Need A Student Loan? Try Self-Funding First


Outlined below are a few self-funding options, particularly for undergraduate students.

These funding options can be balanced with other funding sources like bursaries, scholarships, and student loans.

Although creating a budget is important, I strongly believe that we need to look at both the tangible and intangible aspects of funding options.


“There are many skills you can gain from employment that other funding options don’t necessarily offer.”

Maybe you have chosen to finance your education by getting a job.  This still leaves you with decisions to make about how many hours you will work, whether you’ll work year-round or just during the summer, and if you’ll work on campus or off campus, among other things.

Given my budget, do I need to work to earn or can I afford to work to learn?

Just because you might be able to fund your education completely on scholarships or loans doesn’t mean it’s the best idea.  There are many skills you can gain from employment that other funding options don’t necessarily offer.

What will happen if you leave school with a degree, or two, or three, but have no “real-world” experience?  (You can gain similar experiences from volunteering or interning, but it’s something to consider.)

When do I have time to work?

For instance, is it better for me to accept a job that offers fewer hours during the school year, but that secures continued employment in the summer? Depending on the economy, this could be the safer bet.

If you feel that you don’t have time during the school year, and–like many students–have an interest in a government job, consider some of these employment programs:

What is my time worth?

Be strategic–not everything is immediately tangible.  For instance, a job paying minimum wage ($10.25 per hour) could be better than a job that pays $12 per hour.

The minimum wage job could let you develop skills in a field of interest to you, allow you to work on schoolwork or scholarship applications, or work within walking distance to save on transportation and parking costs.

How does employment compare to other funding sources available to me?

On average, per hour, does employment yield the biggest profit or allow me to gain the most skills I want to develop?

  • Unlike a loan, you don’t have to pay back interest on the money you earn.
  • You can gain skills in an area that is of interest to you.
  • You can explore various careers.  Discovering that you don’t like a certain field of work or a potential employer’s corporate culture can be invaluable.  The time and money you could save by figuring this out during a summer job (rather than after graduating) is “unmeasurable” in a budget, but important nonetheless.
  • You get a chance to network in professional communities and in a community that might not be your own (if you’re going to school away from home).
  • As a student, you can be strategic when it comes to where you might work.  Benefits like employee discounts all add up.

Non-traditional self-funding options:

Start your own business

There are many examples on TalentEgg of students starting their own business, either while in school or after graduating.  If you don’t have the means to start a business yourself, programs like Summer Company can help you out.

Consider selling things on eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji, etc.

This post gives some advice about selling items on eBay, and one poster responds saying that they made extra money by mailing out inserts when shipping items they sold. 

Consider ways to make living more affordable

Becoming a landlord takes significant capital, but it can be a good source of income during your years at university, and maybe even after.  Unlike other landlords who live off-site, you can live in the house to keep an eye on the renters.

If you’re a renter, consider helping with the household chores. Some landlords will deduct from your rent if you volunteer to cut the grass, do some maintenance work, clean or babysit.

Try entering writing contests

Local libraries, universities or online forums sometimes offer prizes for short stories, essays and other creative works.  If you already have these works on hand, this could work out to a good profit for the hours it will take you to actually enter.

To read about more ways to finance your education, check out Elizabeth’s article about scholarship hunting.

How have you raised funds?  What has been the most effective way for you to pay for school?

About the author

Elizabeth Baisley is currently studying for an Master of Arts in Political Studies at Queen's University, where she works as a teaching assistant. She recently completed her Honours Bachelor of Arts in Human Rights & Human Diversity at Wilfrid Laurier University's Brantford campus. Elizabeth's academic interest in the rights of marginalized populations translates into her volunteer work and extracurricular involvement in the fields of rights advocacy, immigrant settlement, literacy, health, environmental issues, and local democracy. In September 2013, she will begin her PhD in Politics at Princeton University.