The gig economy is now a part of everyday life. Job growth numbers factor it in, and economists have established an obsession with trying to access the long-term power of someone being able to plug in for a moment and then drop out when they feel like it.

What many people assume though, is that for folks driving for Lyft or running errands for Favor, these jobs are their only income stream.

For a lot of people, this assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. Lots of people in the gig economy have full-time jobs but are using these additional income streams to pay off their bills. One of the biggest reasons folks get behind the wheels of their cars and pick up the groceries or the dry cleaning is simple: picking up gigs is an easy way to hack down student loans. A whopping 28% of drivers under 30 use ridesharing as a means to pay off their student loans.

GET YOUR RIDE ON

By adopting the famous Uber promise of “make at least $500 a week guaranteed” people are getting off work and turning on their driver apps in hopes to chip away at the mountain of debt in their lives that won’t go away. What’s worse, is that while most of us have debt due to owning a house, or a swollen credit card bill, there aren’t a variety of programs like Credit Karma or refinancing your home when it comes to student loans. Once you’re saddled with that payment, you’ve gotta pay it every month.

The average Lyft driver makes around $20 an hour, depending on the length of their day. In today’s economy that’s pretty good money for driving around town. For new graduates, that’s fantastic money. When you’re first out of school or have a degree in something that finding a job takes a little bit longer, the job market can get real tight, real quick. It’s not uncommon for working professionals, or the barista at your local spot have between 30-60K in student loan debt thanks to a crooked system of borrowing – and yet, somehow they gotta pay that debt off each month or risk default.

Because drivers make their own schedules, they’re choosing to pull a few hours a week. Nothing over the top, but enough to put all of that money away and into an account specifically to pay off more than the minimum due. Picking up around ten rides a week allows the drivers to get ahead of their bill and then move on toward bigger goals like buying a house or a better car. 31% of Uber drivers use the ridesharing app to make their house payments, proving that the side hustle is strong.

WHEN SHOULD A DRIVER GET BEHIND THE WHEEL?

The hottest times to drives is if an event is happening in town. People hate parking. Nine out of ten times, it’s easier to get dropped off than it is to deal with parking at any major event. Another great time to work is the weekend.

Because no one likes drunk drivers, the demand for ridesharing is through the roof. By working one weekend in a major city, that’s rent. And for enterprising drivers, that’s a major dent in their loans.

YOU’LL NEED A PLAN

If you’re already working and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life, you’re only going to pick up rides part-time. Because you have limited time out there, it’s important to set a realistic goal of what you’re trying to pay down a month. Start small because you don’t want to burn out. Remember, you’re already working a full-time job. If you can set a goal to earn $150 a week with ride sharing, that’s $600 toward your loans. Luckily, the interest rates are usually pretty low on the loans, so the typical payment is around $250 a month. By paying it off with more than double the amount, you’ll be making waves in the principal amount.

An easy way to get this money is to stick to a schedule. Don’t deviate from it, keep your weekend mornings open for folks on a coffee run or seniors heading to church. If you work during rush hour, then make sure you’re consistent, so it becomes routine. Because the money you’re making is more or less “extra credit” vs. income you need to live on, you’ll see it pile up, and when you make that big payment, it’ll feel good to see your ugly number drop each month.

FORGET BRAND LOYALTY

If you’re looking to make money, you can’t rely on one income stream. Grocery stores are doing home delivery or in-store personal shopping. Favor or Task Rabbit pick up and deliver just about anything you need. When it comes to ridesharing, there are the two giants in Lyft and Uber and a few smaller players like Fasten. Don’t rely on just one of these platforms, get them all. If you feel like going shopping for someone for a few hours, do that. If Lyft isn’t popping off, switch over to Uber and see what their patrons are up to. You’re in control of your financial destiny.

In the end, it’s all about how hard you want to hustle. You can’t work your regular 9-5 and then try to cram in 70 hours of ride sharing. You’ll go insane, and you’ll end up spending way too much time at the McDonald’s drive-thru. There’s an adage that’s been around forever, and it’s right in this case: marathon, not a sprint. Your loans will take some time to chip away at, but if you’re diligent and stick to a plan, you’ll make an impact, and it won’t come out of your regular check. Besides, you’ll get to meet some cool people in the process.

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You’ve been preparing for this. You got the grades and have an idea of what you want to do for the rest of your life. Or maybe you don’t, and you’re winging it. Either scenario is ok. Leaving the comfort of high school is a big step. College comes in many forms, but the most critical thing you can consider right now is: where should I apply to?

Rushing to get into a good school doesn’t have to be a torturous process. It’s supposed to be as easy as making a list of colleges that look cool and apply, right? Well, it can be, but there’s a little bit more work involved than that. There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re studying brochures or obsessing about compiling every link ever to your top 50 colleges to check out.

