College Series: Textbooks

A little background about myself; I attended Baylor University for two [freshman/sophomore] years of college before returning home to attend community college. My experiences at the university weren’t that cinematic, idyllic 4.0, sorority-joining social extravaganza the movies depict it to be (like I wanted it to be). Quite frankly, it was a lot like my high school experience.

  • College Tip: DON’T buy your textbooks prematurely!

This tip was a personal adaptation or learned behavior from high school. In HS textbooks are distributed to students when as a class, we walked to the textbook rooms with our ID cards to check them out. Honestly, my high school taught me what a waste these thousands of dollars worth of textbooks are. At my school, the teachers taught, I never used a textbook and after Freshman year, I stopped checking them out. After my freshman year geography class, which required Cornell Notes of each chapter, those huge closet expanses of textbooks went to waste. I mean there were still students who entertained the novelty of it all, they checked out their books, but then they would always fret over where they left them when it came time to return them or face the fines. When it came to college I discovered not much else was different.

In college there are five buying options when it comes to textbooks: buy new, buy used, rent new, rent used, ebook. Textbooks cost exuberant amounts of money for something as fleeting as a semester block, and college is already a budget-buster, so follow learn from my experience and save yourself the hassle.

***Never order your books for in store pick-up! If you do choose to order any textbooks for your online campus bookstore, plan to do so in enough time to receive that in your home mail. ***

I had multiple sets of roommates to proactively order/pay for all of their books online and still not have them within the first week of classes. The online orders and payments went through the server, but the SKU on your book is the one they have to hand you or send from your online receipt. They use the SKUs to bundle each students’ books based, so if you order 10 books with 10 different SKUs, your screwed. Your bundle will not be complete until every SKU on your receipt is retrieved and set aside together, then it is all handed to you (they also will only hand over the whole complete order at one time). They do this so that when you return books the items match on the receipt.

*This information is based BU bookstore associates’ explanation.

True story: My freshman year roommate, went through this process and when she walked into the store to realize that her bundle was not ready, she asked to cancel the order and to just pull her own books from the shelves. She was told that her order was already processed and partially pulled so she would have to wait and them physically return each one. Instead her parents bought her textbooks all over again for her to have that day in the bookstore, and she returned her ordered bundle when she was finally contacted three days into classes. Granted some of her books were on backorder so she still had to wait, and ended up keeping part of the bundle. Even so, for that short period of time she was out more money until the bookstore caught up on their sales.

I did not have the same issues, because I did not even know how to access my college e-mail for over three months, let alone that I should be concerned with getting my textbooks before they sold out (I didn’t even know there was an online campus bookstore to be honest).  When I arrived at Baylor, I logged onto BlackBoard (a designated portal for student assignment, grades, and contacts), most school should use something similar to consolidate your schedule and ease the curriculum; listed out on BB were my courses for the semester and the syllabi I downloaded to checked for any assignments/reading needed for before the physical start of the semester (I had one class where that was the case). As for my other courses, if it was not made clear by the syllabus whether or not the text was necessary for my in to perform the work, I personally e-mailed the professor(s), introducing myself and politely inquiring about the necessity of the text. Only 4/5 of my textbooks were necessary for my classwork.

I already saved myself one purchase, so I further expanded my saving by using a combination of the following:

  1. Always rent textbooks that aren’t specific to your major and that aren’t built upon later (i.e. Gen Chem 1 & 2, you may need to reference the former for the latter).
  2. Make friends with someone in your same class and share the text! My roommate and I had the same English class which required 2/5 of my textbook purchases. She graciously shared her two books with me because we lived together for one, and for two we sat side by side in the same class.
  3. Utilize textbook rental companies/ resale marketplaces to buy your books (such as,, Half-priced Books also has a physical store you can purchase from. Make sure to call ahead to see if your book is on the floor, and have them pull and hold it for you at the register. #easytransactions
  4. Ask your professor if older editions are still adequate for use.
  5. Some professor put their text on hold in the library for students to photocopy or use at their leisure (BEWARE that they cannot be checked-out of the library, and that multiple copies may not be on hold, so the text may be in at times that are convenient for you).

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*Pictured: BU Bookstores buying options vs. HPB. Always be cautious that you are purchasing the correct edition and author.



Additional tips:

  • Don’t think you can’t rent a textbook for a class that requires the addition of an access code. I once had a Spanish class, whose text book was $500 (rounded) including the code, and I rented the book off of Chegg for $20 and purchased the access code from the textbook company’s official site for $75. Savings total: $400.
  • If a book is backordered don’t worry!! First, reach out to your professor to let them know that the book is not available. They may grant extensions on assignments requiring the text… or personally upload the section of the text needed at the time. Secondly, you could always snap photos of the pages needed for your work from a fellow classmate. Upload them to a computer to create a makeshift ebook on a larger screen for ease of reading. Lastly, you could always ask a classmate to walk with you to the the library to photocopy the things you need from their book. #thrifty

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