Whether it’s for a physics class, a math course, a history lecture, or a chemistry seminar, students at colleges and universities are bound to have a required textbook. While sometimes extraordinarily expensive, textbooks are key tools in getting a good grade in whatever course you may be taking.
Sometimes, students already owning Kindles, Nooks, or other e-readers choose to buy electronic versions of their required books because e-books are often deeply discounted, mostly due to the fact that no physical printing or shipping is required. Some classes—namely history and psychology courses—can work very well with e-reader-based textbooks; many courses, especially most here at Rensselaer, do not. Many people find that physical textbooks are very much a help when it comes to anything having diagrams or colored charts and graphs. History courses, on the other hand, are mostly reading-intensive and work quite well with e-readers.
As stated before, many courses at RPI have required texts, although the term “required” is sometimes deceiving. Some courses rarely use their so-called “required” textbooks, and some professors will even hand out copies of any needed materials. Even when professors don’t provide the required reading, the text can usually be found elsewhere: a quick post on
http://www.reddit.com/r/rpi, asking at the Alpha Phi Omega office, or searching the Folsom Library or the library of your greek organization will usually yield the necessary materials. Because of this, students should be wary of purchasing textbooks without first consulting a student previously in that course, or better yet, the professor themself. That being said, if a book is going to be used, students should absolutely buy the book. Problems with homework, labs, and studying can usually be easily remedied by looking up and spending time understanding the topic in the textbook.
One of the most overlooked and helpful things to do for a course is to read. The vast majority of courses have schedules as part of the syllabus or otherwise, dictating exactly what will be discussed each and every class. Students should use this schedule, not just keep it in the front pocket of their backpack. Using the schedule as a reading guide is an extremely valuable tool to succeed. Reading about a topic before it is covered in a class prepares oneself to learn about said topic, and it can help ease confusion that might occur otherwise. Even if you don’t understand what you’re reading, when you hear about it later in class, you will remember reading about it, and it should “click.”