Free! College Software Guide

There is one thing college students don’t need when it comes to their software: another expense. With books, tuition and the million other expenses that come with going to college, the last thing you should have to pay for is some decent software.

Thankfully, there are many great free options to load up your computer with. While these might not be everyone’s personal preferences for the best free software for College students, I think that most people will find everything on this list useful, and being that the price is “free”, there is high value in all of this software.

OpenOffice.org

For those of you that can’t afford to pay the premium price in purchasing Microsoft Office, even with a generous student discount, you’ll want to look at OpenOffice.org. It is a free piece of software that works on any operating system, and includes access to software to write documents, create spreadsheets, presentations, and more.

For those of you using NeoOffice or other productivity software on your Apple Mac computers, you’ll now be happy to know that OpenOffice.org runs natively on Mac OS X, meaning that there is no need to load that strange X11 emulation software thus increasing the usability and usefulness of OpenOffice.org.

It also reads and writes Microsoft Office formats, meaning it is perfect for opening documents from school, or sending essays to your professors.

Download at OpenOffice.org.

GIMP

Don’t want to buy or use Photoshop illegally? No problem. GIMP is freely distributed image manipulation software that runs on all major operating systems (though with Macs you’ll need to install X11 emulation). GIMP is great for creating graphics and logos, photo tweaking, creating animated GIFs, etc.

While installing and running GIMP on Windows and Mac OSX are not as straightforward and easy as you may be used to, there are plenty of online tutorials that should make the process painless.

Download at GIMP.

Adium & Pidgin

If you have friends on MSN, Yahoo, AIM, and Google, you’ll want to find one piece of software to easily manage your conversations with all of them, and Adium and Pidgin will allow you to do that.

Both pieces of software allow you to combine your collection of friends and family into one long list, making it easy to communicate. Of course, you’ll be missing certain features that native applications have, like Google Talk’s video chat, but being able to be organized, and using fast and light pieces of software are worth any trade offs.

The choice on which multi-client instant messaging software to use is yours, and it really comes down to personal needs and tastes as well as which operating system you use. Adium is only for Mac OS X, while Pidgin works on nearly all operating systems. If you have a Mac though, both are free so give them both a try and stick with your favorite.

Download Pidgin and/or Adium.

Octave

Think Matlab is way overpriced? So do we. The good news is that there is a solid free replacement called Octave. Almost everything that can be done in Matlab can be done in Octave. Plus, if you used to have to go to a special computer lab to do your Matlab work, now you can do it on your own computer.

Just like Matlab, Octave is an ultra high-level programming language that is used to solve mathematical problems and plot their solutions. The nice thing about Octave is that it is modular and can easily be expanded to perform additional functions.

Download at GNU Octave.

Eclipse

For those of you who are computer science majors or just taking a few computer programming courses (which is becoming more and more common, especially for science majors) the good news is that you don’t have to buy an uber expensive C++ IDE package like Visual Studio. Instead, Eclipse gives you an amazing, fully featured development platform with all the plugins you could possibly want. Plus, Eclipse runs on Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux.

Download at Eclipse.org.

iTunes

Listen to music? Want to be able to download movies, television shows, podcasts, and your favorite songs? Well, iTunes pretty much corners the market when it comes to legal downloadable media and the software is free.

For students on a budget, the myriad of video and audio podcasts available for free on nearly any topic or interest is a great way to pass the time, and iTunes has a radio section that allows you to listen to an unlimited amount of streaming music on hundreds of different stations.

Download iTunes from Apple.

Firefox

If you are still browsing the web on Internet Explorer, then you need to get with the program. There are many other web browsers out there that are better, faster, more secure and easier to use than Internet Explorer. One of the best is Firefox.

Not only is it faster but it allows for extensions. Extensions allow you to add features to your web browsing experience, from adding the weather and your e-mail count to always display on the browser, to being able to look at the code of a website easily, there are a million different things extensions can do to make Firefox even better than it is “out of the box.”

Download Mozilla Firefox.

VLC

Trying to play video formats, and having issues? Check out VLC. An amazingly lightweight piece of free software that plays nearly any video that you ask it to. It can be used to play DVD movies as well.

It also is available for nearly any operating system, making it a great choice for everyone.

Download VLC.

Skype

If you are away from your family, or don’t want to pay crazy prices for a home phone line, take a look at Skype’s offerings. One of the highest quality voice over the Internet services available Skype has many great advantages over getting a traditional phone line in your dorm or apartment, and is easy to use.

