Hello, welcome to my degree plan! I’m glad you’re here.
When I was first trying to figure out where my degree was coming from, I really wanted to see someone else’s degree plan, for ideas, inspiration, guidance, something. Anything.
I actually emailed strangers from Facebook and YouTube, just trying to get help. Pioneers rarely have good maps, I suppose.
But, as this sort of journey is becoming more and more common, there’s no need to feel around in the darkness anymore. I’m not saying I have all the answers in the whole world—no one does. But I do have some answers. If you have some questions, maybe I can help. Further, maybe just looking at my own degree plan, which worked, and I graduated with, and saved me tens of thousands of dollars, maybe that would help? Let’s go for it, anyway.
CLEP exams are the bomb. They are typically lower-level (Freshmen and Sophomore) general education exams. You can study at home (or wherever), take a test at a proctored testing facility, and have the credit—no classes required. This list of exams transferred as 69 credits towards my degree and the expense averaged out at about $20/credit hour for me. This covered most of my general education classes, general education electives, and free electives.
Here are the CLEPs I took, in order of completion:
- US History 1
- Analyzing and Interpreting Literature
- US History 2
- College Composition (full, not modular)
- Introductory Psychology
- Natural Sciences
- College Mathematics
- Western Civilizations 1
- Principles of Marketing
- Principles of Management
- US Government
- Social Sciences and History
- American Literature
- English Literature
I heard about two free classes from Sophia that I took as free electives. They were one credit each, and they cost a one time transfer fee of $20.
- Developing Effective Teams
- The Essentials of Managing Conflict
Originally I was introduced to study.com through a friend who sent me a link to a scholarship for a three month membership free on the site (which has since been discontinued—sorry!). Living overseas at the time, I was on hiatus between CLEP exams, but was still interested in earning some credits, so I applied for the scholarship and won it! I completed 6 classes (18 credits) in those first three months, and paid full price for a fourth month (2 more classes) later on. All in all, I earned 24 credits from this method for a grand total of $200. Worth it? Very.
The classes I took, in order of completion:
- Personal Finance 102
- English 305: Advanced Technical Writing
- Geography 101: Human and Cultural Geography
- Education 105: Special Education History & Law
- History 102: Western Civilizations 2
- Religion 101: Intro to World Religions
- Communications 120: Public Speaking in the Workplace
- Philosophy 102: Ethics in America
Harvard Extension School
When I was about one year out from finishing my degree, I was chiefly lacking a source for my upper level credits. I had to have, at minimum, 15 credits at an “upper level” [meaning: 300-400+ level work] in my major, which was English. While I know many people who’ve been able to get some cheap or nearly-free upper level business credits, I struggled to find the upper level English credits within my teeny tiny price range.
Just at the right time, I caught wind of a series of courses from Harvard Extension School called “Poetry in America”. I ended up taking 5 Poetry in America classes from HES online over the course of 3 semesters (Summer 2018-Spring 2019), for a grand total of $1,150 and 20 credit hours, 12 applying to the 15 I needed in my major (4 hours/class). There’s a bigger story about the reason I took 5 classes instead of just the 3 I needed, but that’s for another time.
- ENGL S-300 Poetry in the America: The City Whitman-Hip Hop
- ENGL E-182H Poetry in America: Whitman and Dickinson
- ENGL E-182A Poetry in America: Mayflower-Emerson
- ENGL E-305 Poetry in America: Earth, Sea, Sky
- ENGL E-182M Poetry in America: Civil War-Modernism
American Public University
Another one of the absolute requirements to graduate with my English degree was a “Non-western Literature” course. Now, I’m telling you, hunting these classes down is the next extreme sport. I would find one from BYU, and then go to enroll, and it’s gone; they tell me they have no idea when it might return. College of DuPage: same story, almost verbatim. Copperstone: not considered “non-western” in transfer. Again and again, just trying anything to get a 3-credit literature class hopefully cheaper than the $1,100 version offered directly from TESU. One of my biggest stress factors this last year in the home stretch trying to get to graduation.
I ended up at American Public University for this one class. 3 credits for $870, all fees included.
- Middle Eastern Literature
Thomas Edison State University
I have been asked so. many. times. why I chose TESU. Honestly, I don’t love the school. I don’t know the school. No, my parents didn’t graduate there. My parents haven’t even ever been to New Jersey—and neither have I. Do I strongly respect the school’s foundation or campus or sports? Um… not particularly?
Here’s the deal. If you’re going non-traditional in this education thing, right from the start you’re thinking about it all totally different than most people have for the past few generations as a society. It’s okay. It’s weird, but it’s okay. You’re thinking, “I want to get this degree out of the way and live my life, and school isn’t going to be the biggest, most important thing I do or accomplish, just a stepping stone. Also, I probably want to avoid student loans and not be in debt until I’m 83.” But all the others out there are like, “but what about that pretty campus over there? And wouldn’t a sorority be fun? And this school has such a rich history, and that one is in a perfect location, and every school has the best professors, you’re just missing out if you’re not on campus somewhere!!”
So when I say, “where am I graduating? Oh, Thomas Edison State University. Have you heard of it?” They all gasp in incredulous wonder that I’d be so bold as to graduate from such an obscure institution, and I smile politely, sending up a little prayer they’ll stop asking me eventually and just accept that I’m an adult with a college education and a good job. But who am I kidding?
Thomas Edison has one of the most open credit transfer policies in the country, so while the fees to graduate coupled with the high price tag on the capstone course feels outrageous, I saved so, so much money with all my other 118 credits that it truly more than balances out. I’m not going to plug in all the stats right now. You know any public, private, or online degree costs at least triple (but probably way more than) my $8,000 Bachelor’s Degree. Anywhere. Texas A&M, College of the Ozarks, Liberty Online. So while the TESU prices sting, in the big picture it’s really a good thing.
While I’m not in love with Thomas Edison State University for its immaculate campus, nationally ranking football team, or rich history of excellence, I am super thankful for its open transfer policy that gave me an open door to earning my degree, while living life, for under ten thousand dollars.
The capstone class cost me right at $900. Tech and graduation fees, including a residential waiver fee mandatory for students outside of NJ, $2,550. [Note I did get a discount on the class and the fees as a study.com transfer student, and I was able to apply a small outstanding sports scholarship from high school to these expenses to help.]
- TESU Liberal Arts Capstone
Total Credit Hours: 121
Total Degree Cost: ~$8,000
*Photo source: Pinterest