Twenty years ago around this time, I left the gritty urban landscape of Baltimore City for the significantly smaller (and infinitely more small-townish) Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin (famous for dairy products, the anthropologist upon whom Indiana Jones is based, turtle-shaped Native American burial mounds, a giant Hormel Chili can, and the Mindset List).

I was an English major and studied with some incredibly smart people as my professors (in and out of the English department) and fellow students with whom I am still close (thank you, Facebook). My advisor at Beloit was Professor Tom McBride. To this day we remain in touch, which means that the minute that the [in]famous Mindset List hits print and pixel, I hear about it and read what Tom and his Beloit cohort Ron Nief have listed as the historicultural background and collective mentality for the year’s incoming freshman.

I graduated from Beloit in 1996, before there was a Mindset List (and accompanying book). Undoubtedly had there been a list for my class, those alumni twenty years my senior would have felt exactly as I feel now when I read the Mindset List — old, very old, and also fortunate, very fortunate to have gone to college and to have done so at a place I loved and that stays with me in the form of still-quirky people, skills and interests and curiosities, and of course the annual Mindset List. That said, enjoy learning about where the class of 2016 is coming from in terms of headspace, and try not to feel too old while doing so. Oh, and take heart, at least we had bound encyclopedias and tan M&Ms.

–Lena


Back-to-school time can be one of the most expensive times of year, especially if you are starting or heading back to college. With books, bags, computers, software and clothing needs, school expenses could run into the hundreds each year. While you have to buy what you have to buy, a few tips can help you keep your back-to-school spending at the low end of the spectrum.

Go for Quality

Everyone does it. It comes time to shop for a necessity, and we start comparing the price tags on items instead of the items themselves. This may seem like the smart thing, and it is if you're just trying to save money upfront. Keep in mind, though, that an upfront savings may cost you down the road.

When you're shopping for your school items, whether books, equipment or clothes, price should be only one factor. Quality is important as well. The $5 t-shirt isn't a smart buy over the $20 t-shirt if it falls apart the first time you wash it.

Be a Smart Buyer

The trick to buying safely online is to stick to well-known vendors, who have respectable business practices. Youth is a good time to take your chances at things, but not in online buying. Online retailers are a common place for credit card number theft, so it's best to stick with vendors with whom you are familiar.

If you'll be doing a lot of online buying, or using your debit or credit cards freely around campus, consider adding identity theft protection, like that available from Lifelock, to your back-to-school purchases. This reputable security company can help protect your identity in the rare instance that someone makes an attempt to steal your information. It's like insurance for your finances, and gives you one less thing to worry about.

Still, though, you should always be aware of where and when you use your credit or debit cards. Spring break, for instance, is a good time to carry cash and a single credit card and leave the rest at home, because tourist destinations are hotspots for card number thieves The best method of dealing with identity theft is to prevent it.

Rent Your Textbooks

Yes, rent your text books. Many students won’t use their text books after they finish the class they are taking that requires the necessary text, so why bother buying the text book just to have to sell the used edition at a lower price than you purchased it? Whatever you do, stay away from the college bookstore. All items run considerably higher in the on-campus bookstore, because the school knows they have captive consumers. If you take good care of your textbooks, you don’t have a habit of dog-earring your book, loosing supplemental materials that go with your textbook (like CD-ROMs, keycodes, etc.), if you like your savings up front (80 percent off of the price of new books, and if you care about recycling and doing something good for our planet overall then renting textbooks might be the option for you.

Find Out What Your Roommate Is Bringing

If you are heading off to a joint living situation, as most college students are, save money on your back-to-school purchases by finding out what your roommate is bringing. Then, you can coordinate. If one of you is bringing a microwave, the other can bring the refrigerator. Generally speaking, dorm rooms are small, so duplicate objects can be more in the way than useful.

If you're a first-timer heading off to your freshman year of college, your university generally provides you with the contact information of your roommate ahead of time, so you'll still be able to make a plan.

Watch for Tax-Free Shopping Days

Several states have one or two days a year during which you can make qualifying back-to-school purchases without paying sales tax. During this time, you can buy not only items that are directly school-related, like notebooks, pens, backpacks, and computer equipment, but you can generally buy clothing and shoes tax-free as well.

There's no way around it. Going back to school is rarely cheap. By keeping an eye out for the best deals, renting your textbooks, buying lasting items and protecting yourself financially can ensure that it doesn't wipe you out completely. If your wallet does start to look a little thin, maybe look into a job opportunity as a member of a reputable security company; LifeLock currently has many open positions available on their team that are entry level and managerial. Plus, it never hurts to have some work experience on your resume.


