying and making new memories. Yet, there are also looming student loan bills and higher-than-expected living expenses. No wonder we feel broke all the time. So, here’s why you should have a side hustle, and five ways you can earn some income while schooling.

Why have a side hustle?

What’s a side hustle? A side hustle is a job that you do outside of your main job (in our case, studying). As a student, without any stable income, working part-time means that you’ll have more financial independence, since you no longer need to always turn to your parents for allowance. Earning some side income also means you can start treating yourself to an occasional night out with friends.

While it’s important to focus on school to get your degree,  you don’t want to pass up on opportunities to develop transferable skills and experiences while earning some cash too. Freelancing and starting a small business, for example, would hone your entrepreneurial and problem-solving skills that not only look good on your resume, but also allow you to possibly make a career out of your passion projects.

Here are five side hustles for broke students that might be for you!

1. Be a tutor

Were you an A-plus student in secondary school or JC? There are many students and parents out there looking for undergrad private tutors like you! Tutoring is a great way to make income, with market rates averaging between $20-$40/h, depending on the grade you teach. Plus, you have the flexibility of arranging your teaching schedule according to your class timetable. 

While it might seem intimidating at first, there are tutoring agencies that pair up tutors with students, based on your skill level and your rates. However, these agencies do take some commission, so you could also start from home by offering tutoring classes to extended family members or even family friends without worrying about the commission fees. 

2. Find a part-time internship

If you prefer to gain more industry-specific experience to build your resume, part-time internships are the perfect way to do so. Glints and InternSG are great platforms to start your search. If you enjoyed your summer internship, consider asking for an extension!

3. Look into freelancing

Whether it is graphic design or copywriting, freelancing is also a great way to build up your resume and portfolio. Similar to tutoring, you also have the benefit of flexibility! You can choose to pick up numerous projects during the school year and stop before finals. Furthermore, you can work at any time during the week, unlike a part-time internship where you are confined to certain working hours such as 9-6.

4. Start a small business

Are you an avid baker? Or a skilled crafter? Consider turning your passion projects into a small business! While a small business certainly takes a lot of time and effort, you will gain experience and skills in numerous fields such as marketing and logistics. You can start through Instagram for baked goods or Etsy for handcrafted items!

5. Sign up for on-campus jobs

Don’t want to travel in and out of school for work since you stay in hall? Why not work in school? There are tons of work opportunities for students on campus. Under NTU’s Work Study Scheme, students can work on campus across a variety of fields — from finance, marketing, administrative and events management, and even statistical analysis. Find out more about how to apply here

Tips on how to balance school and work

Juggling school, work and hall commitments is definitely taxing. But with careful planning and good time management skills, it is something that we can get a handle on. For example,  scheduling your classes into 2-3 days would give you the necessary time off school for work. But don’t forget to set time aside to also catch up on assignments, as well as relax and recharge!

Next, learn to prioritise. No matter how much we believe that we can do it all, we are still limited by the number of hours in a day and the energy we actually have. Choose your priorities and accept that some sacrifices will ultimately be made — you may have less time for revision, or less energy to party until late.

Lastly, the most important thing I’ve personally learned from working while schooling, is knowing your limits and learning to say no sometimes. When I first started tutoring, it was easy to get sucked into teaching too many students at once, due to the excitement of being offered numerous opportunities. This brings us back to the point  of prioritisation. Do you really need to take on an extra shift, which might deprive you of even more sleep? Do you need to join another CCA, or are you just afraid of “losing out” on clubs and societies? Figure out how much you need to work to meet your financial needs and plan out your schedule ahead, so that you do not drown in your workload and commitments.

As tiring as it is to work and study at the same time, the experience has certainly been rewarding for me. I have picked up many new skills and learnt my limits while also bolstering my resume and earning some cash. So, why don’t you start trying too?

Laura Lee

Nanyang Tech '23

Laura is a Public Policy and Global Affairs undergraduate at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Outside of class, she sings and hangs out with her three cats!
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