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It sounds as though your primary focus is having the money for college in a few years (or less?). Is that what you mean by "What is the smartest way to invest 5-10k to make some more money in the short term?"?

If you will be needing this money in the near future, you need to avoid stocks, commodities, real estate, etc. Unfortunately, what you need is an instrument with short-term principal protection (ugh... I hate to say it, but something like 2y treasuries @ about a quarter of a percent). Trouble is, with yields so low it's almost not worth the effort to invest (don't forget you'll have to file and pay taxes on what meager amount you've earned). Your biggest concern should liquidity, or how readily you can convert your investment to cash. There are instances in which the best value investments (literally buying a stock that is trading at less than the Company's cash balance) don't work out over a short holding period. In fact, the biggest investment opportunities are often the result of the market mispricing something; in your case, that would mean selling your "cheap" stock at an even cheaper price in a year or two.

If there is an amount that you don't need and won't need (in fact, an which, if lost entirely, wouldn't cause great hardship), then you should definitely explore some of what has been discussed below... but even if the views below turn out to be money makers (real estate, silver & other commodities, dairy cows, you name it... I happen to agree... a great investor recently said he's buying ABCD: Anything Bernanke Can't Destroy), it may require the investor to tolerate a long holding period with dramatic price fluctuations. You don't want to be forced to liquidate because you need the money; you want to decide to liquidate when the value proposition has shifted and the investment is now dear and no longer cheap.

Unlearning and self-teaching since 2008. Thanks, Dr. Paul!