Also, if your family and friends get Skype on their computers, you can have free chat, audio or even video conversations with your family and friends.

You can even purchase phone numbers through Skype so that people that don’t have Skype can call you. And if you buy SkypeOut credits, or service you can call regular phones from your your Skype account. Many people use this as a cheap long distance service, especially for overseas calling.

Download Skype.

Last.fm

Want another great way to listen to music, especially if you don’t know exactly which songs to buy or download, check out Last.fm.

Last.fm lets you create “stations” based on your search preferences, from things as simple as “alternative” to listing your favorite bands and having it try to find others that you may enjoy as well.

It is free, and totally worth using for parties and events where you want a wide variety of music.

Download Last.fm.

Vuze

Understand BitTorrent? Then you’ll want to get Vuze, a great way of managing torrent files in an easy to understand way. This will allow you to download movie trailers, open source software, and videos from sites like Revision3.com.

Vuze rounds out my list of the top free College software.

Download Vuze today.

15 Podcasts That Will Make You Smarter

One of the more underrated benefits of the internet era has been access to quality radio style programming at any time of the day or night. Just like DVRs have freed us from having to adhere to rigid television program schedules, podcasting has enabled us to carry excellent radio with us for listening at any time. I struggle with not having enough hours in the day to listen to it all, because there is truly so much quality out there. Here are 15 podcasts in particular that will make you a smarter, more well rounded, and better informed person. Enjoy, and please leave your comments!

15. EconTalk

Econ-Talk

Duration: Roughly an hour

Hosted by professor Russel Roberts, EconTalk is the number one podcast for economics. With “clear and thoughtful conversations about economics”, the show brings the theory behind economics to situations and subjects that a wide variety of people can relate to. The show is usually a one on one discussion between Roberts and another guest.

Check out EconTalk HERE.

14. The Naked Scientists

The-Naked-Scientists

Duration: 60 mins

The Naked Scientists is an interactive podcast covering topical science news stories as well as answering audience questions. The show has featured several distinguished guests such as Alec Jeffreys (the discoverer of DNA fingerprints) and James D. Watson (the co-discoverer of DNA structure). The Naked Scientists have won several awards during their run, including the European Podcast Award.

Check out The Naked Scientists HERE.

13. Common Sense with Dan Carlin

Common-Sense-Dan-Carlin

Duration: Roughly 1 Hour

Dan Carlin is one of those people that has the amazing ability to present all side of an argument but remain non-partisan while doing so. Common Sense takes no prisoners, making all aspects of government and politics fair game for Carlin’s quick witted criticism. Known lovingly as “George Costanza on steroids”, Carlin’s podcast will keep you on your toes and your brain in shape!

Check out Common Sense with Dan Carlin HERE.

12. The Writer’s Block

The-Writers-Block

Duration: 30 Mins

This weekly reading series is targeted mainly at 25-40 year olds, appealing to young, intelligent, edgy listeners. Distributed through NPR, The Writer’s Block features stories, essays and poetry by all kinds of authors, and all kinds of genres, from non-fiction to plays!

Check out The Writer’s Block HERE.

11. The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe

The-Skeptics-Guide-To-The-Universe

Duration: 60 Mins

The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe is a podcast hosted by Steven Novella and his panel of “skeptical rogues”. The podcast discusses myths, conspiracy theories, pseudoscience and paranormal discoveries with a certain level of disbelief and, well, skepticism. Novella and his colleagues have been instrumental in debating with anti-vaccine activists, “homeopathy practitioners” and those who debate the connection between HIV and AIDS.

Check out The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe HERE.

10. Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!

Wait-wait-dont-tell-me

Duration: 60 Mins

This hour long “quiz game show” is hosted by playwright and actor, Peter Sagal. Every week, three panelists are chosen to compete on the show. Listeners are also encouraged to participate by phone or email, sometimes being chosen as contestants themselves. Prizes for winning often include Carl Kasell recording voicemail on contestants home machines!

Check out Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! HERE.

9. The Sound of Young America

the-sound-of-young-america

Duration: 30 Mins

Based in Los Angeles, The Sound of Young America is hosted by Jesse Thorn, who spends segments interviewing popular arts and cultural personalities. Guests have included Art Spiegelman, David Cross, Patton Oswalt and even Ira Glass. The Sound of Young America got it’s start as a college station back in 2000 and made the jump to podcast form in 2004. The show has been mentioned in TIME Magazine and Salon.com, who said, “If you’ve never heard of The Sound of Young America, The Sound of Young America is the greatest radio show you’ve never heard of”. Well, now you don’t have an excuse, you’ve heard of it, now you just have to listen to it!

