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March Interview: Mr. Daniel Phillips

March Interview: Mr. Daniel Phillips

All Distance Learning students take CLEP exams, but not all who take CLEP exams are Distance Learning students.

Not my best, but its been a long week.

I hope you enjoy this interview with Daniel Phillips, the oldest son of long time family friends.

Note, I asked Daniel for a picture of him with his “penpal” (the one he rather cryptically referred to in his interview), but he said he didn’t have her permission.  🙂


Hello, my name is Daniel Phillips (age 23), and I have mastered the art of CLEPing.  I graduated from UAB a little over six months ago and am currently working for a regional bank in Birmingham, AL as an equity analyst.  My current interests and hobbies largely consist of gmail chatting with someone in Florida (long distance is expensive when you’re on different networks) as well as analyzing equity investment ideas and trading.  Let me tell you about CLEPing now.

Have you graduated from college?  
Yes, I graduated from UAB in May 2012.

If yes, than with what degree and from what college?
University of Alabama at Birmingham; double majored in Economics and Financial Analysis.

Did/are you earning a degree through Distance Learning?

Which CLEP exams have you taken?
Western Civilization I, English I & II, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, Accounting I, Marketing, Management, and Psychology.  In addition, I did a similar test called a DANTES for the course Money and Banking.

What was your main reason for taking the CLEP exam instead of the course?
Save time on introductory courses that I could devote to a second major.  Also, I did CLEPs to avoid burnout by going through a year of easy, introductory courses.

Which CLEP is your favorite (to date)?
Psychology, I’m very glad I was able to CLEP that one instead of taking it in class.  That would have been unpleasant to say the least.

On which CLEP have you scored the highest?
I took all these 4-5 years ago for the most part, so it’s difficult to remember the exact score.  Probably Psychology or Marketing…I seem to remember scoring in the upper 70s on those.  Those were the ones I really didn’t want take in class.  Nearly all the CLEPs are pass or fail though.

Do you have a humorous, bad, or interesting test memory?
Hmmm…not any that I can remember.  It’s just you and the computer usually, so things tend to not get too out-of-hand.  😉

What is your favorite resource to use for test prep and study?
Old college textbooks that I would buy for $5-10 dollars off of or  Those courses don’t change much over the years and neither do the CLEP tests.  It’s almost better to have older textbooks.

How many hours a day did/do you typically devote to test prep?
I would typically study a couple weeks for a CLEP, so if I was to just study for that period, maybe 6.  It really depended on what was going on.  CLEPs would usually fall to the bottom of my priority list until 2 weeks before the test date.

Would you recommend testing out of college classes exams to anyone?  Why or why not?
I’d recommend testing out of all the lower level college classes that you can with CLEPs or DANTEs.  Even if you have a full scholarship, you really don’t want to sit through those lower level classes.  You’ll have to sit through plenty of them as is after doing all those CLEPs and they can really burn you out.  Of course, this is assuming that the student is going to a brick-and-mortar school.

How do you plan to implement your degree into your life, after graduation?
I chose a degree that would position me for vocation I was interested in long-term.  That happened to be asset and portfolio management.  Within the degree, I also selected classes that would form a solid base for graduate level studies as well.  Currently, I’m in the process of taking the CFA exams, and so I designed my curriculum by selecting degrees and classes that were included in the core curriculum of the CFA required body of knowledge.  I completed the first exam a couple weeks after graduating from UAB.  (FYI, The CFA designation is similar to the CPA for Accountants.  The CFA program was created as an international set of standards and tests for Portfolio Managers and Analysts in investments.  It stands for Chartered Financial Analyst.  There’s a little more to it than that, but the above more than satisfies most people’s interest level.)

