The costs of college can be very overwhelming. After tuition, food, travel, and housing, the idea of spending hundreds on textbooks can be daunting. As a fourth year Physician Assistant student, I can give you some insight to the best plan (and most affordable plan) of attack, as well as an idea of what to expect out of your semester preparation expenses.
Do I really need the book?
As a first year student, it’s normal to feel unprepared or panicked about having the right books for class. I can tell you from experience, that the best option when it comes to buying books is to wait. Wait till the end of that first week of class, see if the book is required for in-class work. Some class syllabuses have a textbook listed under the class, but in many cases it isn’t used for most class work. Better yet, ask some upperclassmen in your major about their experience in the class. Did they use the book regularly? Did they need it for a 1 week project? If so, some textbooks are available in the library to sign out. This is definitely worth saving $250 on a book.
What about buying used?
Yes. Buying books used is a great option. Most times, older editions are only different by a couple words or practice problems. The biggest issue you may encounter is online access codes. Classes that do their homework through an online platform may require purchase of an online access codes. These codes are usually included with a new text book, and you won’t have them by purchasing a used one. The is, unfortunately, a necessary evil as these online programs are components of your grade. Sometimes however, you may buy an online code separately and still save money with a used book.
Where’s the best place to buy textbooks?
On campus, Barnes and Noble has almost every textbook for classes here. Anything they don’t have, they will order. This is certainly the most convenient location. Amazon is also a good option. Barnes and Noble will price match any textbook found on Amazon. Your best bet is to google your book and look for coupon codes, special offers, or for an earlier edition to save money. Disclaimer: If a professor does say that a current edition is mandatory, then it is your at your own risk to have an earlier copy. However, as a 4th year student, I’ve found that earlier editions have worked fine in all of my classes.
Online or downloadable texts?
If you don’t mind not having your own tangible copy of a book, then try to find an online copy. Some places have books available for download. The online codes I mentioned earlier usually come with an online version of the textbook. This is great because you can carry all of your otherwise heavy books all in your laptop! This worked for most of my early classes, but personally for certain, more difficult classes, I prefer a hard copy to highlight and write in.
Be patient. Don’t rush out and spend those hundreds of dollars in the first 3 days. Assess each on of your classes and how your professor conducts them. You’ll learn to attack each subject and all class material differently. Give yourself the time you need to adjust and weigh all of your options.