Back to College: Basic Textbook Q & A

There are a number of things to consider when getting ready to buy textbooks. To get started, I put together this Q&A about some basic concepts of textbook buying procedures.

Should I buy books before classes start or wait until after the first meeting?
It depends on how you look at it and what your situation is. Buying early is a great way to avoid waiting in long lines, and if you’re planning to buy used books, buying early will help you to ensure that you get the used books before they sell out. Also, if there is absolutely no chance that you will drop the class, I suggest buying your books early.

However, if you are sort of “feeling” your way through, and you think there is a possibility that you may drop a class that you’re unsure about/nervous about, you may want to attend a class before you actually buy the book, in order to avoid having to return the books later. Even if you just decide to postpone the class for another semester, and you keep the books, the books that you have may not be the ones used when you sign up for the class again.

Can I use financial aid to buy books?
This depends on your school’s financial aid policy. In some cases aid is not disbursed for a couple of weeks, and there is no system to deduct the cost of books from you account, so you will need to buy them with your own money. On the other hand some schools will allow you to come and pick up your books ahead of time using financial aid, and the amount will be deducted from your account. Meanwhile other schools will let you use financial aid, but they won’t actually allow you to pick up books until the first day of class. Just go several weeks ahead of time to find out what the policies are at your school.

If a book for one of my classes is labeled, “Optional,” “Supplemental,” or “Not Required,” should I buy it? I personally like to have all the books even if they’re not required (as long as it doesn’t cost an arm & a leg). But often these “unrequired”books are just an added reference, a study guide, or it may be that the book is used by some teachers and not others. If a book on your list is “Not Required,” I suggest visiting the professor or waiting until the first day of class before buying the book. (And keep in mind, often these “supplemental” texts are not returnable.)

My school uses to sell books online. Should I use this service or buy on campus?
Efollet is a convenient way to order your books, and it allows you to have the books shipped to your home or you can choose to pick them up at the bookstore, and it’s great because it saves you time (& a trip to the school, if you live away). The price will be the same whether you use the website or purchase them from the school store (except that you have to pay shipping costs to get them sent to your home). In fact, when you buy from efollet, the clerks at your school store will actually be the ones that fill the order (at least that’s the way it is at the schools I’ve had experience with). The good thing about buying books in person at your store is that you get to pick them out yourself, which means if you’re buying a used book, you can choose between getting a nice looking used book versus one that may be torn or written in.

Do I have to buy books from my book store?
No. You have other options. In short, there are several reputable sites where you can buy new & used books online. And most likely there is an off campus bookstore that sells the books you need at a lower price than the school store. In the next post, I’ll be pointing out some more specific ways that you can get your books online and offline and save money (up to 50 & 75% or possibly more).

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