College is stressful enough without having to worry about the faltering student loan market and the credit crisis.
When you add on the "smaller" expenses such as $100 textbooks, and gas money, the cost of attending school can seem overwhelming.
Some Internet-savvy students, however, are using three relatively unknown Web sites to make money online. The best part? There are no long essays or forms required, and no need to worry about getting scammed.
Kim Klein is the kind of student whom schools refer to as "non-traditional." She was a stay-at-home mom to her three kids for 13 years before deciding to go to law school at Loyola University in Illinois.
"It was something I had always wanted to do," said Klein, a 42-year-old breast cancer survivor who was diagnosed at the end of her second year of graduate school.
Despite the difficulty of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, she continued studying law, and her blog, which was originally meant as a place to reflect on law school, turned into a way to keep loved ones informed about her health.
In the fall, while surfing the Net, Klein came across a blogging competition for the best student blog on CollegeScholarships.org. She applied, but then said she went about her day and put it out of her mind. Not long afterward she was excited to find out that she had been chosen as one of 20 finalists. A public vote on CollegeScholarships.org would determine the winner.
Once word got out that Klein was one of the finalists, more than 9,000 votes poured in, many from people Klein had never met.
"My situation was so unique and so different," Klein said, explaining that family and friends often feel helpless when one is diagnosed with cancer. "People jumped on the bandwagon. So many people said to me they felt like it was something they could do to help."
After winning the contest in October, she celebrated her $10,000 victory in true blogger fashion by posting a thank you note to all of her supporters. "This award could not have come at a better time for me and my family, and we are all deeply grateful," she wrote in her Oct. 29 post. "I plan to use the money to pay some of the principle and interest on my student loans.
"The scholarship was a drop in [the] bucket of law school debt, but every drop helps," she said. "I used a lot of it to pay the interest on my student loans and also used some of it for book and supplies and there's a little left to make loan payments. It definitely helps with keeping up with the expenses I'm incurring."
As it happens, her 17-year-old daughter will graduate from high school soon, and her college tuition bills will begin arriving at the same time that Klein's school loan bills become due.
Today, Klein is cancer free and continues to attend school part time. She plans to finish her degree in May 2009.
Husband and wife team Aaron and Giovanna Villanueva, both 28, are the publishers of GoCollege.com and CollegeScholarships.org. The college scholarships on their Web site are funded by ads generated from their other Web sites. Their scholarship competitions, which also fund awards for women and students of color, aren't well-publicized -- recent applicants found out about them largely via word-of-mouth. In addition to the larger scholarships, GoCollege.com gives out $250 a month to one lucky person who tells them how to best improve their site.