The proportion of students investing in cryptocurrencies tripled in a year, website Save the Student found.
But one 22-year-old investor said he had lost money and warned others to do their research before getting involved.
Three-quarters of those surveyed said they had considered dropping out of their studies.
Mental health issues and the pandemic were the most likely reasons, but 41% said money was the key issue.
“With an unstable part-time job market as well as some parents losing earnings due to the pandemic, the usual funding sources for students bridging the finance shortfall have become hard to come by,” said Jake Butler, from Save the Student.
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The survey found that the typical student faced a shortfall of £340 every month, as maintenance loans failed to cover the average monthly living expenses of £810.
Financial help from parents, a part-time job and savings are still the most likely ways by far to plug that gap.
Some said they had found other ways to raise money, ranging from overdrafts and selling possessions to gambling and taking part in drugs trials.
Investment in cryptocurrencies was still niche, with about 6% of students trying it, but their numbers had risen threefold in a year.