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When Should You Start Looking For And Buying Your Textbooks

By Victoria Robertson

When starting off as a freshman in college, everything is new to you. From dorm living to coursework, there are vast differences from high school to college. One of the biggest, and most expensive, differences is that you will now be responsible for purchasing your textbooks.

While it doesn’t seem like a ton of responsibility, it actually is, which is why there are a lot of questions surrounding it, such as when you should look for them, where to purchase them and where to buy them.

For that reason, we’ll discuss the process of purchasing textbooks to help you answer those questions.

First of all, when you sign up for a class, you will typically get your syllabus on the first day (or, if you’re lucky, ahead of time), which lists all the required textbooks for that course. As soon as you have this syllabus in hand, you should be on the lookout for textbooks.

Textbooks can be bought in many places, but you’ll first want to check out the campus bookstores and compare prices. Many of the on-campus stores will have websites through which you can view and compare prices.

In addition to campus websites, you will also want to check Amazon and other online platforms that may have discounted books that you’ll want to look into.

Finally, you’ll want to check out any discounted textbook stores for additional book options, as these will have the best deal, but you’ll be able to get the least amount of books there.

Basically, you want to go with the lowest price to you, so once you’ve done the compare and contrast, you’ll likely need to place orders in several locations, but it will be well worth it in the long run.

Another pro tip here is to avoid going to the bookstore in the middle of the day within the first week of classes. If you want to avoid the lines, you should go first thing in the morning in order to beat the traffic.

In addition, if you place your bookstore order online and choose to pick it up in the bookstore, you’ll save yourself a bit of time, but the same timeline goes; if you don’t go first thing in the morning, you’re going to be waiting in a long line.

Now that we’ve discussed the where, let’s talk about when you should buy your textbooks.

Many students order all of their books that first week of classes and then pick them up, leaving them on their bookshelves all semester long, waiting to be used. Others will purchase textbooks as they are needed.

There are faults to both approaches.

If you pick up all of your books in the first week of classes, you are likely going to buy more books than you need, which means you are ultimately wasting money.

Conversely, if you buy books as they are needed, you run the risk of your bookstore running out of the book in question by the time you need it, which means that you could end up without the text you need, setting you back in terms of coursework deadlines.

For these reasons, the best approach to purchasing your textbooks is to attend your first lecture and get the answer from your professor.

Most professors will tell you day one which texts you will need, though most will also tell you that you’re going to need all of them. What you want to do is listen for the subtle cues that you may not need all of them.

For instance, if a professor says “if we have time for this text” or “optional reading,” you may want to consider holding off on purchasing those texts until closer to that textbook assignment to see whether or not you will actually need it.

However, if a professor says, “you will definitely need this text,” don’t take that as an immediate “must buy now” type of situation. In fact, many students are able to get by without expensive textbooks and may not need them.

You need to think about the type of student you are. Do you read textbooks when readings are assigned to you? Or do you mainly go off of your notes?

In addition, you need to look at the course you are in. Is this an English course through which you will read and discuss texts? Or is this a history course where the textbook explains events that you cover in class?

These factors will play into whether or not you should immediately buy a book versus wait to buy it.

If you are in a history course and the type of student that relies on notes and likely wouldn’t look at a textbook, you probably don’t need that book and should hold off until you know for sure. If you are in an English course and will be discussing the readings in class, you will definitely need the texts and should buy them immediately.

The textbook buying process is largely subjective, so make sure to take all items into consideration and, when in doubt, hold off until you know for sure.

Happy reading!