Monday, October 6, 2014

How I Did College (because occasionally people ask)

Quick Facts:

Cost: $7,500 +/-
Time: 18 Months
Schools: Regent University, Thomas Edison State College, CLEP, DSST
Age started: 25
Age finished: 26
Degree: BA English

The Journey
One day, many moons ago, I realized that all the career paths I wanted to take were going to require a college degree of some sort. For my particular field (non-profit work and vocational ministry) the type of degree didn’t matter, it just had to be a degree.
            By then I was already in my mid-twenties and had zero desire to spend $30,000 and 4 years in school hanging out with a bunch of 18-year-olds just out of high school.  So, I began researching how to do college the quickest, cheapest way possible.
            I’d heard of non-conventional ways of doing school and assumed there were plenty of adults seeking a college degree who found themselves in the same place as I was. Still, after a year of searching, a tried and true this-is-how-you-do-it method was illusive.
            Eventually, I came across something called CollegePlus (cheesy name but great concept). It required $2,500 a year to register for the coaching on how to test out of subjects and achieve your degree the fast way.
            I didn’t want to dole out the $2,500, but was on the brink of getting a coach, simply because I was having trouble coming up with a plan. That’s when I met Bridgette.
            Bridgett was an acquaintance who’d been in a few Bible studies with me. One fateful day we decided to grab coffee. During our conversation, I found out that she was already doing CollegePlus and was getting a degree similar to mine. She offered to be my coach and lend me her materials, so miraculously I was able to do the CLEP testing and DSST testing and figure out which schools would accept my credits without having to hire a CollegePlus coach.
            However, most people don’t have a Bridgette in their lives, so if you feel you need more direction than this blog post can offer, I highly recommend CollegePlus.
            After coming up with a plan, I decided it just might be possible to do my entire degree in 2 years. I realized this might be a little over-zealous, but my usual method of achieving my goals was to shoot for close to impossible. The result is typically either big-time fail or epic achievement.
Hey, it doesn’t hurt to try.
 So I started taking CLEP tests and DSST tests like a mad person. At first, it was slow while I was trying to get the hang of things. Once I got in a groove, though, I was cranking out one test per week. 
Once I’d finished all my testing, I started taking online classes at the college that would accept my test credits. This particular school offered sufficient education, but some of the literature classes weren’t exactly what I was interested in, so I took some classes from a different university in order to study what I wanted to study (online classes are the ultimate expression of “have it your way” if I ever saw one).
18 months after my first test, I completed my degree.
Then I went to the mountains with a friend in order to sleep it off, vowing to never do school ever again…


What is CLEP and DSST testing?
The best way to describe it is like studying for the final exam of a class. You do an overview of the entire subject and then take the test.
One wonderful tidbit about CLEP and DSST tests is that it’s pass-fail. Which means it has no affect on your GPA. Even if you only pass by one point, you still pass. It’s a pretty sweet deal. It’s also a fraction of the cost of taking the college class.
Google it for more information.

But it isn’t real college, is it?
In case you’re doubting the validity of the education (which it’s very understandable if you are), know this: I applied and was accepted to 4 different grad schools, one of which I’m currently attending. Well, it’s a seminary, actually. There are some who will doubt the validity of a seminary education, also. If you are one of those skeptical people, I assure you it is a certifiable grad school in the US and Canada. If you need further proof, one of the schools I applied to was a really real grad school (as opposed to a seminary) and I never had anyone balk at my transcript.
It’s a real education, I promise.

What are some of the downsides of doing college this way?
Socialization. College experience. Benefit of interacting with other students and professors.
The last one is probably the biggest downside in regards to getting your education online. There is a huge aspect of learning that is only achieved when you journey along with others studying the same thing. Unfortunately, there is no way to create this environment apart from the traditional classroom. This is one reason why I decided to physically attend seminary instead of doing it online.
However, the lack of human interaction is a small price to pay for the speed and cost-effectiveness of this method of getting a degree.
There is also a limited amount of career help when you pursue school this way. Finding a job through college internships is one of the main ways that people begin their career path after college. Online school is definitely best if you already have a job, are well-connected in your line of work, or plan to attend grad school immediately after finishing your degree.
It’s also difficult to achieve a degree in science related fields such as nursing. These fields usually require labs and clinicals that you just can’t do over the internet.

There you go. How I did college.

If you have any other questions, feel free to email me ( or leave your email address in the comments and I’ll contact you.

Happy studying!


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