First, you have to ask yourself: is college right for me? Societally, we’ve adopted a point of view that life begins and ends with a four-year degree. This is just wrong. There are a lot of talented, smart people who work in the trades and make a fantastic living doing so. If your idea of a great day is being outside and working with your hands, sitting in a classroom for four more years may not be the best use of time. Trade school or getting an apprenticeship with a union could be precisely what you need. Plumbers, bricklayers, carpenters make great livings. If framing a house or running conduit seems like fun, save yourself and your parents some cash and don’t try to cram that passion into getting a psychology degree that you won’t use.

If working with your hands isn’t your bag, that’s cool, too. There are a lot of jobs out there. One of the biggest mistakes a new student can make is center in on an area of study they have no intention of actually finding a career in. Students who get an obscure degree with a subject they can’t use in the real world are the ones that end up with mountains of student debt because typically they can’t find jobs to correspond with their skill set. It’s a vicious cycle, and no one in higher education is trying to stop it. If you’re not expecting to move to fill in the one job in 1840’s Russian art, what exactly are you planning to do with that degree? Be wise about what you want to major in. Take the classes and harvest a love for whatever lights your world up, but getting a job is the whole endgame of the exercise.

BUSTING MAJOR COLLEGE MYTHS

After you’ve faced a lot of existential questions and centered yourself, it’s time to pick a school. It’s not all just ACTs or SATs and GPAs – you need to attend a school that fortifies who you are as a person, or at least provides the kind of personal growth you’re after. There’s a college for everyone. There are over 4000 colleges in America. Do you want to learn in a high-pressure situation or at a place that’s laid back?

Don’t try to oversell yourself on one idea or the other. Go with your gut. If you’re a little high strung and need to have constant deadlines, you may want the kind of environment that an intense school schedule demands. If you’re low key and like a less stressful schedule, maybe an art school is what you need. Listen to what your gut tells you. Don’t let mom, dad or a friend pressure you into attending a school because they think it’s what’s best for you.

If you check out the stats on a school and don’t get that immediate “yeah, this is me” feeling, move on. They’ll never have your heart. Instead, you’ll always be wondering what other schools are like. Listen to that internal voice because usually, it knows best.

GO TO THE PLACE THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU

Keep culture in mind. If you’re a progressive liberal, going to a conservative school won’t be four years of perfect harmony. If you’re deeply religious, a secular college may be a great idea. Every community, no matter the makeup, has a set of values they uphold, and the college you pick should reflect yours. Some schools are way invested in their traditions while others… not so much. If there are things you aren’t personally into, don’t force yourself to adapt for the sake of a program. College is about enjoying the experience, not enduring the time because a few classes are interesting. Compile your choices into immediate Yes or No groups.

Stick to your guns. If you’ve got a college on your mind, go for it. Everyone feels inadequate at one point or another. No one is perfect, and no one has always batted .1000 in life. Don’t get lost in your fears about school to apply to the places you want to go. You’re cool enough. You’re smart enough, and you’ll find a place.

Don’t obsess. It’s not worth it. There’s always some movie where the kid is freaking out over getting into the school of their dreams. Take the journey one step at a time. Research a new school each day. If the school appeals to you, write it down and move on. Once you’ve compiled a few, start building out a plan. There are a lot of schools and a lot of amazing teachers. If you don’t have the grades for MIT but still want to work in the space, there are plenty of schools who’d love to have you on their team.

GET THE SUPPORT YOU NEED

Speaking of teams, don’t forget to lean on your people. Ask for help. Talk to your parents. See what’s up with your guidance counselor at your high school, or just grab a teacher to get an opinion on your goals. If you’ve got a question, call the college admissions office. Let them help you. You’re not in this alone. People want you to succeed.

That said, don’t rely on your friends. They mean well, but their goals aren’t your goals. Your friends are flying blind just the same as you are.

Keep costs in mind. There are a lot of grants, scholarships, and opportunities for students out there. There are grants specifically for left-handed people. There’s no excuse for you not to fire up the Google and look to see what kind of money you can save. College is expensive. You want to minimize the amount you’ll be spending. Student loans can rack up and guess who’ll be left holding the debt? You will.

Think long and hard about what goals you want to achieve with college. Can you attend a community college for two years to knock out your basics for a quarter of the price? Making sure you’re planning within a budget is essential. There’s an adage of not putting an amount on an education, but that’s not entirely fair. There is most definitely a price tag that comes with college.

Now that you’ve been briefed on the basics of prepping for college, are you ready to apply? We’re waiting for y’all to change the world.

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