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Category: College Options



From part one of this series: ”

My distance degree is not worth “just as much” as a traditional campus degree – it is worth more.  It is worth years of work, life experience, and personal growth.  Let’s go above degree equality, let’s go above and beyond the status-quo.  If you are going to be different, stand out.  Go big or go home! So I encourage you and challenge you to own your degree this year.  Use 2018 as the year you pursue doing more than just getting by, just passing the test, just getting the credit.  How do you do that?  I’m glad you asked!

If you choose to think outside the box, be a little uncommon, and earn your degree through distance learning, you may find yourself having to explain your degree to everyone you meet.  This method will grow you and challenge you.  But it also gives you the option to, not only earn a degree, but to also acquire years of experience and skills that make you invaluable in the workplace.

Here are five practical ways to maximize your college years as a distance student:

1. Get an accountability group

Pursue finding students who are also earning distance degrees and create an accountability group.  You may find them on an online forum, a Facebook group, your online class, or even just local friends. I even met one friend at my testing center when we were both there to take a CLEP.  Having a group that can pray for you, ask you how the tests are going, or just be a sounding board for any questions/rants/comments that you have.  Get a group of people who are studying like you, and build each other up in the Lord.

2. Pursue workplace skills

Put yourself in the position to learn hard and soft skills in the workplace.  Part-time or full-time, internship or job – it really does not matter.  Seek out a position that will allow you to learn from those who are older and more experienced than you.  Pursue learning skills that will set you apart once you graduate – not just for the resume, but for the rest of your life.  And never underestimate the power of a letter of reference from a happy employer.

3. Look for volunteer and service opportunities

As a distance student you may not have the opportunity to get involved in Greek Life, on-campus service projects, or help lead the student body.  But don’t let that stop you.  Change your perspective and look for opportunities around your city and your community.  Schools, special need centers, National Parks, your church, mission trips – the opportunities are endless for you to volunteer and be involved in the life of your local community.  And service projects or volunteer work is often the work that has the greatest amazing impact on our life.

4. Keep your reading list

So many people I talk to say, “oh, I haven’t read since I started college.”  I hear this and I inwardly cringe. Prioritize reading – even if you only read one or two books a semester.  It may seem like a little thing, but reading is actually a vanishing skill in today’s world. Reading challenges your brain, helps you practice your concentration, and grows you as a person.  Read interesting books – fiction and nonfiction – and keep a record of what you read.  Also, choose your reading material thoughtfully. In the process of applying to graduate school and applying for scholarships, I have been able to share with the deans and faculty that I have read The Count of Monte Cristo and Les Miserables while finishing my degree.  In other words, I have surrounded myself with good literature – instead of burying myself of modern textbooks.

5. Pursue relationships with your professors

With a few exceptions, most distance students will not have the opportunity to meet their professors face to face.  But don’t let that stop you from purposefully pursuing a relationship with them.  Do not limit yourself to public posts on the forum, get their personal email and send them your questions and comments.  If you have any questions, ask them – do not guess at the answer.  Demonstrate to your professors that you are not just there to pass a class, show them that you actually want to learn all that they can give you.  College faculty are faculty because they are passionate about their area of expertise and sharing it with students.  Take advantage of that fact and ask them for more than just what they list on the syllabus.  Once again, never underestimate the power of a letter of recommendation from a professor.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  What ideas do you have for making your degree worth more than just four years of coursework?

The One State with Low Student Debt

The One State with Low Student Debt


There is only one state where the average college student has less that $20,000 of debt when they graduate.  In all 50 United States, we can only find one state with this statistic and that award goes to the western state of New Mexico.  Student debt is becoming a bigger and bigger issue in America.

In a study released in November 2014, New Mexico was found to be the only state where the average college student graduates with less than $20,000 in debt.  

They weren’t far below that mark though, their average came in at $18,656.  New Hampshire came in with the highest ranking student debt, at $32,795.  As more students borrow and borrow more, it drives the cost up – leading to more and more students borrowing.

One of the biggest problems with student debt is it holds the graduate back from their full life potential after graduation.  Having over $30,000 in student loans leads to putting off buying a house, getting married, saving for your own children’s education, starting a business, or saving for retirement.  This delays the benefit that these adults could be to our economy.

Rethinking the traditional college route is becoming more and more of a necessity in our world today.  Testing out of courses and taking online courses can help shorten your time spent on campus and decrease your total college cost.  In addition, the average CLEP prep book is $30 – compared to the average $300 textbook for a traditional classroom course.

There are other options out there, besides binding yourself to thousands of dollars in student debt.  Let’s step back and look at the conveyor belt way of college.  Maybe there is a different way to do it.

