A fully-funded program by the U.S. government helps eligible military-affiliated students save thousands of dollars on school costs.
The average cost of a three-credit college course is roughly $1,170, according to the Education Data Initiative, with other financial factors tacking on hundreds of additional dollars in costs depending on state residency and student loan interest. However, students have the option of “testing out” of approved courses through the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) — a program offering 34 exams that cover introductory level college course material for 2,900 U.S. colleges and universities.
Since 1974, the Department of Defense has provided CLEP funding for service members through DANTES. According to Emily Paulsen, executive director at the program that runs CLEP, about 40,000 military members take advantage of the program annually.
“[T]he original purpose of our partnership has remained unchanged: helping service members save time and money, and accelerate their path to a college degree,” Paulsen stated in an email response.
To be successful at the exam process, Paulsen offered up the following best practices:
- Use your life experience
Paulsen said most CLEP-takers choose a subject they know well. “A student who already speaks Spanish may take Spanish, a student who has developed management skills through work or military training may take Principles of Management and a student who enjoyed US History in high school may opt for US History I or II,” she explained.
- Utilize the preparatory information
CLEP’s website offers free content overviews and sample questions. DANTES-funded test-takers receive free e-guides when registering for an exam. A company called Modern States, meanwhile, uses college faculty to teach on-demand CLEP courses, and all textbooks and course materials are free.
- Register at a test center (including on-base) or for remote proctoring
“Students who plan to test using remote proctoring (as opposed to a physical testing center) should also be sure to check the technology and environment requirements in advance of test day to make sure they have everything they’ll need,” Paulsen recommended.
- Take care of yourself
Get a good night’s sleep, eat well and visualize yourself passing the CLEP on test day. Think like an athlete!
- Give yourself some grace
If you fail, Paulsen said, it’s not the end of the world. “While they may not receive college credit for their score, it also will not impact their GPA or overall educational journey,” she pointed out. “Additionally, these students have the option of retesting after three months and can also take exams in other subjects in the meantime.” Modern States will cover the retest fee for students who complete one of their online courses, too (DANTES only covers the first test fee).