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College in Less Than a Year: One Young Man’s Journey

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Posted 1/23/15
Joy Vanderhoff

College in Less Than a Year: One Young Man’s Journey

By Joy Vanderhoff

With a smirk of a smile on his face, 19-year-old Hudson Vanderhoff pushed open the door of the college testing center, where he met his older sister anxiously waiting to hear the results of his most recent CLEP exam.

“So did you pass!?” his sister asked as she jumped up from her seat.

Hudson smiled, and with a sigh of relief, said: “Yes! With a high score!”

That cold December day in 2010 as brother and sister walked side by side out of the testing center, rejoicing in Hudson’s triumph in passing his first, yet not last, CLEP exam, little did either know that in less than one year they would be rejoicing over his college graduation.

For Hudson Vanderhoff, spending four years in college and going into debt was not an option—by choice. He wanted a challenge, to do the hard thing and prove that CLEPing through college was not a far-fetched idea and that going into debt for college could be avoided. In less than one year he earned his bachelor’s degree in history without ever stepping foot into a typical classroom. Anyone who hears Hudson’s story has the same response: “How did you do that!?”

“Diligence, perseverance, time management, and grace all played key roles in my unusual success,” said Hudson. “Without diligence, I would have failed to learn anything in-depth. Without perseverance, I would have failed to finish. Without time management, I would not have had the time to finish. Without God’s grace, I could not have endured to the end,” continued Hudson.

When Hudson told his mom one January day in 2011 that he was going to earn his last 111 college credits by July of that year, he was serious. “I just could not see myself spending the next four years of my life doing college,” Hudson recalled. While Hudson spent hours at his computer studying for each CLEP exam, using online programs such as Instacert and Speedy Prep, his mom spent hours at the kitchen table planning his degree template for a BA in history, based on Thomas Edison State College’s recommended course web page.

Spend a week with Hudson, and you would most likely have crawled out of bed with him at 4:00 a.m. to study, gone to the laundromat with him twice a week to do his family’s laundry, tossed a few pancakes on the griddle twice a week to feed his hungry family of twenty-three, gone to the college testing center at least two times a week to take a CLEP exam, and rolled right back into bed at an early hour. Church and Bible study were his only weekly outings, and he could not wait for summer, when he would graduate and could go kayaking. But it was worth it.

CLEP stands for College Level Examination Placement. There are thirty-three different CLEP exams available for anyone to take at the low cost of $77 an exam, plus a proctor fee. CLEPs are designed to give 3 to 6 college credits an exam for prior learning experiences outside of a classroom. DSST exams are along the same lines except that they are offered by the military.

CLEP and DSST credits are accepted at 2,900 different universities as credit transfers. Each individual college has a web page showing which CLEPs they accept and what score you have to make to transfer it into their college. Thomas Edison State College accepts almost all of the CLEP/DSST exams at the ACE-accredited/approved level with a score of 50. Thomas Edison is the route Hudson chose because it allowed him to earn up to 90 of his credits any way he wanted and then transfer them and take an upper-level class or two based on his major.

“I wish I had always known about Speedy Prep and Instacert,” said Hudson of the two online learning programs that he used to prepare for each exam. Back in the fall of 2009, Hudson, along with two of his sisters, jumped into the world of CLEP without having a strong basis for studying and really knowing what they were doing. It took months to prepare for an exam, and they did not all pass their first exam, but that was okay. Hudson stood back up and tried again until he won, and then he won again, and again, and then lost a time or two.

Discipline was a key factor in Hudson’s success. It was his choice to finish college in a year, which meant that he had to learn to manage his time and set aside G. A. Henty books for special times and wait until he finished college to go kayaking. Through his college experience, Hudson has demonstrated a great level of maturity and character growth.

For Hudson, the second-oldest of twenty-one children, CLEPing through college not only kept him out of debt but made it possible for him to earn a college education while still being a part of his family ministry and working part-time. Today Hudson has taken the next step in his life, which is not easier than the last one: distance-learning law school through Oak Brook College of Law. He is still committed to staying out of debt and being in full-time ministry. “Another day another dollar,” is a favorite saying of his as he sets down one task and picks up the next, whether it is reading a textbook at his desk, wielding a hammer on the roof, or being involved with his family. Life for Hudson is never boring.

No one person will determine the path for exactly how to CLEP though college. Each and every individual has his own style of learning, his own goals in life, and personal convictions concerning college. Whether the goal is to finish college fast or to save money, anyone should have an opportunity to take that step forward, venturing into the unfamiliar and tackling it with all his might and with God’s strength.

Joy Vanderhoff is 21 years old and the oldest of twenty-one children. Right now the Lord has her at home serving her family while she pursues an online college degree in journalism and homeschools eleven of her siblings. She enjoys writing, playing the piano, being outside, spending one-on-one time with friends, and growing in her walk with the Lord.

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the December 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.