How to Skip the Textbook and Still Earn an A

College students face enough financial hardship just paying tuition fees. But with rising costs for textbooks, how can students ensure a good education when they can't afford to purchase textbooks and other materials? Here are a few strategies.


Five Strategies for Living Without Textbooks

In January 2014, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) released a survey noting that 65% of college students said they had to forgo buying textbooks due to high prices. Common textbook-publishing practices, such as bundling books with CDs, limiting resales and releasing frequent new editions, make it more and more difficult for students to purchase books that are essential to their education. In fact, the PIRG notes that the average student spends roughly $1,200 per year on textbooks and supplies. Below are five strategies for students who are forced to survive without their textbooks.

Study Buddies and Groups

Working with a study buddy or study group can help students in two ways. First, you'll have the opportunity to interact with fellow students and participate in stimulating discussions. Second, you'll likely be able to borrow someone's textbook during study sessions.

Take Copious Notes

If you're working through a course without the required textbooks, take careful, copious notes. Listen for important concepts that the professor repeats or writes on the board or in hand-outs. With this strategy, it's important not to miss a single class or lecture.

Online Resources

Following the detailed notes you took, utilize the vast amount of resources available online to further research the topic. Some OpenCourseWare programs may offer the information you need free of charge. Even better, a helpful peer may have uploaded a version of the book or chapter you need to the web.


It may seem old-fashioned, but libraries can still be a great place to find books! Both university and public libraries are rich with journals, scholarly articles and sometimes even copies of that much-needed textbook.

Talk to Your Professor

Professors can be a great resource for students without textbooks. You might also ask if the professor could put one in the school library, or if you can photocopy the necessary chapters.

Can't Live Without the Textbook?

For students who'd rather have the textbook than a study buddy, there are a few strategies for hunting down more affordable books. Purchasing used copies, selling books back, buying online and asking to borrow another student's book are commonly used. Some schools also have book leasing or rental options.

Learn about how some professors are assigning their own textbooks.

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