Update and a Restart

Update and a Restart

Hello everyone,

Where did my blogging drive go?  I have no idea!  Somewhere in between life and school and work I got too busy to keep up the blog.  I kept writing (couldn’t stop that!), but it never made it onto the blog.  But I have resolved to do better in 2015 and journal all the interesting things I am learning with school and work.  So here is an update and a map for the new year.  And I will begin getting more posts out here soon!

Life Update

School – I have applied to Thomas Edison State College (TESC) and Liberty Online.  I have been accepted to Liberty, still waiting to hear from TESC.  Yesterday I began the long and complicated process of mailing in my test transcripts (that story is coming on Friday).  I am ready to go take the Technical Writing DSST, but will wait until I am settled on a college.  Then I can just have my test scores sent straight there.

Work – There will be a new part of this blog, as we focus on working in an uncommon way.    As college students, many of us will be working for part time jobs and/or looking for full time work.  This is a great time to begin working on skills and qualities that will make you a better employee (and help you get hired in a competitive market!).  I recently started working as a Virtual Assistant.  I am self employed, and currently have four clients I am helping with their websites in various ways.

General – Life in general is good.  It rolls on whether I am taking tests or not.  I am still raising chickens (about to have more chicks arrive), still a big sister (to some incredible people), still playing soccer, still running a Film Festival, and still reading.  I have some new things going on that are teaching me how quickly life can change.  It has encouraged me to stop each day and take a breath, just to remember that God is in control.

Plan for 2015

School – I have 11 tests and 1 course standing between me and graduation.  It is my goal, Lord willing, to knock all those out this year and graduate with my Bachelors.  The biggest roadblock to that is finances, so I will also be applying for scholarships.  Stay tuned as I share test information, school updates, and scholarship help.

Work – To grow my Virtual Assistant (VA) work into a profitable business that provides me with the same amount of income as a full time job, but with more enjoyment and better hours.  This is a great job for me now, as a student with other interests.  And it is also perfect for a wife and mom, with children at home.  I will be hosting it off of Uncommon Student (which has its own domain now!), so there will be a new website soon!

Life – Some of the goals I have for 2015 are: do one thing that really challenges me to get out of my shell, read 50 books I have always wanted to read (but never have), run a 5k, start getting up at 5:30 each morning, memorize a book of the Bible, and buy my own car.

Haha, yeah, I know.  I’m crazy.  😉  Here’s to a great new year!  Let’s experience it together!


Compostion CLEP – with or without the essay?

Compostion CLEP – with or without the essay?


Can you take the Modular CLEP for English, instead of the full CLEP?

Will it count as English 102?

Can you avoid the essays?

Before deciding which test to take, look up your college and see what they accept.  For CollegePlus students, or other kids who are going to use Thomas Edison State College, you can not take the Modular.  TESC doesn’t even accept it.  You have to take the College Composition CLEP with essays.

But I have some good news, it will count as English 101 and English 102.  In one test!  🙂

And the tests are typed, for anyone who is worried about their handwriting.

"Make it a close second"

"Make it a close second"

I’ve always like algebra.  Geometry never really was my favorite, but I liked Algebra.  So I actually enjoyed the daily math grind in a way.  But I also discovered that I was not called to any career where I did math 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  After to much math my brain became mush.   And my 15 year old neighbor told me I didn’t look so good.  Thanks, buddy.

During this little algebra intermission, I took and passed Macroeconomics!!!  Thank you, Lord!!!

But I kept working at it, and, long story short, I didn’t make it.  I made it exactly half way before the deadline rolled around.  It took me 25 hours to get halfway through the course.  So I slowed back down.

Because now I’m in limbo with ALEKs Math.

  • If you DON’T work on the math, it will bump you down in the program and you lose all the work you’ve done.
  • If you work too fast and finish, you don’t get accreditation.  The credits are not like CLEP credits that last for 30 years, these only last 2-3 days.  If ALEKS isn’t accredited in that time, no credit.

I told a friend that I feel like Dash in the last scene of Incredibles by Pixar, when he’s running in the race and his parents are cheering him on.  They are yelling at him to speed up, but not to fast.  Pull back, but not that much.  “Make it second, but a close second”.   That’s kind of what doing College Algebra is like right now.

My battle with ALEKs Math (part 1)

My battle with ALEKs Math (part 1)

Yes, I know it seems that I dropped off the face of the earth. But I did not. In fact, I am still very much here! Here’s what’s going on.

I met with my CollegePlus coach and degree advisor. We picked my remaining courses and lined up what I needed to take. Because I switched to a business degree, I needed a greater amount of math credit. I needed College Algebra and Intro to Statistics. CollegePlus recommends that you take these courses through ALEKs math, instead of a CLEP exam. This route is cheaper ($20 vs. $100) and a better way to learn math.  So, I had 2 ALEKs courses on my horizon.

