Buying Classes vs. Buying Credits: Graduating Faster By Changing Your Strategy

Too many students are focused on the classes they need to take.

English. Psychology. Biology. Accounting.

It’s easy to see why. Pick up a college coursebook, and you’ll notice that degree programs are laid out as sequences of classes to take. Pass them all and you graduate with the degree you wanted.

Yet this is actually a shallow way to look at college. As it turns out, classes are not the true building blocks of degrees.

Credits are.

Take a closer look at your school’s coursebook. What you will see is that you actually need a certain number of credits to graduate – usually 60 for an associates degree and 120 for a bachelors. This is a key insight, because once you shift your focus from classes to credits, you can start investigating ways to buy them for less.

The expensive classes your school offers are just ONE WAY of getting those credits…even though most students blindly assume it’s the only way.

In fact, there are three ways to earn college credit:

  • Classes at four year public colleges/private universities
  • Classes at local community colleges
  • Credit-by-examination

Most students are familiar with the first two options. But hardly anyone knows about credit-by-examination, and even fewer grasp its full potential.

The Credit-By-Examination Alternative

Credit-by-examination refers to college-level subject tests like CLEP and DSST. With this approach, you take a massive test covering an entire subject (say, English) rather than a semester-long course. Pass the exam, and you earn credit just as if you had taken the class.

Best part: the exams are exponentially cheaper than the classes (usually just $80-$100 apiece.)

What this means is that you can potentially shave tens of thousands of dollars off the cost of graduating by substituting as many of these exams for classes as your college will allow. Unfortunately, many colleges have strict “residency requirements” limiting how many credits you can earn this way.

For example, “maximum of 30 credits earned via examination.”

Yet, I’ve discovered a handful of colleges that have no residency requirements. In my Do-It-Yourself Degree Guide, I show you how to earn your entire degree with these inexpensive tests, taking few or no classes along the way. You take the exams at your own pace and graduate as fast as you are willing to work. Some have managed to earn entire bachelors degrees in just one year.

Essentially, you can “test out” of your entire degree!

Why should you consider graduating the DIY way?

I’ll be the first to admit that “testing out” of college is not the most conventional way to graduate. But in truth, this is the beauty of the credit-by-examination approach. It is hands down the most cost-effective (not to mention time-effective) way to earn an accredited degree.

Let’s look closer at the cost of a degree than 99% of people do – by looking at the cost per credit:

 Source: CollegeBoard

English is English. Math is math.  Psychology is psychology. How much do you want to pay for the exact same credits?

(These aren’t made-up numbers, by the way. Those are the real, average costs students are paying at public and private four-year universities.)

What about the benefits of classroom instruction?

Some might say that I’m dismissing the benefits of being in an actual classroom. And sure, if your driving dream in life is to learn from the absolute best professors in your field, then maybe you should go to a costly private university. The DIY Degree approach isn’t for everyone.

Who it absolutely IS for is the type of person who just wants to graduate and get into the workforce. It’s also great for independent learners, those who are fully capable of studying on their own and would love to progress at their pace instead of a college’s.

Frankly, it’s also good for anyone who don’t want to saddle themselves with crushing student debt.

Click here to learn more about the credit-by-examination approach or sign up for a free chapter of my DIY Degree Guide.