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16 free (or almost free) things to do in college on the weekend

Published April 15, 2024| minute read
Hadiya Iqbal

Senior Associate, JPMorgan Chase

    The weekend is approaching, and you’re trying to stick to your budget and be financially responsible, but you don’t want to stay in your dorm all weekend long. The good thing is, there are many things to do on the weekend in college that are free or almost free. You might just need to get a little creative.

    Continue reading for ideas on filling up your weekend schedule if you want to do more than study (everyone needs a break sometimes)!

    Also, remember to keep in mind that if there are activities that you’re interested in doing around campus that do cost money to check to see if student discounts are available before going or signing up.

    1. Host a movie night or TV show marathon

    This can be a great way to bring friends together for a hangout in your dorm room or apartment. Consider creating a cozy atmosphere and finding movies on a binge-worthy TV show for your group to enjoy. You might even make it a theme night – think of themes like a classic movie marathon, a rom-com theme, or more.

    2. Have a game night with board games or video games

    Encourage friends to bring their own games to enjoy each other's company and some friendly competition. This can be a great way to unwind without having to leave campus.

    3. Go to a free lecture or discussion on campus or at a local library

    Going to a lecture is certainly a more intellectual activity, but perhaps a lecture topic that you're interested in is taking place that you can take advantage of. One of the great things about being in a college setting is having these opportunities presented to you regularly, and on top of that they are often free. Now is the time to take advantage of these opportunities!

    4. Attend a community theater production or student-run play

    Many colleges have theater programs that have performances throughout the year, often at a discounted price for college students. In some cases, attending these productions is entirely free. Take a friend to a show or consider this a great idea for a date on a budget!

    5. Participate in or attend an on-campus or community open mic or poetry slam

    If you have a knack for slam poetry, singing, improv, or playing an instrument, show off your skills at an open mic event near you. Colleges regularly host these events, and you may be able to find them in your community, too. If performing isn’t your cup of tea, these events can be fun to attend, and are often very affordable, if not free.

    6. Host a clothing or accessory swap with friends

    Consider refreshing your wardrobe for free and exchange anything you’re not wearing with college friends. Not only can this be a great way to update your wardrobe, but it can also be a fun way to gather friends that’s entirely free.

    7. Go to campus sporting events and cheer on your team

    Attending campus sporting events can be a great way to show school spirit, connect with fellow students, and enjoy the excitement of cheering on your school. College students can often get student discounts on tickets or sometimes the tickets are entirely free depending on the sporting event.

    8. Organize a collaborative study session with classmates

    Studying may not sound like an appealing way to spend a weekend, but sometimes, it may be unavoidable during heavy periods like midterms or finals. If you find yourself in one of these periods, why not put a fun study event together. For instance, consider hosting a potluck study group where everyone brings a dish for the group to enjoy. Studying will be a lot more enjoyable with tasty treats and good company.

    9. Volunteer at a local animal shelter or participate in a pet adoption event

    Volunteering can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, and a meaningful way to give back to your community. If you love animals, volunteering at an animal shelter or helping to facilitate a pet adoption event can be a great way to spend time with animals, and it won’t cost a thing.

    10. Explore local thrift stores and play dress up for the afternoon

    It can be fun to peruse thrift stores for finds, even if you don’t have plans to buy anything. Try on that 1960s shift dress or three-piece suit from the rack and make a day of exploring.

    11. Host a DIY home spa with homemade face masks, manicures, and relaxation activities

    College can be a stressful time. If there’s a weekend when you’re looking for a relaxing activity for a group of friends (or just need some solo relaxation time) why not host a DIY home spa get together with homemade face masks, manicures, and any other relaxing activities you can think of.

    12. Participate in a campus or community environmental cleanup or recycling initiative

    Keep an eye out for announcements, flyers, or social media posts about upcoming environmental cleanup events on your college campus or in your local community. This can be a great way to give back while potentially being an opportunity to make new friends.

    13. Organize a group hike or nature walk in a scenic area

    If you like to be outdoors or are simply looking for a fitness activity for the weekend that won’t involve signing up for a pricey fitness class, why not research hiking trails good for a group walk – the more scenic, the better.

    14. Try a new recipe with friends or roommates

    Have you recently found a recipe you’ve been wanting to try? Make a night of it and turn that recipe into a hangout. Have your friends or roommates bring a few of the ingredients and master the recipe you’ve been wanting to try together.

    15. Start the side hustle you’ve been thinking about

    If you have a side hustle or business idea you’ve had in the back of your mind for a while, turn it into one of your weekend activities. Many prominent business leaders started companies during college, so there’s no time like the present. Even if you don’t want to be the next big founder, this may be an opportunity to start a side hustle to simply earn money while in college.

    16. Visit an outdoor farmer’s market

    If you love perusing food items or just like getting out into your local community, consider visiting a local farmer’s market on the weekend. You can explore local culture, discover unique items, and potentially enjoy free samples as you walk around.

    Final thoughts

    It’s important for college students to find a balance between their academic responsibilities and enjoying their social life. Engaging in various activities during your free time can help you make the most of your weekends and create a well-rounded college experience. And you don’t have to spend a lot of money to do it!