Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from T.J Matsumoto of PA Cents.
How to Get The Most Book for Your Buck!
There are a lot of expenses when starting PA school and typically not a lot of income.
According to the data, the cost of PA school textbooks (including some supplies) is in the range of $1,200 - $2,000 per year. Ouch!
When you don’t have an income and have a lot of money going out the best thing you can do is to look for ways to save money or spend less. As the saying goes, “A penny saved is a penny earned”.
In the grand scheme of PA school expenses the textbooks are a small percentage but as PA school can be over $100,000 the price of textbooks is still a large amount and you can save a large chunk of money by being savvy with your textbook purchases.
1. Use the Library
Every university has a library and for most schools the library stocks the required textbooks. I learned early on in undergrad that you rarely are required to read an entire textbook and sometimes there are only small sections you might need to reference. The same is true in PA school.
At the start of the semester when they would give a list of required textbooks I usually wouldn't buy them. Instead, I would see how the first couple weeks of the class went, use the library textbooks and see which ones I was using a lot. If I found that I was using a book a lot and thought I’d reference it after the class was over then I would buy it.
Many of the books that were “required” were only going to be used for that class and probably not ever looked at again and I didn’t think it was worth it to spend money on something I wasn’t going to use after the class was over.
Overdrive.com is a digital library that links with 1000's of physical libraries around the country and offers free digital books and audiobooks. It is the best deal in town and has a huge selection of both medical and nonmedical textbooks that you can borrow for FREE. They even have a wonderful iPhone and Android app that allows you to take your books anywhere you go.
2. Textbook Rental
If the library is too inconvenient and you would rather have your own copy at home, instead of purchasing a copy that you might only use a few times you can rent.
You can save a lot of money by not purchasing a textbook and if you end up deciding you want a personal copy you have the option of purchasing them at a later date. Instead up putting a couple of hundred dollars up front to purchase a book you can spend much less by renting a book for the semester.
The prices can vary depending on the website you use and the popularity of the book but if you shop around you can find great deals on textbook rentals.
This tactic is extremely helpful during rotations, or for content that is less "evergreen." I still own my personal copy of Lange Current Surgery, Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, and Beckman Obstetrics and Gynecology. These books were outdated the day I graduated from PA school. They are perfect money saving rentals.
What are my favorite textbook rental sites?
Chegg.com: Offers deep discounts, a huge selection of medical textbooks, 21 day free returns and a 4-week free trial!
Note: Highlighting, Note-taking, and Writing in Your Book: Most rental companies don’t allow you to mark or annotate the rental book, in the same way, you would if you owned the book so be careful not to write in or highlight or you might have to pay for the book in full. If you are the type of student that likes to highlight or to write in your book, you should probably buy a used textbook.
3. Buy from previous graduates
If people have not read my advice above on using the library then once they are graduating they will find that they have bought a bunch books that they are no longer going to use and they are ready to part with. You can talk to these recent graduates to see if they want to sell any of their books.
When I was starting PA school I talked to someone that was just finishing the program and asked her if she wanted to sell her books. Of course, she wanted to hold on to a couple of them but was willing to part with some. I should have been smarter about the ones I bought from her but she said that she used all of them a lot, but why would she want to sell them if she used them?
I didn’t buy all of the ones she wanted to sell but bought a couple I thought I would need and use. In retrospect, I didn’t need them as much as she told me or I thought and could have just used the library but she was selling them much cheaper than what was online.
This can be a win-win for both parties as you can find a price that is less than what it is being sold online and more than what they would get if they traded them in somewhere.
3. Share with classmates
This is not always the most convenient thing to do but can be a good way to lessen the cost of textbooks. If you’re able to talk with a classmate you can share textbooks with them. Usually, there is plenty to study from different classes so if you plan on studying for one class while they study for a different one then you aren’t using the same textbook at the same time.
If you’re a social learning and like studying with other people you can plan to meet at a coffee shop or somewhere else and have all the books in one place.
Again, I’d recommend using the library to get a feel for the books you might be using a lot and the ones you’re not using much. If you start off sharing books or using the library and find that you need a book more often you can always purchase your own copy at a later date.
4. Buy Online
Back in the day, the easiest option was to go to the university bookstore to buy your books. These days you can buy anything online. You no longer have to wait in long lines and pay the set price at the university bookstore.
I recommend shopping around on different websites as the price can vary and you may have the option of buying used books. Also, you don’t have to worry about wasting your time standing in line at the bookstore.
Where is the best place to purchase new and used PA School textbooks?
The same places you can rent you can also buy and sell new and used textbooks. Rent to buy is also a very good option. For this, again I recommend you take advantage of your student ID by purchasing an Amazon Prime Student account. Chegg.com also has good deals.
5. Don’t Forget to Sell Old Books
Don’t feel bad if you made the mistake of buying textbooks that you are no longer going to use but don’t make the mistake of letting them sit in your parent's garage. If you can’t find a student in the class below to sell your books to you can always check online to recoup some of the money you spent on buying the textbooks.
Even though in the grand scheme of things the cost of textbooks may not seem like a huge amount whenever you can save and reduce the amount you need to borrow you should; use the above tactics to save money on your textbooks as there are a lot of options to look into.