And then my mom got an email that she had 2 months free, thanks to a homeschool company.  So I signed up.

And that same day CollegePlus emailed with the breaking news: ALEKs had lost their accreditation with ACE.  1 year ago I didn’t know what that meant, now I know it means that I don’t get college credit for my work.   So, I stopped working.

THEN, CollegePlus emailed me on October 23 and said that if I could complete my course before November 1, 2013, ACE would give me the credit.  

So, even though I was going to take Microeconomics in 2 days, even though I was in a wedding in 3 days, even though I would be gone all day Sunday, and EVEN though I had planned to take the next week off because I was turning 20… I decided to try it.

To be continued.

October Focus: Hunt Accountability

October Focus: Hunt Accountability

If you are choosing to be a “uncommon” or “distant” student, you will lack the accountability that normal students get a brick and mortar school.  To tell you the truth, no one will be telling what to do.  Which, to some of you, sounds like a dream come true.  It’s not.  It’s a nightmare and can be exhausting.  If you have unlimited income, you don’t have to worry about taking the wrong test, but for most of us… each decision can be agonizing.

Be deliberate about finding accountability partners.  Your parents are a great place to start.  Add in some older couples and some kids who know what you are doing or care about it.  For instance, I have friends who don’t have a CLUE what a CLEP is, but they care about me… so they listen to me use terms they don’t understand.   My friends do career counseling and CLEP prep and mentoring.  Every single one of them is a Christian sister or brother in the Lord.

And take care of them.  When one of my friends has a CLEP, it goes on my school calendar (and I figure out the time change) and I pray for them when they take their CLEP.  Knowing they do it for me, I want to do it for them.  Just because you aren’t on a campus together doesn’t mean you don’t care for each other.

To fulfill your “college experience” from home, hunt down accountability.


October Focus: ACT Prep

October Focus: ACT Prep

So, you are going to take the ACT?  Here’s some information on preparing for it.

Coming up…

  • The Writing Section of the ACT
  • The Day of the ACT
October Focus: Taking the ACT?

October Focus: Taking the ACT?

Should you take the ACT?  That is the question that most students I know are facing.  If you know that you are going to “CLEP out of College”, do you need an ACT score?  Or, if you are like my sisters, and you don’t think you’ll go to college do you need an ACT score?

My answer is… Yes.  Go take the ACT if you can.  3 reasons why.

  1. There is an age limit.  If you decide you need it one day, you can’t go back.
  2. Scholarships.  For any distance student or traditional student, scholarships are good.  For most of them you need an ACT score to apply.
  3. Good experience.  The experience of taking a standardized test is one that every student should have.  The format and requirements are virtually universal no matter what test you are taking.  Knowing how to take a test is a GREAT skill and one most people ignore.

So, you are taking the ACT?  Let’s work on preparing for it.  🙂

Relating to People

Relating to People

I bring up this subject a lot, probably because I deal with it a lot.  And I think it is extremely relevant.  How are we supposed to explain to people about our college experience, and deal with the criticism that inevitably comes our way?

When people ask about your college, you inwardly cringe.  How much do they really want to know?  Here are three things to keep in mind when you explain to people what you are doing… at church, at work, at your grandparents, at the camp ground, or at the park.  You’ll have to explain, so be prepared.

Be Respectful

Always, always, always.  Be respectful of people when you are talking to them.  Especially if they are older than you are.  Even if someone is standing there telling you that you are missing out, or you shouldn’t be going to college, or this doesn’t really count, be respectful.  A gentle answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1).  Stand in a non-offensive position, don’t lose your cool, and stay calm.  Personally, I don’t take offense easily, but some people do.  Don’t be someone who earns a reputation of a hot head.  Defend your position calmly and clearly.  Then move on.

Be Humble

Some people are going to find fault with every argument you bring to the table.  Be humble and admit that there are other ways to study and get an education.  Don’t be prideful and annoying.  I always share with people that my way is not for every one.  I make a point of telling them that it is a great fit for me, and I love it, but I know that a lot of kids would be overwhelmed with learning from home.

Personally, I think they should get over being overwhelmed.  Engineers and doctors are the only ones that HAVE to be on a campus.  But I don’t say that. 🙂  I’m being respectful.

Be Assured

While you should be respectful and humble, for heaven’s sakes, don’t become a door mat.  You give all of us a bad name if you mumble something about reading at home for college.  Your credits are fully accredited, your degree is worth just as much as any other state college, and you are learning a lot!  When people ask you about what you are doing, stand up straight, look them in the eye, and tell them what you are doing.  Be self assured.  You know what you are doing, tell others what you are doing.