Sometimes there are things even I have trouble understanding. Shocking but true. Take for example some of the results from a recent survey on buying textbooks conducted by Every time I think about it I get more confused as to why more people don’t purchase their textbooks online.

There is no good reason why less than half of all students surveyed purchase their required texts online. Where someone might look at this survey and see numbers, I look at it and see students throwing away money that could otherwise be used on food and entertainment. I see someone eating Ramen Noodle when they can be eating carry-out Thai food. The average college student is now spending more than $4,000 on textbooks over the course of their education. The average savings on books purchased online rather than at the main campus bookstore ranges from 38% on a new book to 49% on a used book. Over the course of 4 or 5 years that’s thousands of dollars. Now we aren’t talking Ramen Noodle to Thai Food we are talking about the difference between riding a beat up Huffy to class and a new scooter.

This overspending on textbooks is made that much more confusing because most people list PRICE as the main factor when buying a book. Not convenience, not rubbing elbows with your fellow students at the campus bookstore, not the warm fuzzy of having purchased a bag full of heavy textbooks, but PRICE. Even though price is the main factor, and studies show significant savings when purchasing texts online, students still buy elsewhere. Even crazier is that most people who do shop online DON’T use a price comparison tool! You don’t need a college education to know that different stores have different prices. Textbook prices fluctuate wildly across the country and the best way to get the best price is to use a simple price comparison tool.’s price comparison tool lists price, shipping costs, and availability from dozens of vendors. Some students using the tool have saved almost 60% on their books.

To sum up, if you want to eat Thai food and ride a scooter to class, use a price comparison tool and shop for your books online. recently conducted a survey of textbook buying students and the findings were quite interesting. The survey confirmed some of my long held beliefs when it comes to the textbook buying public but there were also a couple of surprises. The results won’t necessarily make the latest edition of Scientific America but they were pretty interesting nonetheless.

My first surprise was to find out that almost as many people are shopping for books online as at the campus bookstore. It wasn’t too long ago when the campus bookstore was a clear cut choice. The least surprising fact to emerge from the survey was that price is the most important factor when shopping online. In fact, price was the main factor in just under 70% of the respondents. And even though price is an overwhelming factor when shopping online I was surprised that there were so many other factors at work too. Other factors included (in order) reputation of seller, reputation of website, inventory availability, and delivery time. All of these other factors were listed on less than 10% of the surveys. The reputation of seller and website were listed as the 2nd and 3rd most important factors and combined for almost 18% of responses.

This clearly shows that there is still a bit of fear on the part of the purchasing public, despite how commonplace online shopping has become. We all want the lowest price, but for close to 20% of us we fear we might be getting duped. As for the other respondents, who listed inventory and delivery time as the most important factors,well, you people need to jump start your book buying process. In all honesty, when time becomes a more important factor than price it means you should have purchased your books earlier. Time is money. And those without the time tend to pay more money.

It’s very simple, the earlier you purchase your textbooks the less money you will spend. So please for your own sake, find out what texts are required for your courses as soon as possible. Then visit to use their price comparison tool. Within seconds you’ll know the price, availability, and shipping times from a variety of online stores.

As mentioned in my last blog I didn’t spend the entire summer lounging around watching movies and catching up on my book list. I wouldn’t be very helpful if I didn’t keep my ear to the pavement to stay aware of new ways to help college students pay for tuition, books, rent, etc. I try to stay fairly current on the financial aid front and it’s always nice to earn something new that I can pass on.

Recently I learned about something called “summer melt” which surprisingly is not about sitting in an open field at a concert festival in 100 degree heat. “Summer melt” is actually a yearly phenomenon that occurs when incoming students make a last minute decision to NOT to attend a certain college or any college at all. More often than not these would be students are leaving financial aid packages on the table. All that money then goes back into a collective pool where it sits until someone asks for it. Apparently summer melt has grown bigger and bigger every year. More and more people are deciding to attend college, creating significantly more financial aid than was previously available. When a student gets accepted to a school an Aid package is created. If a student is accepted to 5 schools, 5 Aid packages get created with 4 of them ultimately becoming someone else’s extra financial aid if they know how to get it.

Receiving summer melt financial aid is actually remarkably simply, just ask for it. As with most things in life, if you don’t ask for it, you probably won’t get it. Ultimately, financial aid is there to be given away. Its sole purpose is to be given away to students like you. Even if you are already the recipient of a Financial Aid package there is nothing preventing you from receiving more assistance.

The best way to ask for additional financial aid is with a well written letter. If you are receiving Aid, thank the school for that. Confirm that you will be attending school the upcoming semester and simply inquire as to whether there are additional financial aid packages available now that other students have made their enrollment decisions. If your financial situation has changed since your original Aid package was awarded it is important to let the school know that. Be courteous, grateful, and excited to attend school in your letter. Then, follow up with a phone call a week later, or better yet stop into the Financial Aid Office a few days before school starts and sit down with a counselor. Be courteous, polite, and grateful- never forget you are begging for free money. You may just walk out of the office with more aid and less stress than thought possible.

By Dan Russell