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What can I say? I don’t have a lot of money.

I have two jobs, one for regular expenses and one solely to pay as I go for school. Any extra money goes to help my family (who are also far from well-off). But that doesn’t mean I don’t desire material things. Like the rest of us, I too have online shopping carts brimming with things I covet but lack the funds to purchase. So what can a full-time student with two jobs and next to no free time do in order to make money? 

I could become a stripper. But I find the heels and nails clash with my aesthetic. Plus, the thought of a man I’m not romantically attracted to looking at me in a lustful way makes me want to puke… on said man. So that’s a no. I could get into gambling… if only I had something worth betting. I could sell my blood and bone marrow. Sadly, I always get turned away because I don’t weigh enough to donate, let alone sell. 

I thought I was doomed to either die poor or con a wealthy 90-year-old into marrying me without a prenup until a flyer on campus caught my eye; “Volunteers needed: Up to $200 in Compensation.” Sign me up! 

Due to the confidentiality agreement, I can’t tell you much about the first research experiment I participated in, but I can tell you I walked out with $185 the first day and $75 the next. Each session took no more than 3 hours, and no harm befell me at all. I used the money to go to my first pumpkin patch, dinner for two, and gas. I took what remained to the Texas Renaissance Fair, feasting like a queen all weekend long. Upon returning to the real world, all I could think about was how to get into more studies. Luckily, the algorithm heard me. 

All of a sudden, Instagram began showing me ads for studies in my area; birth control, alcohol and Latinos, the effect of antibiotics on blood – if you can imagine it, there’s probably a research study on it. And I signed up for everything I qualified for. Almost overnight, I could afford medicine, new prescription glasses and sunglasses, repairing my phone screen, a winter coat and new tires. All I had to do in return was give up my information. That was fine by me, as Google already had more than I can imagine, and they’d gotten that out of me for free. Other times, I had to show up fasting, go through psych evaluations, or submit a blood sample. Yet again, this meant nothing to me with money as the motivator. 

In full honesty, I was scared the first time I showed up to a research study, not knowing what to expect. But the researchers were kind and welcoming. They gave me plenty of time to read my contract and non-disclosure agreement and were patient in answering any questions I had. So, I’m assuming you may want to try this for yourself. Well, I have a few tips for you. 

  1. Follow the instructions

It would be a real shame if you showed up to a study only to be turned away because you didn’t read the requirements closely enough, and you don’t qualify after all. You could miss many things, not just limited to the demographics requested in the study. You may need to fast, you may need to come in after a meal, you may need to bring a form of government identification or a plethora of other things. Read everything carefully, and save everyone involved some stress and time. 

  1. Know your rights

When you participate in a research study, you do not forfeit your rights or humanity, not even willingly, no matter how much money is on the line. If you are uncomfortable, sick, or just no longer in the mood, you may stop the study at any time and request that your information not be used. Put yourself first. Yes, researchers may be disappointed or inconvenienced, but any good proposal has a plan for situations like this in place. Someone backing out is not an anomaly, it is an inevitability a good researcher plans for. Also, I know you skip your ‘terms of agreement’ all the time. This is the one time you should not. Read your contract then and there, take advantage of the professional across the table from you to ask any questions. Ask for a copy of anything you sign. Be informed. 

  1. Bring a book/activity

Sometimes, you’ll spend a lot of time waiting, and you won’t always be allowed your cell phone. A good book or a crochet project or something like that to keep you entertained will come in handy during long stretches of inactivity. 

  1. Keep your eyes open for opportunities

Stop to read the bulletins around campus. Look up research currently being conducted on campus and see if they need any participants for their studies. Don’t limit yourself just to UH! Look up what other researchers at nearby universities are up to, look into the medical trials, or just hop on a good old Google search and see if you strike gold. 

Whatever you do, I hope you’ll look into participating in a research trial at least once. Yes, there may be something in it for you, but you will also be contributing to new findings that have the potential to educate and help countless others for years to come.

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