February Interview: Bethany Strang

February Interview: Bethany Strang

Meet my good friend, who I have never met, Miss Bethany Strang!  Bethany has a great personality and love of music and people that I really enjoy!  Please read her story and feel free to ask questions in the comment section… 🙂

My name is Bethany Strang and I am 19 years old.  I live in the beautiful state of Oregon on a small farm with my family of nine.  Music is a huge part of my life and I play and teach the violin and piano.  I also sing in a quartet with my siblings.  There are quite a few things that I enjoy doing such as visiting with friends (I’m super social!), working with the diary goats on our farm, coming up with ideas, and anything active.  My hobbies would include computers, puns and jokes, pranks, watching movies with my family, cooking, filmmaking, and talking with people.
I am a Christian and I love the Lord!  My goal is to honor God and to fulfill His plan for my life.  I want to be a light in this dark world and share the gospel to the lost.

Have you graduated from college?
Where are you in your studies?  What are you studying and from what college?
I CLEPed my first test on College Mathematics and hope to do the Natural Science CLEP soon.  I’m studying on my own, from home.

Did/are you earning a degree through Distance Learning?
Right now I’m not totally sure if I really need to get a degree… However, if I do get a degree, it would be in Music or Communications.

Which CLEP exams have you taken?
I have only done one (so far!) and it was College Mathematics.

What was your main reason for taking the CLEP exam instead of the course?
I had done all the higher mathematics already and didn’t feel the need to repeat it in a course.  I had to learn some new things that were not covered in what I had already done, but it wasn’t too difficult.

Which CLEP is your favorite (to date)?
Being that I have only taken one test, it would have to be the College Mathematics test!

On which CLEP have you scored the highest?
Again, I don’t have any other test to choose from, so by default, I scored highest on my math CLEP.

Do you have a humorous, bad, or interesting test memory?
Actually yes, I have a very humorous story.
Since I had never taken a CLEP test before, I wasn’t sure I knew what to expect.  Yes, I had taken practice tests (lots of them!), but doing the “real thing” just seemed like uncharted waters.  I worked like crazy the night before getting my information together, trying to convince myself that I would pass, asking people to pray for me, and going to bed past eleven.  The next morning I felt excited and also a little apprehensive because I was starting out in new territory.  After walking around the campus, checking in, checking on, checking up—whatever else you have to do!—I settled down to take my test.  I am a very focused person, so for that hour and a half, I was in my “intense mode”.  When I finally finished up, my score flashed up on the screen.  That’s when I realized I didn’t know what the passing score really was!  Yes, I knew that you have to get at least 50%, but when I saw a score in the 50ies, I wasn’t sure if I passed or not.  I thought I had, but I just wasn’t certain!  Believe me, you want to be certain that you passed!  The conclusion of my time was spent on taking their surveys and signing out of the computer.  And I still didn’t know if I passed or not.  I stood up, stretched, and walked out of the testing room.  The lady behind the desk was printing out my papers.  She smiled at me and said, “How did it go?”  I answered, “It went well!  Um…” and a bit sheepishly I added, “Did I pass?”  At that moment she flipped my paper across the counter to me and said, “Yes, you did!”  I was overjoyed and couldn’t resist a triumphant, “YES!”

What is your favorite resource to use for test prep and study?
I’m assuming that there are going to be lots different resources for different tests.  For me, I did a lot of internet research to find practice tests (doing lots practice tests are the way to go!).  I also borrowed a stack of textbooks from my friend, but only ended up using this one called “Review for the CELP General College Mathematics” by Comex Systems, Inc.  It was extremely helpful, explained everything well, and gave many problems to work through as well as having a practice test in the back.

How many hours a day did/do you typically devote to test prep?
I would say about an hour to two and a half hours.  Initially I had studied and wanted to take the CLEP by a certain date, but had to postpone due to illness and too much stuff going on in my schedule.  When I came back to it about a month or two later, I remember a lot, but still had to work a bit.  As the day got closer, I was studying longer.

Would you recommend testing out of college classes exams to anyone?  Why or why not?
I would recommend it.  The first two years of college are repeating the last two years of highschool.  Why would you want to spend so much time on things you have already done?  Skip the classes and take the tests.  You will have more time to dedicate to the things you really want to do.  Not only is it cheaper, but also it is more efficient.  Just to make things clear, there might be some circumstances where you might want/need to take some classes in college, so I’m not saying that you never should take a college class!

