Everything You Need to Know About Textbooks

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Textbooks… one of my least favorite things about college just because of how variable the requirements are. So we’re going to lay down allll the details today! Do you need them? When should you get them? Where should you get them?

Fear not! Read on, bold student!

Do I really need my textbooks?

Maybe! Some classes require you to read before class, other classes only recommend you to read before class. Some classes have you do problems straight from the book, others don’t. Even if there’s a “required textbook” listed online for the class, your professor might not actually use it. Some of my professors have told me that they are required to list a required textbook.

The best way to find out if you truly need a textbook is to ask an upperclassman who has taken the class before or wait until the first week of classes to buy it. Often, on the first day of classes, your professor will provide clarification on how much they expect you to use the textbook and if you need a specific edition or can use older ones.

Don’t freak out about waiting until the first week. In 3 years, I’ve never actually needed a textbook the very first week of classes.

How to get textbooks without selling your soul

It’s a well-known fact that textbooks are crazy expensive. By following the tips above, you’ll be able to first of all avoid paying for textbooks you won’t use. Here are some additional tips and strategies to save some cash.

  1. Buy “local.” Besides your college bookstore and Amazon, check with that upperclassman and see if they have the textbook they’d be willing to sell for cheap(er) or ask if they know anyone who’d be interested. You might also see if there’s a Facebook group for buying and selling textbooks at your school.
  2. Buy used or rent. Be a little picky and savvy while textbook shopping. More often than not, you won’t look back at your textbooks after you finish the semester. The exception is if you have a multi-semester class that uses the same textbook (ex. anything with I, II, III… versions of the same subject). Amazon Rentals usually has pretty competitive prices, and you can find great deals on used books from thriftbooks and AbeBooks. Again, be a little savvy because sometimes it’s even cheaper to buy used than rent used.
  3. Price match. Check with your college bookstore to see if they price match. My bookstore gives store credit for the difference between their price and the price to match, so I can get the textbook plus use the bookstore credit for another textbook or apparel.
  4. Find an eBook. Some textbooks can be found online fairly easily, and sometimes an eBook version is cheaper. If you don’t mind eBooks instead of physical books you can hold in your hands, this is a good option.
  5. Split with a classmate. If you know someone who is taking the same class, consider buying or renting a textbook together. You will need good communication throughout the semester to make sure each person can use it when they need to, but this will cut the cost in half for each of you.

Let us know if this post has been helpful! Do you have any other pro textbook tips? Comment or email if you have a topic request about anything post-high school. Between all the volunteers, we have a whole host of different post-high school experiences!

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Written by Holly Lakin on Aug 03, 2020