Getting College Credit On Your Own
In January this year I started a program called CollegePlus. Five months and thirty-six credits later, I am ready to start attending some classes at the local community college while continuing online coursework. CollegePlus is a program that helps students accelerate through college, define their life purpose and goals, and launch into the really fun things you want to do in life (because who likes school, really?) faster.
I really cannot recommend this program enough. While it's not everyone's perfect fit, many resources it uses can be used by anyone. If you're pursuing a degree through a traditional or online college, or if you'll be pursuing a graduate degree afterwards, be sure to check to see how much credit they'll accept from other sources.
Once you know how much and what kinds of credit your college will accept, here are some amazing resources to get college credit more quickly and inexpensively than traditional methods allow!
These tests are only available to students still in high school, and most subjects they cover can also be done through CLEP and DSST. However, if you're looking for subjects in Physics, Calculus II, Latin, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Spanish Literature & Culture, Studio Art, Drawing, or Comparative Government & Politics, these tests are your only option. They are definitely more widely accepted than CLEP tests, too, so if your college is picky, AP is a good way to get credit and/or placement into the more advanced and more interesting classes you want to take. They are only offered once a year and you can always enroll in an AP course to prepare if personal study isn't a good option.
Check them out: https://apstudent.collegeboard.org/apcourse
These tests are open to everyone, not just high school students. They are all general education courses, some worth six credits, some worth three, and if you score high enough on a foreign language CLEP, you'll get twelve college credits! These tests usually require more personal study, but College Board does suggest textbooks to read, and anything titled AP prep will help you prepare for a CLEP test in the same subject. Unlike AP, only CLEP tests in English subjects have required (or optional) essay writing. They cost around $80 and most test centers charge a $20 testing fee (though the one in my area charged $40).
Check them out: https://clep.collegeboard.org/exam
These exams are exciting because of their breadth and depth. While most CLEP and AP tests are general ed - and some DSST exams are as well - there are more specialized and even upper-level subjects you can test out with using DSST. The History of the Vietnam War, Astronomy, Cybersecurity, Health Science, Money and Banking, Public Speaking, and the Soviet Union are among the myriad of subjects you can take. Their pricing is the same as CLEP. The one downside here is that they have fewer high-quality study materials available. Their website contains suggested textbooks you may or may not be able to locate at your library, but similar titles will usually do just as well. And if there is a corresponding AP or CLEP test, study guides for those will definitely help you with DSST.
Check them out: http://getcollegecredit.com/testprep
Remember that science tests will not fulfill laboratory requirements, if that's part of your degree plan.
This is an incredibly cheap and easy way of getting math credit through a program designed especially for students who do not like math. At just $20 a month, you can get access to courses in Algebra, Statistics, Trigonometry, Precalculus, and Business Statistics. Once you have worked through 70% of the program, you can apply to get your 3 credits (like tests, your scores are reported here as "pass" or "fail" and do not affect your GPA). I love math but feared Statistics; I can tell you that I enjoyed every minute of ALEKS Introduction to Statistics. It felt like a computer game. No textbook is required. If you do need extra help, Khan Academy can usually do the trick (free math videos! yay!). I absolutely love this program and encourage you to take it for saving money, time, and a whole semester's worth of math-related frustration!
Check it out: http://www.aleks.com/about_aleks/course_products
Be sure to pick a class that is ACE approved (Pre-Algebra, for example, is not an ACE-approved course and thus not something you can take for college credit).
This is one option I have not personally used, but if you're not terribly thrilled about the prospect of taking a bunch of tests, it is a more expensive (still less so than traditional college) but self-paced option.
Straighterline offers online courses in several subjects, with some of their more interesting options including Microbiology, Cultural Anthropology, Introduction to Philosophy, and Entrepreneurship. They've got everything from Business to Social Studies to Health Science, so again, if you don't have lab requirements, check these courses out. You get you're own tutoring in them, as well.
Check them out: http://www.straighterline.com/online-college-courses/
And don't forget their coupon codes: http://www.straighterline.com/landing/coupons-and-promotion-codes/
If you're up for some pricier options, Excelsior College offers tests in the $300 range, but in subjects like Gerontology, Abnormal Psychology, Labor Relations, and Literacy Instruction in Elementary School.
Check them out: http://www.excelsior.edu/exams/choose-your-exam
CollegePlus offers online courses as well. For $297, you can take a self-paced course like Comparative Worldviews, Social Justice from a Biblical Perspective, Introduction to Entrepreneurship, and Community Service Learning. I took the first two and loved them. They are carried out from a Christian perspective but are not 'preachy;' they emphasize hands-on learning and taking the initiative in your life beyond academic book-learning.
Check them out: https://collegeplus.org/courses
CollegePlus also partnered with Belhaven University to create three somewhat pricier but absolutely exceptional courses in leadership: Leadership Theory and Practice, Leadership and Management Communications, and Leadership Learning and Execution (which requires a week onsite in Colorado). They are $797 but totally worth it. The depth of these courses, their foundation in the Bible, their exhortation towards Christ-like leadership, and their very practical tools and suggestions are amazing. Plus, the professor, Dr. Jeff Myers, is exceptional at his job. These courses are not self-paced but accelerated to eight-weeks in length.
Check them out: https://collegeplus.org/signature-leadership-courses/coursedetails
I'm also taking courses through Louisiana State University and American Public University for self-paced (LSU) and accelerated (APU) courses. These don't have the added bonus of being cost-effective, but if time is an issue for you, here's a way to get out of spending 12-16 weeks on a subject.
Check out LSU: http://www.lsu.edu/
And APU: http://www.apu.apus.edu/index.html
Tests and online courses are a great way to save time and money while working on your college degree. There are also times when we just need some extra help with a subject we're already taking! Here are some free resources I've come to rely heavily upon throughout my studies.
Especially if you need help in math, these videos are incredible at explaining complicated or vast subjects. I have also used their world and art history courses to prepare for various tests. Depending on the subject of interest, they vary in depth, but in math, especially, they really run deep.
Check it out: https://www.khanacademy.org/
This place is brimming with awesome courses from colleges like Stanford, Duke and Brown University, in all sorts of topics and all levels. They are free to listen to and participate in (if you want a special certificate, you have to give them money). Otherwise, this is a great place to get extra information on the courses you are taking now. Or if you want to just dive into something fun, something that interests you, they've got poetry, programming, even a course titled Dog Emotion and Cognition (and from Duke University, no joke). It's a lot of fun to explore and the material is always exceptional.
Check it out: https://www.coursera.org/courses
Taking our education to the next level in college can be a lot of fun, but also time-consuming, expensive, and stressful. I hope these options can help those of you looking towards or already working on your degree to enjoy it to the fullest!