Check out The Sound of Young America HERE.

8. Keith and The Girl Comedy Talk Show

Keith-and-the-girl

Duration: Roughly an Hour

Keith and the Girl is one of the most popular comedy podcasts to hit the airwaves in the past 5 years. Hosted by couple Keith Malley and his singer girlfriend Chemda Khalili, the show features the pair discussing the daily adventures of their lives as well as current events. The show has over 50,000 listeners and has been ranked in the Top Ten Podcasts by Podcast Alley.

Check out Keith and The Girl HERE.

7. NewsPod

Newspod

Duration: 35 Mins

This daily program presents highlights from other BBC news programs, including BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 5, BBC Asian Network and many more. NewsPod brings the quickest news updates with a wide variety of topics and informed speakers.

Check out NewsPod HERE.

6. All in the Mind

All-in-the-mind

Duration: 30 Mins

All in the Mind host Natasha Mitchell presents one of the most unique podcasts, delving deeply into the human mind, brain and behavior. Topics include depression, addiction, consciousness and free will. This podcast brings educated, although unexpected, voices and themes to challenge the listener to take a closer look at the mind.

Check out All in the Mind HERE.

5. Material World

Material-World

Duration: Roughly an hour

Each week on Material World, scientists discuss and describe their work and projects. The program is split into two sections, spending 15 minutes on each topic, and interviewing scientists and engineers. Although this is one of the most scientifically informative podcasts, it’s only downfall lies in the abundance of cheesy science jokes and puns.

Check out Material World HERE.

4. The Dave Ramsey Show Podcast

Dave-Ramsey-Show

Duration: 3 Hours

The Dave Ramsey Show is a self-syndicated program that takes live calls regarding personal finance. Ramsey offers step by step guidance to listeners experiencing financial difficulties. The defining factor between Ramsey’s show, and other financial podcasts, is Ramsey’s willingness to take more than just the mathematical/statistical aspects into account. Ramsey relates to his audience through a spiritual and emotional connection, making him more like a friend or mentor than just a financial adviser. There are many roads to financial security and stability, but listening to Ramsey’s common sense proclamations is a great motivation for keeping on track to anyone who struggled with debt or their finances.

Check out The Dave Ramsey Show HERE

3. TED Talks

ted-talks-ideas-worth-spreading

Duration: Varies

TED talks is one of those rare shows that spans a large quantity of topics, without sacrificing the quality of discussion. This series of lectures features some of the best concepts (”ideas worth spreading”) as well as amazing speakers. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Jane Goodall, Al Gore and Bill Gates have all been noted speakers. By April of 2009, the talks had been heard over 100 Million times by over 15 million people.

Check out TED Talks HERE.

2. NPR Intelligence Squared

NPR-Intelligence-Squared-US

Duration: 60 mins

This NPR podcast brings an “Oxford-style debating to America”, your basic motion, one moderator and 3 on 3 debating. NPR markets this podcast toward a wide range of people, it’s discussions including American religions, Hollywood, and even terrorist organizations. The topics are timed with world events, but this podcast tends to shine a light on events you might not be hearing about on the nightly news.

Check out NPR Intelligence Squared HERE.

1. This American Life

This-American-Life

Duration: 60 Minutes

This hour long program, hosted by Ira Glass, is a journalistic non-fiction program, featuring essays, memoirs, short fiction and much more. The show, which first aired on the radio in 1995, is one of the most listened podcasts of our generation. The show’s incredible value was recently on display when it tackled the housing crisis and economic collapse with two episodes entitled “The Giant Pool of Money” and “The Giant Pool of Money Part 2″. TAL excels at taking the esoteric and making them understandable – relatable even – to the average Joe. Each week’s episode tackles one issue or topic in a variety of ways, ensuring that you will come away each week with a deeper understanding of the world.

Check out This American Life HERE.

4 Cheap Brand-Name Laptops!

A new laptop for college doesn’t need to cost you $1,500. Don’t let the flashy ads and giant headlines fool you: You don’t need 4GB of RAM or a 2.4GHz dual-core processor to handle everything you need to do for class, even if you want to be able to download a video or blast your master playlist at the same time.

Save your money for food and rent; you can get all the college capability you need and all the digital entertainment center you want without the steep price tag.

