College Life Hacks: Spring courses are posted — now what?

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By Darren Johnson
Campus News

Spring courses were just posted online. Now what?

Here’s our list of things you should do this month – before you get swept up by too much holiday cheer – to save time and lots of money.

Sign Up for the 18
In most states, 12 credits costs the same as 18 credits (though extra fees and book costs could add up). Why not sign up for the maximum credits, giving you some scheduling wiggle room in the weeks ahead? Now, if you are only sporting a 2.0 GPA, you may not want to take the 18, but if you’re otherwise academically strong, consider 15-18 credits. To graduate on time, you need to average 15 credits a semester. You may want to try the occasional 18-credit semester so that your final year will be easier. Also, by signing up for the 18, you lock in your courses, guaranteeing your seat. You could always drop a course later.

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Check Out RateMyProfessors
This is controversial, but much of what’s posted on the site tends to have a grain of truth to it. Sure, good professors who are tough graders and give a lot of work will get unfairly downvoted there. But before picking your professors for the next semester, at least weigh how many 1.0 professors you may be signing up for.

Think of Your Sanity
Don’t schedule a 9 a.m. class in the same day as a 6 to 9 p.m. class, and don’t schedule a class at 7:30 a.m. the next morning after having had a late-night class the night before. Know your limitations and plan accordingly.

Contact Your Transfer College
Are you thinking of transferring to a four-year college? Then copy-paste and email your proposed schedule to the transfer counselor at your future school and make sure all credits will be accepted there. You may also want to place a phone call there! If your goal is simply to transfer your community college credits to a new school, then don’t get bogged down with the courses that won’t transfer.

Check Out Your College Book Site
By law, college web sites have to post the textbooks each course will require, with exact ISBN. You can maybe ask for these books for holiday presents from parents and relatives. At the very least, starting early and checking out the various textbook web sites will give you a heads up on the best prices. “It’s no wonder that colleges and students need to think outside the box when it comes to textbooks; they represent a staggering cost that just seems to get worse,” says Chris Manns of the price comparison websites and

On Renting
Remember, if you are renting, you can’t order the book too soon; else, you will have to ship it back sooner, maybe before the semester ends. Also, remember to send back the books you had rented previously, to avoid late fees. “Renting might seem the obvious choice because of the price,” Manns says. “But that’s not always the case.  When you look a little deeper, you could find you’d be better off buying the book and selling it later.”

On Access Codes
You may want to see if the book your professor requires has an access code. If so, you may want to email the professor and ask if he actually uses the online aspect of the text. Many do not. If that is the case, you can save a ton on books by buying them used. If the course does use the access code, you can still buy the used book and then buy the access code from the publisher – or some enterprising student at another school may sell you his access code. Check online! Says Manns: “Buying separately and also renting or buying the textbook used will usually still be much cheaper than buying the textbook new with the access codes.”

Is Now the Time to Buy?
Yes. Some students at other schools may have already dropped the course or they simply may be cash-strapped and need to unload their books. Now is when books are cheapest. “Many college students are already strapped for cash, counting out coins to pay for a meal or worrying about whether they’ll have enough gas money to get home for a holiday,” Manns says. “They need to look for ways to save everywhere, and if they can get by without a textbook or at least with a cheaper version, then so much the better.”

Compare Professors
If there are two sections of the same course, compare the textbooks required by each professor. They may be different. One professor may assign a simple book that can be found for $20, while another may require a $200 book with access codes. Especially if the course with the $20 book fits your schedule better, take that.

Ask Your Librarian
Once you know which books you will be required to read, contact the college  library and ask if they will stock those books. Libraries take requests very seriously and may oblige. Then, the books will be there for free – just don’t tell your fellow classmates, or they will hog them!

Read the Books in Advance
There’s a lot of time between Fall finals and the start of classes in the Spring. Once you get your books, read them. Then, once the class starts, you will be ahead of everyone else!