Thursday, September 4, 2008

College: the non-traditional way

Joshua and I chose to get our college education primarily through non-traditional avenues, so from time to time we receive calls from fellow students or students' parents. How did we earn our college credit in less time, for a fraction of the cost of a traditional college classroom? And, why did we choose to go this route?

Getting a B.A. is simply one step towards entering one's desired career, attending graduate school or ministry. Must one spend four years in a college classroom to do so or are there other options? The more we looked into it, the more we realized that there are many ways to accomplish this step.

Though it's certainly not for everyone, the option we chose was to do most of the studying on our own and test out of many classes. Though I really enjoyed the semester spent at a local college, I learned more studying on my own than when actually in class!

Most colleges award at least some credit for testing. Others let you obtain most of your degree through testing. Some of the most popular of the latter kind are Thomas Edison State College, Charter Oak and Excelsior College-- which is the one we chose. In addition to regular and online classes, Excelsior accepts credit earned through a variety of other means like CLEPS, Dantes and GREs.

CLEP tests: These tests are a popular way to test out of entry level college courses. For a 90 minute test that costs just $70, you can earn between 3 and 12 credit hours! Nearly 3000 accredited colleges nation-wide award credit for at least some of the tests. Just check with the college you plan to attend to see which ones they grant credit for.

CLEPs cover 34 subjects including biology, Spanish, calculus and American literature. All of the exam contain mostly multiple choice questions.

There are many ways to prepare for the tests, but we found three resources especially helpful.
  • The Official CLEP study guide:This guide provides sample exams to gage whether you are prepared to take the CLEP or need to study more in certain areas. I checked it out multiple times from our local library and it was a great help in preparing for the real exam.
  • Teaching Company Lectures: I really, really love these! The Teaching Company recruits distinguished professors from around the world to lecture on their area of expertise. They are fairly expensive, but we raided our library's huge collection. Thanks to them, I was able to do much of my studying while baking bread or ironing!
  • Instant Cert: Instant Cert is great for areas in which you need a lot of work. It uses a series of multiple choice questions with detailed answers to quickly help you grasp the pertinent information. I was delighted with how quickly it helped me prepare for my most dreaded CLEP: Math. Membership is $20 a month. If you decide you don't like it during the first month, just cancel and your money will be refunded.

  • Their forum, which you can access for free, is also full of great information about different schools, tests, etc...
Even if you plan on pursuing a traditional college education, I would highly recommend using these tests to save time and money with the gen. ed. requirements. Engineering students really don't need to sit through lectures on the effect of modern poetry in England, do they?

Well, I think this post is getting long enough! Continued here. :)

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