Finding Free Stuff on Campus


College is pretty expensive, but once you get there, it isn’t hard to find lots of stuff for free. Keep your eyes and ears open for special deals for college students, and don’t be afraid to flash that student ID as often as possible. Your quest for free stuff can often get you more involved on campus too; you’ll meet lots of people as you jump from lecture to psych experiment, to sporting event and back again!


Free money? Well, not totally free, of course, but relatively painless. Psychology majors and graduate students are always looking for participants for their experiments, and they’re often willing to shell out a few dollars for your time. Check the psych building for ads about upcoming experiments or see if there’s an online listserv you can sign up for. Usually they’ll administer simple surveys or games, and they’ll pay up to 15 dollars for less than an hour of your time. Another “free” source of funds is a little more academic, but still worth your time if you’re up to the challenge. Look around for contests on campus for exceptional writing, research, trivia knowledge, and so on. The prize often comes in the form of cash, a scholarship, or something else cool, like an iPod touch.  If you’re looking for cash and have some great research ideas, apply for summer grants and fellowships to combine that summer vacation with some productive travel (and fun).


Your student ID can do more than just let you into buildings and get you food at the dining halls. Student discounts abound, so take advantage of them during your college years. Lots of college towns cater to students by offering special deals at local restaurants and boutiques, but some national stores do too, like Apple, J. Crew, and many movie theaters. Check for discounts wherever you go—you never know what you’ll find! If you travel abroad, definitely bring your ID with you as well, because there are lots of special prices for university students or under-25-year-olds, especially in Europe, although some places require you to register for the ISIC card ahead of time. Sign up for the frequent buyer and discount cards at your campus bookstore or other places you frequent on campus. After four years you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.


Free food is so prevalent on some campuses that it practically deserves an article of its own. What else can clubs, departments, and administrators use to motivate college students to come to their events?

  • Dining halls: meal plans aren’t cheap, so make the most of yours and grab some fruit or dessert on your way out to save for a midnight snack.
  • Lectures and receptions: at most colleges it’s common to find speakers coming to campus on a daily basis. These events are often under-attended by busy students, and often have free snacks or drinks.
  • Your RA: a lot of RAs get a small budget each semester to buy snacks and encourage wholesome bonding time, so don’t miss out on the free pizza parties
  • Open houses: new art show going up in the gallery? Meet-and-greet in the Russian department? Chances are both will feature an array of free food.  Don’t be disrespectful, but stop in and make conversation while you grab a snack—you might even discover something new and interesting that you never would have noticed before on campus.
  • And beyond: the list is really endless when it comes to free food, and it varies from campus to campus, but check for study breaks, student government events, pep rallies, activities fairs, and the like if you just can’t get enough. Some schools even have event search engines online where you can look only for events with free food. Who needs a meal plan?


It seems like every club, affiliation, or cause in college has its own T-shirt.  Sometimes they’re free, sometimes you have to agree to wear them on a certain day for a protest, sometimes they’re thrown by the mascot at sporting events, and sometimes you have to make a donation for charity to get one. But if you’re looking for a wardrobe change and T-shirts are your thing, there’s no shortage at college. Large campus-wide events, especially at the beginning of the year, are a great place to start, but T-shirt giveaways usually continue year-round, especially if you go to a smaller school.

Office Supplies

Do you lend out your pens during class and forget to get them back? Never fear, because there are free pens, pencils, folders, planners and so on to be had all over campus. The best places to start are the admissions office and the campus center. If student groups have booths set up around campus promoting their organizations, that’s your next best bet. Finally, stock up whenever there’s any kind of large activities fair, majors open house, or welcome event. The university loves to throw free stuff at freshman during the first few weeks, so don’t miss your chance!

School Spirit

Student athletes always want to see fans wearing their colors, so there are often giveaways at sporting events, especially if your school is playing one of its bigger rivals. Sporting events are another good place to get free T-shirts, along with pom-poms, noisemakers, and other fun and spirited gear. If you’re really into a certain team, there are often fan groups you can join for a small fee to enjoy pregame barbecues and pep rallies.

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