After high school graduation, I knew I wanted to get a college degree, but my schedule didn't seem to include time to attend classes. Due to working at the state capitol and with political campaigns – and still wanting to have some semblance of a social life – I didn't think I would have time to actually "do" college. Research showed me other ways to complete college without having to sit in a classroom, and it changed my whole perspective on "doing" college.

My first stop, after the SAT's, was to prepare to take CLEP tests. This would save time and money and allow me more flexibility than a traditional college setting offered. College-Level Examination Program or CLEP provides students of any age with the opportunity to demonstrate college-level achievement through a program of exams in undergraduate college courses. To me, a CLEP test is a means to accomplish college while pursuing my career and life interests.

I researched the college major I wanted to pursue, made sure my college of choice accepted CLEP credit for specific courses, and set a plan of action: which tests to take, the resources I would need, when to take them, and how to study. Studying every week day works best for me, so I scheduled a specific time to study each day. I decided to prepare for two tests at once, switching from one subject to the other and back again to keep my mind working, without overload or burnout on one subject. That way, I could also take days off when I had a film audition, was traveling the nation on a modeling tour, to volunteer at the Miracle League headquarters, or work on political campaigns.

Searching the Internet bookstores proved useful in finding the Barrons Educational Series which specializes in CLEP test prep. I decided to launch my college career by completing the five general examinations first (College Mathematics, English Composition, General Humanities, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences) then, possibly, moving on to the thirty-plus subject exams. Locating a testing center which proctors CLEP tests became simple after accessing www.collegeboard.org with their list of testing centers for most states and a guide to which colleges accept CLEP credit.

Some people are prepared for the tests after a week or two of study. However, since I am not a math person, it took me two months before I felt ready to tackle my first exam: College Mathematics. I wanted to get my hardest subject out of the way. Since CLEP tests score from 20 to 80, with 50 being the least score you can achieve and still get credit, this is really a pass or fail test.

DANTES and AP tests are also options to receive college credit by examination. And correspondence and distance learning college courses are becoming more mainstream. Many full-time employees seeking to better their lives, move up in the world, and receive higher wages or better positions are turning to the internet for distance learning courses. Chats with professors and classmates give you a virtual sense of being there, without having to leave home.

For correspondence or distance learning courses check for accreditation of the institution you are interested in, and ask for contact information of satisfied students. Also check with the Better Business Bureau in the city the institution is located in, to see if there have been any complaints.

Thirty college credits later I am glad I followed this different path. I have fit a lot of life into the last eight months since I took the first CLEP exam, even receiving a call from CBS for me to audition for a role in an upcoming sitcom.

Studying on your own to take tests instead of attending classes might not work for everyone. And correspondence or distance learning courses might not be the best for some types of learners. However, for my situation this worked well, and afforded me the opportunity to "do" college – taking the road less traveled – and that has made all the difference, for me.

Quick Fact About CLEP
 - Exams are available in over 30 college-level introductory subjects.

------------

First published in The Mother’s Heart magazine, a premium online publication for mothers with hearts in their homes. Visit www.The-Mothers-Heart.com for more information.