Let me offer some unsolicited (yet valuable and alliterative) advice for anyone planning to go to college: complete core classes at community college and CLEP as many courses as you can.
Use SpeedyPrep to do it. Don’t take the 10-year path like I did.
If you’re like me, you make A’s and B’s in high school, but it’ll take you a while to adjust to the surprisingly-different university environment. It might take you a while to figure out how to juggle your newfound friends and freedom with new responsibilities. When you don’t have parents, teachers, truancy laws, and strict consequences breathing down your neck, attending classes and making due dates are up to your own self-motivation. It’s a different world.
In contrast, community college and online courses are a great stepping stone or alternative because of typically smaller class sizes, instructor availability, and clearer schedules. Here are some of the best kept secrets: they are cheaper and often much easier, but you get the same credit (which you can transfer) as you would at a university. Online classes give you the freedom to decide which days and times you “attend”, you can work on them anywhere, and they often give you access to the whole course at once so you can get ahead. CLEP tests are even better: you can register for a test, study for about a month, and take a 100-question pass/fail (you only have to score 50 points) test for college credit instead of taking the actual class. The tests currently cost about $110 total in Tennessee, and SpeedyPrep is $20/month (but they often have a “first month free” special or other introductory discounts).
The best – and craziest – part of all this: it doesn’t just apply to your freshman and sophomore year. For many common majors, you can apply junior and senior-level community college, online, or CLEP credits toward your Bachelor’s Degree. I’d suggest juggling a combination of these options throughout your college career. Take control!
Why am I saying this?
I passed 3 CLEP tests in the last several months using SpeedyPrep. I only wish I’d done it sooner. I’ve saved a ton of time, stress, and money. I had a rough go at college; difficulty adjusting, a couple of bad semesters, a few changes of majors, poor guidance from advisors, and constantly running out of money were my most significant challenges. Fortunately, I am unusually blessed in that an internship at a company I love turned into a full-time digital media position from which I make a living. My work has little to do with my previous majors, by the way – I’ve learned it all on the job. Education is a treasure, but experience and mentorship (not to mention the wealth of knowledge on the Internet) have been far more valuable to me. But that’s a different soapbox.
For the past several years, I’ve been using the aforementioned solutions to complete my Bachelor’s Degree. Now only one more online course and a research project stand in my way of graduating (debt-free) in December! I’ve had some great experiences since starting college in 2002 (but mostly related to community and ministry), and I really wouldn’t trade any of them. Upon looking back and seeing God’s work in my life, I don’t have many regrets, but I would not advise anyone else to take the route I did.
College doesn’t make you smart. Be that way before you start.