Here’s a list of six relatively inexpensive yet powerful laptops from all the big-name manufacturers. Keep in mind that these come straight from the manufacturer’s website and can be found even cheaper elsewhere!

1) Dell Inspiron 15

Starting Price: $399*

click image for specific specs

This modest laptop packs all the processing power and entertainment capability most students will need all in an awesome outer shell! With an Intel® Celeron® 900 (1MB cache/2.20GHz/800Mhz FSB)processor,  2 GB RAM, 160 GB Hard Drive,  Windows Vista pre-installed, a 15-inch display, and a CD burner. With its integrated wireless network card, the Inspiron comes ready to jump on your school’s wireless network. Best of all, you can make this laptop yours for monthly payments as low as $15.

Avg Customer Rating 	4.3 of 5

Avg Customer Rating 4.3 of 5

2) Compaq Presario CQ60

Starting Price: $399.99*

Click image for more info

Click image for more info

Think of this bargain laptop as “the little computer that could.” It isn’t quite as powerful as its HP Pavilion cousin, but with a 2.1GHz Intel Pentium dual-core mobile processor, a healthy 3072MBMB RAM plus 250GB hard drive with built-in protection, and built-in wireless card and mic/webcam, this Presario is more than enough for the average student’s needs. And $15 a month is all you’ll need to take it home.

Avg Customer Rating 4 out of 5

Avg Customer Rating 4 out of 5

3) HP G60t

Starting Price: $499.99*

click image for more info

click image for more info

I am a proud owner of a HP laptop and I ooze nothing but praise for this brand, as I have put my laptop through the worst (coffee spills, drops, random coaster usage) and yet it has never failed me…not once! For a slightly higher price tag than the Presario, this laptop from HP offers an even better educational bang for your buck. With an Intel Pentium dual-core mobile processor cruising at a speed of 1.6GHz (with the option of upgrading up to a blazing 2.50GHz), a full 1GB RAM, a 15.4-inch display, built-in wireless, and a FireWire port plus 3 USB ports, built-in 5 digital media card reader, the Pavilion puts power and speed at your fingertips for about $20 a month.

Avg Customer Rating 4.6 out of 5

Avg Customer Rating 4.6 out of 5

4) Toshiba Satellite Pro A210-EZ2202X

Price: $670*

click image for more info

click image for more info

With the AMD Turion 64 X2 dual-core mobile processor on this Toshiba laptop, you’ll plow through your assignments at 1.9GHz. Your barrage of PowerPoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets, 20-page term papers, embedded videos, and multi-tab Internet research won’t stand a chance against the Satellite’s arsenal of 1GB RAM, 80GB hard drive, DVD burner, 4 USB ports, 15.4-inch display, and built-in wireless — all yours for about $24 a month.

Avg Customer Rating 4.5 out of 5

Avg Customer Rating 4.5 out of 5

* Manufacturer prices as of October 14, 2009

10 FREE Online Services: Free E-mail, File Storage, and File Sharing for Students on a Budget

If you’re a college student on a pretty tight budget, you’ve probably already mastered the gourmet Ramen-noodle dinner and the art of interior decorating with crate-box and garage-sale furniture.

But while you’re limiting how much your offline lifestyle eats into your budget, make sure you’re not spending your precious food or rent dollars on online services like e-mail, file storage, or file sharing. You can get every single one of these services for free, with features comparable to or even better than the paid versions.

With all these free options, you should be able to satisfy your online communication and file sharing needs without ever dipping into your wallet. Heck, with the money you’ll save, you might even be able to upgrade to macaroni and cheese.

Top 5 Free E-mail Services

Sure, free e-mail has been available for years, but not with the kind of storage, features, and security you can get these days.

Every one of these five major e-mail providers offers really decent basic service that won’t cost you a single penny. Some of them also feature POP3 or IMAP capability (or both) so you can access and organize your webmail using your favorite desktop e-mail application, like Outlook or Mail.

1.  Gmail

Google’s webmail service, this is probably the best free e-mail out there. It’s super-easy to use, offers good technical support, and comes with great features, awesome spam control, tons of inbox space, and a lot of extras.

  • Inbox Storage: Virtually unlimited (6+ GB and growing every day)
  • File Attachment Max Size: 10 MB
  • POP3/IMAP: Both
  • Extras: Calendar, mobile access, built-in IM/chat with Google Talk, message notifier, language support, no pop-ups or banner ads

2.  AOL Mail

Long the butt of jokes for mass-mailing CDs offering their online service, AOL actually offers pretty decent free e-mail, with super spam protection. But beware: Customer support can be difficult to contact.