How do you plan to implement your degree into your life, after graduation?
As I mentioned in my Bio, music is a huge part of my life so I would say that a degree in that area would be helpful for teaching and such.  I don’t feel like a degree is necessarily necessary (as I like to say), but some people need them and it is always good to further your learning by CLEPing tests even if you don’t get a degree.   If I didn’t go the music route, I would choose the Communications degree because I am involved with a lot of writing projects, speaking, and internet communication.  Speaking out against abortion is something I would really want to do more and that degree could come in helpful.
I’m not totally decided yet, but I still have a lot of time in front of me to make these plans certain; sometimes you just have to cross those bridges when you come to them and most importantly, be in prayer about where God wants you to be.

January Interview: Anna Christensen

January Interview: Anna Christensen

As most of you know, one of the changes for Uncommon Student, in 2013, is to interview a student who has taken a CLEP exam or finished their degree through distance learning.

Today I am honored to present to you one of my dear friends, Mrs. Anna Christensen, who has loved me and encouraged me as I earn my degree in this unique way.  Enjoy reading Anna’s thoughts!

If you have questions for Anna, please leave a comment!

My name is Anna Christensen and I’m happily married to Joshua. We have three children, ages 5,3, and 1. After living for four years in Alabama while my husband attended law school and clerked, we just moved “home” again this past fall. I love reading old books, teaching my children, writing on my blog, and nature walks. 

Jessica: Have you graduated from college?

Anna: Yes.  I graduated from Excelsior College in 2009, with a degree in Literature in English. I took a semester at a local college, but completed the rest of my courses through online classes and examination.

Jessica: Which CLEP exams have you taken?

Anna: A lot. I honestly don’t remember them all: Biology, College Mathematics, Micro/Macro-economics, World History, Humanities, and many more. I also took several Dantes exams. 

Jessica: What was your main reason for taking the CLEP exam instead of the course?

Anna: Not only are CLEP exams much cheaper, I prefer learning at my own pace instead of being tied to a classroom AND getting to choose the curriculum I use. 

Jessica: Which CLEP is your favorite?

Anna: Hmmm… I probably enjoyed preparing for the British Literature exam the most… though I ended up getting duplicate credits from another exam so it didn’t transfer. 

Jessica: On which CLEP have you scored the highest?

Anna: I scored the highest on Analyzing and Interpreting Literature, though it was also duplicated by other credits. 

Jessica: Do you have a humorous, bad, or interesting test memory?

Anna: After taking each test and the page pops up that announces “Click to view score and have it retained on your records OR Click to not view score and have it forever lost” (something like that!) my heart always started pounding. Except when I took the Business CLEP. I was pretty confident. That was the only test I failed. 

Jessica: What is your favorite resource to use for test prep and study?

Anna: We both love the Princeton Review. We used them for CLEPs, GREs, and my husband leaned on it heavily for taking the LSAT to get into Law School. We also loved the lectures from The Teaching Company (available at most libraries.) 

Jessica: How many hours a day did/do you typically devote to test prep?

Anna: It totally varied. While I was at home, I tried to spend at least two hours a day preparing for tests. After getting married, it was whenever I could fit it in. 

Jessica: Would you recommend testing out of college classes exams to anyone? Why or why not?

Anna: I highly recommend CLEPs to my friends and parents of friends. However, I realize not everyone learns best in an on-your-own type setting. For those who do learn well that way, CLEPs are a great way to graduate sooner with less expense. 

Jessica: How do you plan to implement your degree into your life?

Anna: Joshua and I were planning on using our degrees to teach overseas until health complications changed our plans. He still encouraged me to finish since I will be actively involved in teaching our children (whether at home or in a classical school.) Having my degree also helped me to find online work while Joshua was in school.


Did you enjoy getting to meet Anna today?  If you have questions or comments for her, you can leave them here.

For more on Anna’s adventures as a wife and mom, visit her blog:  Feminine Adventures

Re-post: Is it Time to think of Homeschooling Your Child?

Re-post: Is it Time to think of Homeschooling Your Child?

