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Category: Helpful Hints



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?

Above and Beyond Degree Equality (part one)

Above and Beyond Degree Equality (part one)


Welcome to the fight for degree equality.  See, the majority of students will attend regular universities with classrooms and hallways and fire drills, and they will never have to prove or justify their degree.  The majority of students will attend a university familiar to them and the people around them, earn a degree, put it on their resume, get a job, and happily begin life in the workforce.  But if you choose to think outside the box, be a little uncommon, and have an adventure while in school, you may find yourself having to explain your degree to everyone you meet.

“So where did you go to school?”

(inwardly cringing and wishing I felt like lying) “Um, Thomas Edison State University.”

“Oh, I don’t think I have heard of that one.”

“Haha, probably not!  It is up in Trenton, New Jersey.”

“Oh, you’re from New Jersey?”

“Um, no… I just graduated from Thomas Edison.  I’m an online, distance student.”


Cringe, sigh.  Over and over again.  Wishing I could lie – just once!  And claim I went somewhere that people knew and respected.

But here’s the deal.  No I don’t.  Sure for a moment it might be uncomfortable and awkward to explain why you chose the path you did, and it might take a little more explaining than normal, but the truth of the matter is – I wouldn’t trade my education for any other option.

The experience of putting myself through school, working full-time while I earned my degree, having to do the research myself, and having to be my own academic advisor has given me so many practical life skills that I never would have gotten on a traditional four year “college campus experience.”

I’ve learned how to manage my time, study effectively, and how to be purposeful in my work.  Working full-time as a substitute teacher and office manager gave me practical skills that future employers are looking for.  And believe me, nothing teaches you how to conduct research like trying to figure out which credits will transfer correctly.

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!  Look for Part Two this week!  🙂

Get a Normal Email Address!

Get a Normal Email Address!


Welcome to your life, wherever this finds you.  Still in high school, venturing through college, finding yourself in the work place, or diligently at home.  Wherever you are, you probably have an email address and this piece of your life is a huge key to how you view life and what you make of yourself.

Besides your Social Security number you will probably use your email address more than any other piece of identification.  And, unlike other generic piece of ID, this is personalized and a peek into who you are.  Make sure you take your time on it.

Job applications, college admission forms, resumes… the list goes on and on.  Each of these will ask for your email address because it’s one of the best ways to contact people in the 21st century.  And on each of these many professional men and women will be looking at your email address.  Where you live is standard, your phone number is standard, but your email will stand out.

You may have a Bachelor’s in Accounting.  You many have a GPA of 3.7.  You may have been valedictorian in high school.  But if your email address is ““, none of that will matter.

Believe it or not, your email address can be the determining factor in getting a job.

Take the time, invest the extra energy, and create a simple, professional, normal email address.  It’ll get you much farther.

How to Schedule a CLEP Test

How to Schedule a CLEP Test

schedule_CLEPScheduling a CLEP exam used to be as easy as calling your proctor, telling her what exam you were going to take, and picking a day.  Now, thanks to some revisions by CollegeBoard, there are a few more steps to take before you can go CLEP a class.  So here is a basic rundown on how to schedule a CLEP exam.

Visit the CLEP CollegeBoard website 

Once there, register for your chosen exam.  Note that you will need to create a free account with CollegeBoard.  You will fill out all your personal information (once!) and it will save for future exams.  Also, you will need to go find your exam and “add it to cart”.  This is just registering for the exam.  You will go ahead and purchase the exam there ($80.00).  Print your ticket and save the PDF copy to your computer.  I had to reprint once and was very glad I had saved it!  🙂

Call Your Proctor

This part doesn’t really change.  Just work out a date with your proctor and put it on your calendar.  Don’t forget!

Go Take Your Exam

Take your ticket with you when you head off to take your exam.  It has a code on it that you will need and your proctor will need to see your ticket as well.  You will also need to pay the proctor fee – usually around $20.00.  You don’t prepay that because it is going to your center, not CLEP.


There are a few more steps now, but nothing major.  Once I had done it a few times it was no big deal.  Just make sure you pre-register and take your ticket with you!  For more information on CLEP exams in general, visit my page: CLEP Exams.


One Book for 2015

One Book for 2015

The one book…

Students ask me, parents ask me, everyone asks me.  They all ask the same question.  “What do I need to get started with CLEP exams?”

There is no magic formula, there is no skill set you have to have.  I have one, very simple book that I think is all you need to get started.  This one book is what I have always had on my shelf, and the only thing I always recommend to students and parents.

CLEP Official Study Guide 2015

How to use this book…

This book contains one practice test for each of the 33 CLEP exams that CollegeBoard offers.  Before you start studying, take the practice test for your exam.

60% or above – Go take the test!

45%-59% – Grab the REA guide for your CLEP exam, and study you’re weak areas.  Then retake the practice test.  I’m sure your score has gone up.

Below 45% – Maybe some good text books, pull up Wikipedia, and get the REA guide.  You’d better start studying.  🙂

Why You Need to Fail

Why You Need to Fail

Okay everyone, I’m getting my blogs up and running again!  I’ve got life *somewhat* scheduled and planned out… and I’ve got some blog post ideas sketched out and ready to go.

With that said… Why You Need to Fail.

Everyone should fail at least one thing in your life.  You need to mess up, drop the Frisbee, fail the CLEP, miss the deadline, wreck the car, miss the goal, burn the food.  The list goes on and on.  Failure is tough and hard (trust me, I know!) but there are three reasons I think everyone should fail (and why every distance student should fail a CLEP).