At CampusBooks.com, we believe that the key to that smart shopping comes from the power of information and options. Part of our commitment to that business ideal involves passing along what we believe to be too-good-to-miss deals and offers. Right now, one of those comes in the form of Amazon Student, which normally carries a price tag of $79 but for a limited time is free for a six-month period (after that, you can keep it for a fee or cancel without hassle).

So what is Amazon Student and why would you be crazy not to take advantage of this six months of free awesomeness? Well, it’s basically Amazon Prime plus even more goodies that are exclusively for students. Now what’s Amazon Prime? It’s a suite of benefits and bonuses that includes:

  • Free two-day shipping on millions of items (um, and not just textbooks)
  • Free release-date delivery on video, games, books, DVDs, and more)
  • Instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows via Amazon Instant Video
  • Freebies for Kindle

I’ll be totally honest and say that I was an early adopter of Amazon Prime when it first came out a few years ago and I have never looked back. I am not a student so I pay full price, which is $79 per year, which is well worth it for my household as we order tons of stuff from Amazon. I can’t imagine living without my expedited delivery, same-day new releases (seriously, a courier comes and drops off the item just as it becomes available in stores), and streaming movies and entire seasons of TV shows. It’s totally worth the annual cost and I recommend it to everyone at full price . . . but six months free? And with even more benefits just for students? I wish that I could get that deal and I envy you guys for being able to get in on it. That said, do not pass this deal up, get Amazon Student ASAP.


Some further news that the economy is slowly but surely taking a turn for the better: Jobs are growing and entry-level positions are coming back fast and the demographic reaping the greatest benefit is that of those ages 20-24 with four-year college degrees!

If you’re graduating this spring, word on the street is not to take a summer vacation until after you secure employment. Yep, that’s how competitive it is. Other advice from experts: don’t say no to foot-in-the-door positions, contact everyone and anyone you or your family knows and who might have a lead, be prepared to work hard and be creative. More on College Grads Can Expect More Hiring for Entry-Level Spots.


When technology is new or in the early stages, the price is high, often prohibitively so. But other factors come into play, factors such as longevity, scalability, flexibility, advanced features not found elsewhere, and even design. Since Apple announced iBooks2 with an emphasis on academic titles and classrooms, there’s been no shortage of debate about what it would take for the iPad to replace the print textbook. Well, it depends how much emphasis one puts on the tangible and intangible, the short term and the long. Discovery has come up with their assessment and given us a nice visual to help translate costs. Right now, at least according to their assessment, it seems difficult to justify iPads as a cost-realistic textbook replacement — no matter how rich in features.


CampusBooks.com has been selected by College.com as the recipient of the Top Choice Award for Textbook Websites. Recognized for its reliability and usability, CampusBooks.com was pitted against a host of popular sites and rated as the number-one resource for students' book-buying, selling, and renting needs. As College.com recommends only the highest quality of resources, being named a Top Choice places CampusBooks.com on an exclusive list of trusted student tools for higher education.

College.com's team of highly educated, vastly experienced, and well-networked industry professionals endorses the best and most useful resources and tools in higher education. The Top Choice Awards come from a combination of extensive research and statistics reviewed by one of the most well-respected education brands on the Internet. In naming us the Top Choice Award winner, College.com gives CampusBooks.com their coveted stamp of approval.

In its selection of CampusBooks.com as Top Choice of Textbook Websites, College.com says the following:

  • “CampusBooks.com is a great online textbook service that will assist you when you're looking to buy or rent inexpensive, but good-quality books. Not only can you purchase and rent books, but CampusBooks.com also has a buyback program where you can sell your books, at the best price possible by comparing other services' buyback rates. CampusBooks.com also has a mobile application for iPhone and Android, making CampusBooks accessible from whereever you are, as well as having a GPS system that will show you local bookstores and libraries that have the books you are looking for! CampusBooks.com belongs at the top of our list, because they are reliable, fairly priced, and offer many services that other textbook websites aren't equipped with yet.”

In response, we here at CampusBooks.com say: Many thanks to College.com for the honor, we're delighted to be recognized by a such an important site as it means that we're succeeding in our mission to help students afford and obtain the textbooks that they need without paying unnecessary and exorbitant fees. College costs plenty and we can't do much about that, but textbooks? We've got that covered and we're happy to help. Oh, one more thing! Of the other nine textbook websites on the list? Eight of them are included in our search results, which means that we'll do the price comparison for you and you don't have to waste time site hopping.