  • Inbox Storage: Unlimited
  • File Attachment Max Size: 16 MB
  • POP3/IMAP: Both
  • Extras: Calendar, notes, mobile access, built-in IM/chat with AIM, integrated text messaging, message notifier, language support, personalized domain, games

3.  Yahoo! Mail

A great user interface and e-mail organization make this a strong choice, but no POP3 or IMAP access will be a problem if you want to use your own e-mail application instead of your Web browser.

  • Inbox Storage: Unlimited
  • File Attachment Max Size: 10 MB
  • POP3/IMAP: None
  • Extras: Calendar, news, notes, mobile access, built-in IM/chat with Yahoo! Messenger, integrated text messaging, message notifier, games

4.  Inbox.com

Inbox.com has some pretty standard features, but lacks a phishing filter, which might bother some people.

  • Inbox Storage: 5 GB, or 2 GB if you want POP3 Access
  • File Attachment Max Size: 20 MB
  • POP3/IMAP: POP3
  • Extras: Calendar, news, notes, message notifier, 5GB online data storage, photo sharing, games, e-cards

5.  Windows Live Hotmail

Microsoft’s new-and-improved free webmail (formerly MSN Hotmail) provides some nice integration with your operating system, especially if you’re running Windows Vista. This is a distinct improvement over the old Hotmail.

  • Inbox Storage: 5 GB
  • File Attachment Max Size: 10 MB
  • POP3/IMAP: None
  • Extras: Calendar, mobile access, built-in IM/chat with Windows Live Messenger, message notifier, games

Top 5 Free Online File Storage and Sharing Services

Instead of eating up your hard drive space, you can store some of your bigger files, like videos and MP3s, online with one of these five providers.

Some of these services come with unique interfaces to share specific things, like photos, and even to host videos, websites, blogs, and other stuff. But you’ll need to be running Windows to get all the benefits each provider has to offer — sorry, Mac-heads.

1.  MediaMax

Huge storage, plus lots of extras.

  • Online Storage: 25 GB
  • Extras: Sharing, hosting, backup and sync, browser access, Windows desktop software

2.  Xdrive

Provided by AOL. Small storage, but lots of extras.

  • Online Storage: 5 GB
  • Extras: Sharing, backup, browser access, Windows desktop software

3.  ripway

Lots of storage and good features, including lots of hosting options.

  • Online Storage: 30 GB
  • Extras: Sharing, hosting, backup and sync, browser access

4.  box

Limited storage, but neat extras and awesome Web 2.0 interface.

  • Online Storage: 1 GB
  • Extras: Sharing, browser access, mobile access, desktop widget

5.  OmniDrive

Limited storage, but smooth integration with Windows and the ability to edit spreadsheets and word processing docs.

  • Online Storage: 1 GB
  • Extras: Sharing, backup, browser access, Windows and Mac desktop software, integration with Windows OS and with Zoho office applications

Free! Google Book Downloader

Thanks to Google’s drive to add more and more books to the Google Books project, including thousands of public domain volumes, you’ll find quite a nice selection to choose from. Google Book Downloader helps you download them to PDF.

Let’s get one thing out of the way from the start. Google Book Downloader will not let you pirate books. It will however let you download books that are flagged as full-access such as books in the public domain and books with limited-preview—although you’ll only get the preview parts, not the entire book.

While using the application isn’t as simple as say right clicking on a file and saving it, the difficulty level isn’t high. Once you’ve installed the application, fire it up, and feed it some books you want to download. Although the instructions for the Add dialogue box indicate you can use ISBN numbers, we didn’t have much luck with that. Since you’re already searching Google Books to find the books you want, you might as well cut and paste the URL for the book at Google Books—that method never failed.

Once you’ve added your books they’ll appear in the download queue. From there start the downloads and let it go. Occasionally as the application pulls down data you’ll need to enter a captcha to keep the pipeline open, but other than that it’s an unattended process. Check out the tutorial available here to get a more in-depth overview of the process and make sure you get off to the right start.

Google Book Downloader is freeware, Windows only and requires .Net Framework 3.5 SP1 or above.

GoogleBookDownloader [via HackADay]
Courtesy LH.

5 Online Tools to Help You Cite Your Research Papers

There’s nothing like MLA or APA citation formatting requirements to add even more tedious hours to your research paper that’s already dragged on for weeks. But with these easy-to-use online tools, you can get picture-perfect bibliographies and Works Cited pages at the click of a button.