This article is long, but I highly recommend you read it.  It was posted in the Orlando Sentinel by Jack Chambless


For the past 21 years I have taught economics to more than 14,000 college students here in Central Florida. During that time I have made a concerted effort to glean information from my Valencia students as to their educational background preceding their arrival in college.

Drawing from a sample size this large multiplied by two decades multiplied by hundreds of thousands of test answers has put me in a good position to offer the following advice to any reader of this paper with children in Florida’s K-12 public schools.

Get them out now before you ruin their life.

While this may seem to be a bit harsh, let’s look at the facts.

First, my best students every year are in order — Chinese, Eastern European, Indian and home-schooled Americans, and it is not even close when comparing this group to American public-school kids.

Since it is highly unlikely that any of you plan to move to Beijing, Warsaw or Bangalore, you might want to look at the facts concerning public vs. home-schooled American students.

(In Florida, more than 60,000 students in about 42,000 families study in home education programs, which meet the requirement for regular school attendance and were protected under state law in 1985.)

All of us have seen or heard about the annual disaster that is called FCAT results. Thanks to government officials in Washington, D.C. and Tallahassee, kids in government-run schools are failing miserably in a wide range of subjects while teachers face bureaucratic nightmares that strip them of their status as professionals and relegate them to servants of standardized testing.

It is also a fact of public education that incidents of bullying, teacher-student sexual misconduct, abusive behavior by teachers and incessant protection of poor teachers by education unions have put students in public schools in the unenviable position of dealing with issues that no learning environment should impose on them.

Moreover, the public education system in Florida and other states is one of the worst forms of monopoly power.

Everywhere in our lives as citizens we have free consumer choice as to where we shop for food, clothes, cellphones and more. However, if you are economically disadvantaged you rarely have this choice in education.

Poorer families in Florida are instead given the school district that their children are forced to attend. Rather than give poor parents choices so that competitive pressure is imposed on public education, we have lower-income families — mostly minorities — who are condemned to 13 years of inferior education just because they live in the wrong zip code.

Everywhere in America where vouchers or other forms of school choice exists, we see competition forcing the unionized public schools to adapt, or lose students.

This used to be the case in Florida, but those options are now lower than in past years and the victims show up in my classes woefully unprepared for challenging college course work.

t is routine that students from Florida’s worst high schools make failing grades in college. These kids have been lied to by a system that tells them that a diploma from an “F” school will not impact them in college.

Meanwhile, the more than 2 million home-schooled kids around America (my two sons included) routinely appear in America’s colleges with an education that prepares them for virtually anything.

The home-education movement has unleashed the forces of capitalism in such a way that anyone can find dozens of types of curricula for any grade level to help educate their kids in areas where one might not be an expert.

Home-school conventions like the one coming at the end of this month in Orlando offer thousands of options and professional speakers who can help guide willing parents through their child’s formative years.

The home-schooled kids who show up in my classes usually arrive at the age of 16 or 17, score in the high 90’s on their exams and then go off to places like Harvard, Penn and other world-class universities.

What ObamaCare means to College Students

What ObamaCare means to College Students

This article is a repost from the CollegePlus blogTaryn DiMartile does a wonderful job of reminding us of the reality we are facing as a country and as students. Taryn works and writes for CollegePlus, to read her original article, visit here.

Please be in prayer for our nation as we celebrate Independence Day this Wednesday.

I know you all know (doesn’t everyone know?) that student debt is a problem of tsunami proportions. And it’s a problem that doesn’t seem to have a solution coming anytime soon. What you may not know is, with today’s ruling on Obamacare, college students have another wave of expenses hitting them – health care costs.

According to a recent Forbes article, costs of college student’s health care could rise 1,112%. Yes, 1,112 percent.

Why could costs go up 1,112%?

Many colleges offer their students health insurance plans with very limited benefits that cover expenses to a specific “capped” amount that is usually pretty low. Most college students are young adults in great health (well, beside the massive amounts of caffeine they consume), so this is normally not a problem and the result is low premium costs for the students: usually only a couple hundred dollars a year.

