In past posts, I’ve alluded to my college studies, but I thought it’s high time I explained what I’m doing. 😉 I was recently invited to speak at the September meeting of the local chapter of the Eta Sigma Alpha National Homeschool Honor Society about how I’m earning my degree. The following post is adapted from the presentation that I gave.
I ended up taking a very different college route than what I had always assumed. But it’s been an incredible journey. I’ve only been a college student for a year and a half, and I’m already a junior. I’m doing college online through a program called College Plus. This is a new & upcoming way of doing college, and I’m excited to tell you about it. I’m not here representing College Plus, I just wanted to share how I’m earning my degree. And why I’m not looking back.
So, what exactly is College Plus?
College Plus (CP from now on. 😉 )is not a college, but a coaching program which guides you through earning your bachelors degree from home at an accelerated pace. Through credit by examination tests, you can earn credits at a much faster rate than if you were taking the courses at a brick & mortar college. And once you’ve tested out of as much as you can of your degree, you’ll transfer those credits to one one of CP’s partner colleges, take a (relatively few) online classes, and you are set to graduate! This method, coupled with a lot of hard work, can give you your bachelors degree in 2 – 3 years.
CP assigns each student a coach to guide and mentor you through the entire process. Students have twice-monthly phone calls with their coach. During these calls, questions are answered, plans are made, and strategies are discussed.
The biggest benefit of doing college this way is that your life isn’t completely controlled by a college schedule. You are able to set your own goals and deadlines, study when it’s best for you, and have the freedom to make changes. You can go on vacations during the middle of the semester and even have a job or internship. You are able to say yes to so much more.
And it works! I have several friends who have complete their degree this way. And you don’t even have to enroll with College Plus. You can do this on your own. But I have found their knowledge, resources, and guidance to be very beneficial .
The College Plus experience is divided into three phases. The first phase begins when you enroll. During the first couple months, you learn new study skills like speed reading, critical thinking, and dynamic memorization, and complete a life purpose planning course with your coach.
The second phase is the testing phase. In the beginning, you’ll be testing out of a lot of general studies, so don’t feel like you have to know your major from the very beginning. Choosing my major was a really hard decision, so I waited as long as I possibly could before taking the plunge and deciding.
The vast majority of the tests you’ll be taking will be either CLEPs or DSSTs. There are no grades on these multiple choice tests. You either pass or fail. They cost about $80 a piece and the testing center will charge a fee of about $25. Study materials and books will add another $20 or so. So, for a little over $100, you’ve earned yourself 3-6 credits in a few weeks.
One of the major benefits to this method is that you will be concentrating on only one or two tests at a time. After immersing yourself in the material for 2-4 weeks, you’re ready to test. It’s so nice not to have to juggle 5 or 6 classes and all their assignments all at once.
Through their partner colleges, CP offers a wide range of majors. Some of the most popular are General Management, Communications, English, and Music. But there’s also degrees like Criminal Justice, Entrepreneurship, Accounting, and even Pre Med.
After deciding on your major, you’ll have a call with a degree consultant who will create a personalized degree plan of tests and classes based off the requirements for your degree, your interests and your strengths. Once you’ve tested out of as much as you can of your degree, it’s time to transfer all those hard-earned credits to a college or university.
Phase three consists of your online college courses. How many you end up taking will depend on your degree. But it will be relatively few compared to all the tests you took. And then, you’re ready to graduate!
Most College Plus students transfer to either Thomas Edison State College (TESC) or Liberty University Online (LUO). These online colleges accept many more credits than the average college or university. You could transfer to another college of your choice, but you have to check and see how many transfer credits they’ll except. TESC and LUO accept around 90.
And overall, the CP route is much cheaper than attending a brick and mortar college.
With the average yearly cost being $5,000 — most students are able to graduate debt free.
Ok, that was all the technical stuff. I want to tell you how this worked for me.
I began my College Plus journey in January 2012 — the last semester of my senior year in high school. I took my first CLEP test in mid February. By graduation, I had 9 college credits. Today, only a year and a half later, I have 63. Yes, I’m a college junior.
I’m majoring in Computer Information Systems and I’ll be graduating from Thomas Edison State College. Through CLEPs, DSSTs, and some TESC tests, I’ll test out of 105 credits, leaving 15 to be earned through online classes from TESC.
Speeding through my degree, was not one of my primary goals — though it is for many. I chose College Plus because it gave me flexibility. I’d grown to love the flexibility that homeschooling gave me and I wasn’t ready to give that up. I didn’t want college to consume the next four years of my life, dictating when I could go on vacation and how much time I could spend with my family and friends. This method has given me the flexibility to take off when I need to, have a job, and take time to pursue other interests.
Now, you may be wondering… what about college friends? One downside to CP is that you’re kinda doing this by yourself. And when you’re by yourself doing something outside of the traditional college box…. it can get kinda lonely. But that’s where I found an unexpected blessing — the College Plus student forums. This is a place where students from around the county — and the world — have formed a tight-knit community. We exchange study tips, pray for one another when we’re testing, and share life. There’s threads to discuss everything under the sun, a debate hall, student elections, contests, a forum newsletter, and opportunities for leadership. Outside of the forums, we keep in touch through emails, texting, Skype calls, and G+ hangouts. I’m constantly in touch with all sorts of amazing people. My college buddies are all over the US. California, Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, Maryland, New Hampshire, Virginia, Minnesota, Louisiana, and Alaska. It has been well worth the effort to get integrated into this fabulous community.
And while it was great to “meet” all these people online, I’ve also been able to meet quite a few of them face-to-face instead of screen-to-screen. This past April, one student hosted a gathering at her family’s home outside of Washington DC.
photo credit – Josef Samuel
Over 20 CP students from all over the US converged for a week full of fellowship, hikes, memory making, Ultimate Frisbee, Bible studies, DC touring, and more laughter than you can imagine. (You can read about that adventure here.) And come October, I’m planning on heading off to Illinois for another incredible week.
So, that’s what College Plus is. It’s not for everyone, but it was a great choice for me and I think it’s a great option for a lot of students.
Check out the College Plus website for more information.
*This post is NOT sponsored by College Plus. I’m just sharing my college story.