1) Citation Machine

Citation Machine offers free, automatic formatting for MLA, APA, Chicago, and Turabian styles. From the left-hand menu, choose the style manual you’re using, then the type of source you need to cite (book, journal, website, etc.). You’ll get an online form to fill out with information like author name, page number, and publication date. Simply plug in the info, click “Submit,” and your formatted citation pops out, ready for you to copy and paste into your paper.

2) Source Aid

Source Aid works almost the same as Citation Machine. Select the style guide you need, and click “Start Citation Builder.” Choose the type of source you’re citing, then fill out the form with the necessary publication info. Click “Next” to get your fully formatted, rules-compliant citation.

3) Easy Bib

EasyBib is a free MLA citation tool for sources of all kinds. Just select your type of source from a drop-down menu, specify what form you found it in (print or electronic), then click “Next.” Fill out the citation info (just like in Citation Machine and Source Aid), click “Format Citation,” and you’re done! You can even view your formatted citations online or save your Works Cited list in a Word doc format as you go along. For $7.99 a year, you can upgrade to MyBib Pro to get access to APA formatting as well.

4) Knight Cite

This citation tool on the Calvin College website is possibly the simplest tool of the bunch. The entire page is nothing but fields asking for author, title, page numbers, and basic publication info. Type in the info, click “Submit,” and out comes your citation. Choose from MLA, APA, and Chicago styles, and a variety of print or electronic sources.

5) Carmun Easy Bibliography Formatting

This handy tool formats citations for five different standards: MLA, APA, Chicago, Turabian, and CSE. As with the other tools, all you have to do is fill in specified fields with requested source info. Then click the green “Format Bibliography” button at the bottom of the form, and voilá — a quick, painless, standards-compliant citation for your paper.

As you’re probably noticing, these online citation tools are all very similar. The one you end up using the most will depend on what style guide your professors require, your input and layout preferences, and the interface that you find easiest and quickest to use.

DIY: Print-and-Fold iPhone and iPod touch Dock

Design site Dessine moi un objet (Google translates that to “Draw me something”) has shared an impressively attractive and simple iPhone and iPod touch dock. Oh yeah, and they’ve included an excellent printable template. The stand works as both a dock and a regular stand (say for when you want to lay your device on its side and enjoy some video on the plane). Check out the video below for a quick walkthrough of the creation, start to finish.

The author recommends using 270 g/m cardpaper, which most of us don’t necessarily have on hand, but even some thick-ish paper could probably do the trick in a pinch. (You could even double up or triple a few layers of paper—at least until you find some good cardpaper.)

Click the picture above to print it out.

Watch the video here.

Chegg.com Textbook Rental Service

Does it bother you when you spend hundreds of dollars at your local college bookstore on books for your current semester? Does it bother you even more to find out that you get pennies back during the buyback period for what you paid so much for? Well if you are like many other college students who buy books and get frustrated when they find out that the book they paid $150 for is only worth $20 at buyback, then maybe renting textbooks would be an option for you.

I recently had the chance to try textbook rentals out for myself. Of course, since I was so use to purchasing textbooks, I was hesitant to try out rentals, but I gave it a shot anyway. I used Chegg Textbook Rentals for my books last semester. Overall, my personal experience with Chegg was positive. There were only a few things that bothered me about them, however it was not bad enough to make me stop doing business with them.

How Chegg Works

So how do textbook rentals work? With Chegg, you go onto their site and enter your ISBN number for the book that you need. They will display the book information if they have it in their inventory for rental. Keep in mind that they do not have every single book available for rent, however so far I have not had an issue with lack of inventory. Once the book information is displayed, you have the option to rent the book for a semester, quarter or summer session. You can even alter the dates to match the class dates for your school. Once you have the book you want, you do the traditional checkout by entering your credit card information for payment of the rental. You will receive your book within seven to ten days. You will also be given the return date when you are due to send your book back to Chegg. There are no shipping charges for returning books back; you just log on to Chegg, print out a label and return the book(s) via UPS.

Money Saved

When I first checked out Chegg’s rental prices, I was a little skeptical. The prices were so cheap that I thought it couldn’t possibly be right. I just did not understand how a brand new textbook at my college bookstore cost $160 but Chegg was going to rent it to me for a semester for $55. However I ordered the books anyway and my total rental for four classes was $232. I rented books for four classes. The cost of the books for me to purchase brand new from my college bookstore would have been $562.