We’re all human

If you succeed at everything, you get a little cocky.  Some of us more than others, but we all do it.  Your head gets a little big when you have a “perfect record”.  Failures are good reminders that you are human, I am human…  in fact, we are all human!   Failure is a reality check.  Take it and move on.

Failure teaches more than Success

I realized this when I was learning how to drive (I’m still learning, by the way).  I could drive in a parking lot, at the correct speed with the correct posture all day long.  But it wasn’t until I started doing hard things – like driving with other cars, going over bridges, merging onto the interstate – that I started making mistakes.  Some were uninformed mistakes, some were dumb, obvious mistakes.  But each one made an impression in me, and taught me a lot more than all the perfect driving ever did.

God shouts through pain

Let’s be perfectly honest, failure causes pain.  Last night, during a volleyball game at a local park, one of my friends messed up badly.  The ball went wide and far, and he hurt his shoulder.    He walked off the court and said, “That hurt.  My pride and my shoulder!”  Failure can hurt – physically or emotionally.  It causes a lot of pain.  But the good news is God shouts through our pain.  “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, butshouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  C. S. Lewis

So, when I have kids and friends tell me they failed a test, I sympathize.  But I also think its a really good thing.  Whether they realize it or not, they just made a huge leap to being an better person in Christ!


12/50 Skills to Learn Before You Graduate

12/50 Skills to Learn Before You Graduate

I’m fascinated with lists and things in rows.  I love lists of things to learn and do.  I have a list of books to read, a list of books I’ve already read, a list of things to do in life, and a list of CLEPs to finish.  🙂

Last week I stumbled upon this article by Marc and Angel Hack Life: 50 Things Everyone Should Know How to Do.  While I don’t agree with all of the things on the list, there were definitely a few that stood out to me.  So here are my top 12 skills to learn before you graduate.

12 Skills to Learn Before You Graduate

  1. Learn to perform CPR and the Heimlich Maneuver:
  2. Tell a story that captivates your audience:
  3. Handle a job interview:
  4. Speed read
  5. Manage your time
  6. Remember names
  7. How to give driving directions
  8. Take good notes
  9. Listen to others
  10. Give a short speech
  11. Type
  12. Jumpstart your car
Managing Summer!

Managing Summer!

“Bees will buzz, kids will blow dandelion fuzz”

Olaf in Disney’s Frozen

As summer days grow longer and warmer, it becomes more and more tempting to let school and work slide for awhile.  Colleges and schools are out, the sun is shining, and it’s time to get outside!  But if you’re like me, there are deadlines to meet and tests to take.  Here are 3 ways to keep up with school and still enjoy summer!

1. Be realistic about summer goals

Here’s a good thing to remember: no matter how hard you try to avoid it, things will interrupt your summer.   Impromptu soccer games, families visiting, friends to go see, and days too beautiful to ignore.  So don’t make a list of “30 Things to Accomplish this Summer”.  Be realistic.  Set a few goals that really need to be done and focus on those.

2. Read good books

Reading is highly underrated, and I don’t just say that because I love to read.  It exercises your mind, relaxes you, and educates you.   What else in life gives you all those benefits in one swoop?

3. Take some time off

Give yourself some time to rest and regroup.  Take a summer trip with your family, spend a day only reading, take a sibling to the zoo.  When I finished Macro last Thursday, I took the rest of that day and Friday off to relax and play with my siblings.  Remember that even God rested after creating the world.  Resting isn’t bad, it’s laziness that is a problem.

Back to the Beginning

Back to the Beginning

CLEP has once again changed it’s policy on IDs.  You no longer have to have 2 photo IDs to take a CLEP exam.  Just one, government issued, ID is all you need.


However, most test centers haven’t switched back yet.  So call your test center and ask what they need right now, and plan on taking a second ID.

How I Pass CLEPs

How I Pass CLEPs

I have taken quite a few CLEPs and, with the exception of Macroeconomics last spring, I have passed them all.   When I share that with people, they usually want to know how I pass that many tests.  And to be perfectly honest, it is nothing that I do.  It is totally the Lord and my mom.  I was homeschooled all twelve years and the skills I learned there are the reason I can go take college level tests and pass them.  Here are a few things that might help you pass your tests.

Be Disciplined

My mom was always there for me, if I needed her.  But with 7 other children, she couldn’t hold my hand the whole time.  Especially when I hit high school.  So I basically did my Junior and Senior year of high school on my own.  Admittedly, I wish I could have had that special time with my mom, but it taught me a lot about self discipline!  If I didn’t get my work done, guess who’s fault it was?  Map out your goals and hold yourself accountable!

Set a date

Take a practice test and gauge where you are.  Then call your test center and schedule your test.  And then write it onto your calendar in red ink and let it stare at you when you don’t want to study!  Here’s a rule of thumb I use with the Official CollegeBoard practice test.  Less than 40% correct, schedule test 4 weeks from now.  40-55% correct, schedule test 2 weeks from now.  55-60%, schedule test one week from now.  60% or up, go take that test!

Save money

Nothing like a limited bank account to put a fire under you!  Being aware that I have no money to spare when it comes to school really pushes me to know the topic.  I literally can’t afford to fail a test.  That will make you study like nobody’s business!  And remember, that a failed test means 6 months before you can retake.  You’re saving time and money!

Be willing to move the date

But, be wise about when you take your test.  I have canceled a test the day before.  Why?  Because I couldn’t get my score up.  I’d rather postpone than fail and have to wait 6 months!  You have to know when to shoot and when to be still.


And the last two are best summed up by quotations.

Be willing to fall

“If you learn from defeat,  you haven’t really lost” Zig Ziglar.

Blame yourself

A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else. – John Burroughs