Should you buy the textbooks for your classes right away? Is there a chance that you may not even need to purchase the suggested textbook for a class?

7 Answers
I always waited, as I had many classes where the textbooks were unnecessary. The first week of classes, your professors won't expect you to have the books anyway, so attend the first class, read the syllabus and make a judgment call. Some professors will tell you right off the bat you need all the texts, some will tell you they may not get to them all, and some may not say anything. So it's going to vary, but your best bet is to at least wait until that first class to see what materials are required etc.
You don't HAVE to buy the textbooks right away, and there's always a chance you won't even need the book. Still, I like to have the books on hand right away and return them if I don't need them (especially if it's a science or math class, where the book will be helpful even if the professor doesn't require it). In my opinion, it's better to have the book and not need it (and then send it back) than to need the book and not have it. You can also look into textbook rentals, which is much cheaper and more likely to give you a better refund offer if you need it.
ALWAYS WAIT! I learned this the hard way freshman year. I bought every textbook and ended up using maybe a third of them. Now I wait at least a week into the semester to buy my textbooks. It's a huge waste of money to buy every textbook and then end up using two of them.
I always waited to see what my professors said about the readings. Sometimes in first lecture or the syllabus they will clearly state whether it's necessary or not to get the books. I've had professors provide pdfs of the book for their students, but also professors that have even made reading optional. I think you should also keep in mind your own study habits - if you know you are absolutely never going to touch that book if you buy it - don't bother and save your money for something else.
I always wait until the first class and gauge what the teacher and the syllabus say. Chances are, you won't need it the first day, as those tend to be more of a "let's walk through the syllabus and get a general overview of the class," and typically if you need it the first day, the professor will email you the first day.
In undergrad, I saved so much money by doing this! In grad school, on the other hand, I have needed every single textbook assigned, so it really depends.
Then again, if you find cheap options on Amazon, I'd say get them beforehand, because shipping can take a while if they aren't Prime, and you wouldn't want to miss out on the deal.
I always like to be prepared for class on the first day, so I do buy all of my required textbooks. Though, I did run into some situations where the professor either changed the book last minute or we never used it. I didn't mind though because I could just sell it. There is definitely a chance that you won't use the book, but it might be helpful to look at the book on your own during the class.
One reason I like to have my textbooks before the class starts is because most professors will assign readings and homework from the textbook on the first day of class. It isn't a good feeling to fall behind in the class on the first day.
In general, I like to wait I've had at least one class meeting before I start buying textbooks. Professors are often very receptive of the high cost of textbooks and know that most students won't have a lot of extra money to pay for them, so they might actually give you some advice for ways to get around buying the books. I've had professors specifically tell us not to buy the book because they just photocopy the sections that we need to read, or because there's a cheaper online version available, so I would suggest that you wait and see. If your professor needs you to have the textbook right away, he or she will probably send out an email saying so before the class starts. Otherwise, it's best to hold off.

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