We already know that you’re savings savvy when it comes to college expenses. After all, that’s why you’ve chosen CampusBooks.com for buying textbooks at the lowest prices and selling them for the most cash back.

Given your knack for making the most of your university buck, we wanted to let you know about our newest tool for lowering college costs: GradeFund, the leading community-based approach to financing higher education by encouraging and rewarding good grades.

It’s free, easy, and earns you money for college for what you’re already doing, getting good grades. Head over to the GradeFund website to sign up or enter one of the many lucrative contests where your experience can earn cash for college!

SPECIAL WELCOME BONUS FOR CAMPUSBOOKS.COM USERS: Get instant GradeFund points & more: Answer a simple question and you’ll automatically bank 25 GradeFund points and be entered to win a $250 scholarship!


Obviously we at CampusBooks.com love getting more stuff for less cash. It’s not just textbooks that we think should be affordable, it’s everything. And honestly, most stuff can be purchased at a discount if you know where to go and how to look for savings and apply them. We do, and we want you to as well.

That said, today we’re passing on a sweet deal from CollegeBudget.com (think Groupon but with stuff that college students actually want and can use). Anyway, today’s deal is awesome — $25 for $50 worth of clothes and accessories in American Apparel stores. The best part is that while the deal is for in-store purchases, AA seems to understand that not every student in every college town has an American Apparel store nearby or transportation to a store a little farther away, so they’ve provided an online version of the deal. Well done, American Apparel and CollegeBudget.com, well done.

So what will you shop for? Us, well, it’s the new year so that means shedding that holiday weight we gained and committing to getting back in shape. We’ll be getting spring duds a size smaller than usual as incentive to drop those pounds in time for warmer weather.

Happy new year and enjoy your deal!


If you’re like most college students, you think of end-of-term textbook buyback as a no-win time when you get screwed no matter when you sell your books and where. It seems like no one’s ever buying back that $200 biology text you bought when the semester started, or if they are, they’re paying a mere pittance of pennies on the dollar.

We can’t make it so that you make a profit on your books, but we can help you time your selling to the campus bookstore or outside buyers so that you maximize what you get back. We’ll have more tips as buyback approaches, but for now, we suggest starting here and building your strategies round these certainties and suggestions:

  • Grab the books you want to sell (don't forget any CDs or other components that came with the book when you purchased it), stack them so that the ISBNs are easy to read, and visit the CampusBooks.com selling tool ASAP. While the selling tool has always brought you the best buyback prices from all over the Web (including bookstores, individual buyers, and marketplaces) all on one page, we’ve recently added even more buyers. More buyers means more options, more competition for your books, higher values, and of course, less time you’ll spend hopping sites. Let us do the comparisons and find you the best prices.
  • Got an iPhone or a Droid? Grab the CampusBooks.com Mobile App for Smartphones and save yourself the hand-keying. Use our app and your phone’s camera to scan the barcodes on your textbooks and find the highest buyback values going. It’s insanely easy and totally on the go.

Reminders and best practices:

  1. The keys to getting the best buyback prices are acting early and being an informed seller (finding the best values and reading the terms of the deal). You also need to follow through. When you find a good price for your books, go for it! Secure the quote and pack and ship your books ASAP. The sooner you do, the sooner you'll get your money.
  2. Take a gander at “Selling Back Books: A Few Simple Rules.” These rules and tips and reality checks will help you get through finals and buyback without losing your mind. Follow these guidelines and you will be well served to maximize your cash back and keep your sanity.

Now you’re armed with all the info you need to roll into buyback season well prepared and ready to maximize your return.


Not that college students are ever forgetful or prone to procrastinate (ahem), but sometimes things come up that make it so that classes have already started (or are about to start) and you still don’t have the books you need. If you need the book right away, can’t wait for shipping, or don’t want to pay exorbitant rush fees, think eBooks. As soon as you make your purchase, you can download the textbook and read it immediately.

We make it easy for you to look just for eBooks and bypass new, used, international, rentals, and other conditions. It’s easy, visit CampusBooks.com and enter your search terms. When you get your results, click the Compare Prices Now button next to the best match, then (in the left column) Refine Your Search to weed out anything you don’t want. This makes isolating eBooks for immediate download a piece of cake!