Customer Service

Chegg’s customer service department is excellent. I had an issue where I did not receive a specific book that I ordered. I sent an email to Chegg through their ‘contact us’ link on their website. Within twenty-four hours, I received a phone call from one of their customer service representatives offering to help resolve my issue ASAP.

Going Green

Chegg has jumped on the going green bandwagon and for every book that you rent, they plant a tree to try to preserve the environment. It is true that we are destroying our planet and Chegg is trying to do their part to save it.

Other Important Notes

  • Chegg has a buyback program. If you have college textbooks, you can see if Chegg will purchase them. You will receive cash or a Chegg credit.
  • The books that Chegg rents are in excellent condition. The ones I had even looked brand new and there was no writing or highlighting in any of the books I used.
  • Chegg has a purchase option. You are able to convert your rental to a purchase by paying additional charges.
  • There is a thirty-day refund guarantee, just in case you drop a class or your class is canceled for some reason.
  • Chegg does charge late fees for late returns so keep that in mind when renting your book. However in my experience, the return date for my book was three weeks after the last day of the semester so there was no reason for my book to be late getting back to Chegg.

My only complaint with Chegg was that they send some of their books via third party shippers. So you may order five books and receive two from Chegg, one from another company, and the other two from another company. They do advise that you may receive multiple shipments, however they try their hardest to be sure you have tracking information for each of the shipments.

Overall, Chegg is a great alternative for students on a budget. It is perfect for students who do not keep their textbooks for reference and for students who do not write in their books. Before you buy, check out Chegg for rentals. You may save yourself a chunk of change simply by doing what people have been doing throughout time: borrowing.

Saving Money: 50 Tips for College Students

Being a college student usually means living and surviving on a cheap budget. Some of you may be pretty good at pinching your pennies and getting by, while others take out student loans and get themselves further into debt. Either way, all of us could use some additional advice and ideas on stretching our dollar just a bit further.

Check out these 50 ideas on ways to save money:

    FOOD & DRINK

  1. Learn how to cook your own meals, it’s healthier and you’ll save money.
  2. Don’t get a meal plan, the cafeteria food isn’t usually that great anyways.
  3. Bring your own snacks/water to class instead of buying them on campus. Stay away from vending machines.
  4. Bring your own lunch to school. If you do it right, you can usually make it a healthier lunch than what is offered in the cafeteria.
  5. If you have a meal plan, actually use it.
  6. Eat Ramen Noodles.
  7. Don’t get soda when you go out to eat.
  8. Don’t go to Starbucks.
  9. Buy food in bulk. Get a Costco card with your roommates and get bulk discounts.
  10. Find events on campus that offer free food for attending. Follow those “Free Pizza” signs!
  11. HOUSEHOLD EXPENSES

  12. Have a roommate (so you can split expenses).
  13. Shop at Walmart, Dollar Stores, and thift stores.
  14. Shop at garage sales on the weekends for any household items you may need.
  15. Put on more layers of clothing instead of turning up the heat.
  16. Buy generic brand items.
  17. TEXTBOOKS

  18. Buy used textbooks.
  19. Buy textbooks online. Maybe even consider buying the e-book version of the textbook.
  20. Check the library for your required books, you may get lucky!
  21. Sell back your textbooks.
  22. TRANSPORTATION

  23. Use public transportation. Being a college student, you can usually ride for free or at a reduced rate.
  24. Don’t get a car. They are a huge expense and cost a lot in insurance and gas.
  25. Ride your bike. Except for commuter students, no one needs a car on campus for daily use.
  26. Live close to campus and use the campus shuttles to save on gas.
  27. ENTERTAINMENT

  28. Instead of hitting the clubs, try and find house parties.
  29. Keep an eye out for free activities on campus. Most college campuses have free entertainment almost every night. For example: some colleges have a weekly movie night that is free to all students.
  30. Borrow movies from the library. The library has a large collection of movies for students to check out.
  31. COLLEGE EXPENSES

