10/19/2011

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Renting Textbooks If you're trying to save money on textbooks, sometimes renting a textbook that you know you'll never want to keep is a super way to save some dough. Some campus bookstores now offer rental books, which makes renting particularly convenient. There are also a number of Web-based companies that specialize in renting textbooks to college students. All of the rental services ask that you not highlight or write in the books you rent. Some of them include a pre-paid shipping label to make returning the books simple. Keep in mind, though, that rental services do not guarantee that the rented book will include supplementary materials like CDs, or CD-ROMs, or Web access codes or workbooks. If you need a workbook, for instance, you'll need to be sure to buy that separately. The first thing to do if you're interested in exploring your book rental prospects is to determine the exact edition that your instructor is using. That means learning the book title, author, and most importantly of all, the ISBN. You can rent textbooks either from your campus bookstore, from online book seller Barnesandnoble.com or from various Web-based companies that stock the most commonly used textbooks. Book rental sites allow you to adjust the start and end dates of your rental to match your school's schedule. Remember to rent the book until you finish finals, and still have time to ship it back to the rental company. It pays to do a little shopping around, if you have the time. For instance, the 8th edition of The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. I in hardcover retails for $66.25 from the publisher; they sell it to bookstores for the wholesale price of $53.00. Amazon is selling new copies for $52.34, and used copies from third party resellers for around $26.00. BarnesandNoble.com sells the new book new for 54.96 and rents it for $31.84 for ninety days. You can rent the book for a semester (you can adjust the start and end dates) for about $26.00 from Chegg.com, for $33.69 from BookRenter.com (for a longer period), or $28.20 from CampusBookRentals.com for a semester. One site, BigWords.com, attempts to search for the best deal on a book, and lists the various options they find so you can pick the one that works the best for you. Remember that if you decide not to rent your textbooks, you still have other options for saving money.
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Which to Choose: Large Research University or Small Liberal Arts School? One of the questions to ask yourself when you start thinking about college is whether you want to attend a college near home and live at home, or one that requires you to live on campus (a lot of schools require freshmen to live on campus). The next question to ask yourself is whether you want to attend a small liberal arts college or a large research university. Before you can answer that question, you need to first understand what people mean when they refer to "a small liberal arts college," and what they mean by "large research university." Both kinds of schools offer wonderful education opportunities, and enriching experiences, but they are different. They have different values, and, often, different costs as well as benefits. There are private for profit and public versions of both large research universities and small liberal arts schools, so while cost is definitely a consideration, don't assume that small always means costly; sometimes it doesn't. A large college or university typically has a large campus, a number of student service offices and lots of opportunities for social life. But you may feel lost in the crowd if you're not comfortable venturing out on your own and already adept at making friends. You may have classes with several hundred students, and very little contact with the professor teaching the class. You may find the opportunities to meet lots of different kind of people, and an urban environment exactly what you want. A smaller school can offer more personal and individualized attention by campus officers and faculty, and you might have an easier time making friends. You might find that you stand out in a smaller school, and crave the anonymity of a large one. It all depends on you, on what you want, and how you want to be in your future. [This post was originally written for College Adviser in 2011]