Welcome to the first post I’m actually writing this year! I thought about doing a resolutions post, or a post about what we got for Christmas but I think that “New Year’s Resolutions” are kind of pointless, sorry if you believe in them, and we didn’t get anything exciting for Christmas… I thought about what I’ve been focusing my time on the past few days and tried to come up with something cute or funny, instead I got this…
The spring 2017 semester is starting next Monday. Next. Monday. My professors are already uploading their syllabi, I keep getting bill reminders, our new work schedule came out, ah! I’m not ready!
Part of preparing for the next semester is textbooks. I thought that I would go over some of my most asked questions and the answers I’ve stumbled upon these past three years in college.
Do I need the textbook for this class?
The answer will almost always be, yes. While the professor may say that the textbook isn’t necessary for the course I recommend getting it anyways. In a lecture hall of 200 students it is most likely that the professor generated the exam questions from a test bank, the test bank comes from the textbook, not lectures. So unless you’re attending each and every lecture and taking copious amounts of legible notes, get your textbook and at least skim the chapters.
Will I ever use the textbook?
I think that this goes along with “Do I need it?” because again, while you may not have specifically assigned readings or homework assignments, it will almost always be beneficial for you to have it for exam purposes. Maybe you don’t crack it open all semester but when the final rolls around and you realize you’ve skipped three lectures, that textbook could be the difference between a D and a B on your final.
Can’t me and my buddy just share the textbook?
Well, I suppose that if your best friend in the whole world, a best friend you spend each and every day with, is willing to share their textbook with you, this would be an okay option. But just because you and your frat bro have the same class with the same professor does not mean you use the textbook the same way. They pay for it and agree to let you see it when you need it, or take pictures (Pictures of a textbook are not an effective study tool, fyi), then they go on a cruise over Spring break and leave the textbook in their car. They get back and now you’re both trying to cram for the same final… Get where I’m going with this? Just don’t do it.
Should I get my textbooks before or after the class starts?
I recommend picking them up before the semester starts, Amazon and Chegg typically raise prices once the semester starts and ten bucks a textbook can make the difference between Ramen or pizza next week. If the class starts and the professor says, “The university made me pick a textbook, I never use this book, go burn your copy if you paid full price for it…” then return the book, you didn’t lose anything.
What version of the textbook is okay?
If the textbook you’re looking at it is on the sixteenth edition, the thirteenth-fifteenth are probably acceptable for the class you’re taking and the professor will probably clarify that on the first day of class. If you’re trying to get your textbooks before the start of the semester, like I do, email your professor and ask them! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, professors are people, they are paid a salary to deal with you and your academic problems, they will answer you, maybe not that day, but they’ll get to it. Sometimes the publishers of the textbook will change around the chapter numbers and call it a new edition, most professors hate this and have to update their required text because of the contract the school has with the publisher, but they usually don’t mind if everyone uses the previous version. The only case I’ve had a problem with previous versions was that the publisher changed the end of chapter questions.
An ebook will work, right?
Typically, I find that the ebooks are actually pricier than the physical rentals, while an ebook is easier to carry they’re usually harder to keep up with. While not impossible, it’s not a simple process to highlight, take notes, or rip pages out (yes, I have ripped full pages out of textbooks I’ve purchased before, it’s easier to fit the twenty page chapter than the five hundred page book in my binder).
Do I need the access code?
Some classes have assignments generated solely from the content provided by the publisher, content you gain individual access to by having an access code. These things are a b*tch. I do not recommend buying them from sketchy people on Amazon, read the review of a seller and make sure they’re legit. Sometimes a professor will have the textbook w/ access code listed through the school, email them before you waste your money. If you do not need it, these are not worth the money. You can study just as effectively by making flashcards or taking notes.
What about the cost?
Unfortunately, cost is the one thing I can’t help you with. I think that it really sucks that even if you have a scholarship and financial aid, your textbooks probably won’t be covered. When the average textbook costs $175 you’re looking at a $700 bill for four classes. However, I would say that this is the average bookstore price. When you can, you should buy used copies, check out your local used bookstore (Here in Jacksonville, Chamblin’s Bookmine is a great resource), make sure to cross check Amazon and Chegg. Or see below for my thoughts on renting your books…
Is it worth it to rent the book?
Ask yourself, how useful will this book be to me in five years? If the answer is, it won’t be, then rent your books. Most university bookstores offer rentals, but again, those prices are astronomical. You should check Amazon and Chegg, again, cross reference before purchasing; use a friend’s Prime account for free shipping with Amazon, or use your six month free trial.My book bill this semester (renting not buying) using my university bookstore is around $500, by renting through Amazon I’m only going to have to spend $150. Most rental services do not mind if you highlight in the book, so long as it does not destroy the integrity of the book, you can also take margin notes in pencil (they advise you to erase all these notes before returning the books but I’ve received rentals with pencil notes before so obviously it’s not a perfect system).
At the end of the day, your textbooks can influence your GPA in a dramatic fashion. Think about what you want out of college and what your future goals might be, if a C is fine then for that class where “we won’t use the textbook” you probably don’t need to spend the money… But if you’re aiming for that 4.0 or anything near it, textbooks can literally save your life. (It’s also hard to explain to your professor that you’re ‘really trying to grasp the material’ if you don’t even have the book… Think about that before you beg for them to round your 69.4 up to a C.)
Until next time – Xx.