  32. Fill out the FAFSA every year.
  33. Take a look at your college bill. Certain fees are optional. If you won’t be using your college’s fitness center, remove the fee.
  34. Depending on dorm prices, it may be cheaper just to get an apartment. (See: Most Expensive College Dorms)
  35. Don’t buy anything from the school’s bookstore. Some of the prices they charge are outrageous.
  36. Go to a community college and get your core classes completed, then transfer to a 4-year college for required classes for your degree. Make sure all your credits will transfer.
  37. Do not use student loans for anything that is not school related. It’s tempting to rack up your credit and loans, knowing you’ll eventually pay it back. However, you have no idea how the economy will look when you graduate and you don’t want to be in massive debt while job searching.
  38. Test out of classes. For a small fee you can usually take a test to fulfill certain class requirements. Think of the cost you’ll save on tuition.
  39. Finish in three years if you can.
  40. Apply for financial aid early.
  41. Get good grades so you qualify for certain (typically merit-based) grants and scholarships.
  42. Work as a Resident Advisor and get free room and board.
  43. Take as many credits as allowed every term.
  44. Research your school for scholarships. That means taking a look at the website, contacting the admissions office, scholarship office, and faculty to see what’s available. Use every resource you have to get the big scholarships while keeping your eyes open for smaller, but still substantial ones. Look for scholarships in the area of your major. Most professional organizations will have scholarships to encourage students to stay in that field.
  45. Take advantage of student services. There are plenty of free programs that assist you while going to school. From health care to transportation, there are many different ways to save money.
  46. Take advantage of things that are already paid for, such as on-campus meals and library services.
  47. Get a job first and have your employer pay for your schooling.
  48. Don’t go to these colleges.
  49. MONEY TIPS

  50. Only buy what you need. Don’t buy on impulse.
  51. Don’t get a credit card. It’s not necessary and you’ll end up paying a high interest rate.
  52. If you do decide to keep a credit card on hand, pay for things with cash as much as you can. Don’t run up credit card bills for trivial things.
  53. Open up a savings account that earns interest.
  54. Keep track of everything you spend. It really helps to know what you have coming in and going out.
  55. Take advantage of student discounts.
  56. Not only should you try to save money, but you should also try to make money! Get a campus job. There are several jobs that have very little responsibility, believe it or not, and many times you can do your homework during this time. There are typically many jobs available on campus and most are pretty flexible with your class schedule.

Free College Textbooks

The cost of college textbooks can be surprising and frustrating to a student already burdened with high tuition costs and assorted college fees. The source for most college textbooks is the college bookstore, where students often find high-priced new textbooks and moderately-priced used books. There are still a few ways that college textbooks are available free of charge.

Library: Nearly every college keeps copies of the most popular textbooks in the library. The downsides: Most libraries don’t have enough copies to meet the demand for free textbooks. They usually won’t let students check out the books; if they do, there can be a waiting list for the most popular texts.

Professors’ copies: Some professors keep an extra textbook in their offices. It doesn’t hurt to ask professors if they’ve got an extra they can lend. The downside: No one likes being hounded by dozens of students looking for free books, so be polite to your prof.

Online: Any student assigned a book that is no longer copyrighted—typically classic literature, history, etc.—should be able to find the text free online at one of the many growing Web libraries such as Project Gutenberg, Bartleby, or Googlebooks. Many of these Web sites let readers download the texts to a laptop, iPhone, or similar device.

Several open educational resources groups such as Connexions and the Open Educational Resources Consortium, which are made up of college officials and professors, are starting to post free textbooks and lessons online. Flatworld Knowledge, a start-up, has posted 11 business-oriented textbooks, which are being used in more than 300 colleges, free on its Web page in the hopes of persuading students to pay $29.95 for paper versions or $39.95 for audio versions.

The downsides: Although many high-quality, free E-textbooks are in the pipeline, only a handful of the free E-books currently available are top-notch. In addition, many E-books can be read online only, so you can’t download them to your laptop. Many E-books don’t allow students to make notations in the text. Also, some surveys show many students find paper books easier to study than the current generation of E-textbooks. And students who buy Kindles or other expensive E-book readers often end up spending more than those who buy paper books. The top Kindle currently retails for $489, which could easily eat up at least a year’s savings from shifting to E-books. “We don’t think that a textbook E-reader will solve any problems unless we can ensure that content can be delivered to students in a fair and affordable manner,” says Nicole Allen, textbook advocate for the Student Public Interest Research Groups.

Freecycling and Web-swapping: Several Web sites have sprung up to help students find free textbooks. Textbook Revolt, a Web site started by two former University of Cincinnati students, has thousands of students offering to swap textbooks free. Bookins.com is a popular book-swapping site. Swaptree allows people to swap books, CDs, or movies for textbooks. The downsides: Most of these sites are still comparatively small, so few in-demand textbooks are on offer. And all Internet transactions are fraught with the potential of misrepresentation or fraud.

Other Interesting Sites:

http://www.freeloadpress.com

http://www.textbookrevolution.org/