However, with ObamaCare, insurance companies will be required to substantially raise the coverage “cap” (whether or not people want to pay for that much more coverage) for 2013-2014 and beginning 2015, insurance companies will not be allowed to sell health insurance plans with a “cap” at all. This is what will cause insurance costs to go through the roof.

The cost reality

Curtis Johnson is a student at a small, private Christian college in Florida. Last year, the health insurance through his school cost him $600. This coming year? $1,130. Considering his tuition is already $25,000 a year, the additional cost is unaffordable for him and he has to look into alternatives. However, he’s one of the lucky ones!

Students at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, N.C. paid $245 for a year of health insurance last school year. Next year, they’ll be paying over $2,500. And that’s on top of tuition, room, board and everything else that comes along with being a college student.

Another problem facing students

To make matters worse, because of the rules, regulations and penalties now placed on businesses regarding health care for their employees, finding summer or seasonal jobs (a main source of income for college students) will become harder, making the increased cost even more difficult to bear.

Whether or not all the rules and regulations will indeed stay in place remains to be seen, but the future does not look as bright as it once was for college grads. And with the already declining morale and financial situation of today’s college students, things are looking bleak for those who were told they could do anything they wanted to at a high school commencement speech not too long ago.

Online Educational Tsunami

Online Educational Tsunami

On May 4, 2012 the Seattle Times released a startling article that revealed the new, or not so new, trend of online college educations.

“what happened to the newspaper and magazine business is about to happen to higher education:
a re-scrambling around the Web”

Across the world, people of all walks of life are pursuing their doctorates online through schools in other countries.  What is wrong with doing your bachelors or associate degree in the same way?  While research proves that online learning is just as effective as traditional learning, some people look at the changes as scary, different, and shocking.

“Will academic standards be as rigorous? What happens to the students who don’t have enough intrinsic motivation to stay glued to their laptop hour after hour? How much communication is lost — gesture, mood, eye contact — when you are not actually in a room with a passionate teacher and students?

Just what will happen?  That is something to be thought about and considered.  Do we miss great communication with “passionate” professors and students when we are “glued to the laptop hour after hour”  The picture is definitely beautiful when put in such a poetic way, but really; just how much are we missing?  For the answer I looked at several recent surveys (see below).

• Literacy among college grads has fallen to 31% (American Library
• 93% liberal bias in faculty (Santa Clara University).
• Only 54% of college freshmen will graduate from college. (USAToday)

Where is are the rigorous standards?  Where is the passion?  I fail to see it.

This is not an easy question with an easy answer.  We don’t live in a world of black and white.

To be continued…

Recommended Friday: Audio Lectures (Guest Post)

Recommended Friday: Audio Lectures (Guest Post)

While I’m studying for my CLEP on Monday, my good, sweet friend agreed to do a guest post for Recommended Friday.  Please welcome, Anna from Feminine Adventures!!!

My name is Anna and I’m honored to be guest posting today while Jessica finishes preparing for her first CLEP. My husband and I both earned our degrees through distance learning. It was a decision we have not regretted!

Photo Credit

The ability to study when and where you choose is one of the many benefits of a distance education.  A resource we found invaluable for “redeeming the time” was audio lectures.

Audio lectures allow you to study while cleaning, driving, exercising or crafting.

Our library carried dozens of college course lectures from the Teaching Company. We love these lectures. The goal of the Teaching Company is to find universally acclaimed professors and have them deliver university-level lectures straight to you and me.

It’s like getting to sit in on the greatest lectures from around the globe while doing dishes!

We used these lectures to prepare for numerous exams, ranging from the Biology CLEP to the Russian History Dantes. The only drawback is that some of the lectures (like those on biology) are not delivered from a distinctly Christian worldview.

My very favorite lectures are by Timothy Taylor on Economics, which we used to prepare for the Micro and Macro Economic CLEPs. I listened to these while still living at home with my family. The lectures were like a magnet. My siblings inched their way into the kitchen so they could listen too. Timothy Taylor even got an 8-year-old to beg to dry dishes, just so she could stay and listen to the history of economics with me. Impressive, huh?

Audio lectures aren’t just a wonderful resource for distance learning students though. They are for anyone who loves learning!