I first learned about earning college credit solely using examination while attending "A" school financial counseling indoctrination.  The instructor highly recommended that those that did well in the indoc take the Personal Finance DSST (Dantes Subject Standardized Test).  I didn't think I knew half the stuff on that test, but apparently I did because I got a 56 on the test, which is really good (46 is passing). "3 FREE college credits in about 2 hours," I said to myself.

This was in Sep, 2002. I promised myself that I would take them all over the following few months. But then procrastination set in, and before I knew it, it was about Oct. of 2003 before I took 2 more.

Turning Point

In Jan. 2004, I met AM3 Mathew Dale while I was working mid-shift at my squadron. He was attending Embry-Riddle University for a BS in Aeronautics and was finishing his degree quite quickly (about 16 months). He mentioned taking several CLEP, DANTES, and Excelsior College exams to help him complete his degree. I was already familiar with them and decided what the heck (free for military), and started heading down to the Navy College Office and testing out of as many as possible. I realized that I needed study guides when I took Environment and Humanities and failed (by 1 point).

I did some searching and stumbled upon instantcert.  Their approach is different than most study guides. They hire professors and/or other professionals to look at the appropriate content guide for the test, read the "required" material, then attempt to cover ONLY what will be on the test. In other words, it's like having excellent "cliff notes" for the CLEP, DSST, etc. exams. You can literally go from knowing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about a subject to getting a B or higher on an exam.

It wasn't until late February/early March, 2004 when I actually started to concentrate my efforts towards a structured degree plan from Excelsior College (as opposed to just randomly taking tests just to get a bunch of credits.  AW1 Michael Dekanter was the one who told me specifically about Excelsior College and how they accept 100% transfer credit (more on AW1 Decantur later).  He specifically referred to bain4weeks.com for guidance.  When I saw how the author, Lawrie Miller, earned 2 bachelor degrees entirely by examination, I checked out the schools myself and did further research and fould out that it was in fact very legitimate and attainable.  I proceeded to "clep out" of every possible degree requirement possible.  With the incredible help of 120collegecredits.com (instantcert), I successfully tested out of appx. 40 college courses
(over 140 college credits! More about what requirements were tested out of are available in the degree plan section).

2 Degrees in 6 months?

In March of 2004, the message came out that the CLEP exam would be offered out in town (instead of just the Navy College Office, NCO, on base) funded 100% by DANTES (Dantes are the people that designed the DSST and basically take care of all college-type educational services for military members).  This was a huge advantage to military members who could not take them on base for a multitude of reasons (work requirements, family, distance to base, etc.).  The CLEPS at national testing centers are computerized (hence the term Computer-Based Testing, CBT).  So with the exception of English Comp. with Essay, all tests are graded immediately and a score report is generated on-screen and printed out for you right at the testing center.  It is also reported to Dantes (which in turn is updated to your SMART transcript or equivilant) and the college you selected much faster
(It should be noted that I did send in several e-mails to Navy College Office (corporate) recommending that they fund the CLEP, DSST, and exams out in town. So far, 1 out of 3 isn't bad.).

I didn't wait until then.  I had already started testing out of my degree requirements since January.  We were the first VP squadron to enter what is called surge.  Before surge, a sea tour rotation was usually a steady 12-month home cycle, and 6-month deployment cycle. So we were supposed to deploy Feb, 2004.  But now with surge, it is a 12-month home cycle, 6-month "ready to deploy at a moment's notice" surge cycle, and 6 months of actual deployment cycle.  In other words, we were delayed from deployment until July 2004.  I realized that testing on deployment would be a lot more difficult, so I set a plan to take as many tests as I could while I was still in the states.

I became an instant hit at the Navy College Office in Jacksonville, FL (NAS JAX). I kept coming in almost every Wed. that I could to test out of as many as I could.  On my off time, I crammed and took as many notes as I could.  The new rule with the CBT cleps being offered out in town really helped in that now I could concentrate my efforts on just DSST and ECE at the Navy College and take cleps out in town.  Dana Argo, the primary Dantes testing proctor @ the Navy College, NAS JAX said that the only other person that she knew that was also testing out of so many cleps so quickly (and he was also in my squadron too!):  AW1 Michael Dekanter.

Mr. Dekanter had a knack for taking tests, especially multiple choice tests.  He was a Master Training Specialists, which meant that he was trained by the Navy to design various course material and tests that the Navy uses to teach the fleet.  He could (and did) pick out any multiple-choice test, know absolutely nothing about what subject material the test was covering, and still get a high score on the exam.  He would literally pick out 2 DSSTs or CLEPs every Wed. at random and pass most of them!  I believe he only failed one, and he was on some drowsy medication when he took that one.

Planning and Finalizing the Degree

By June of 2004, I tested out of a mix of 35+ CLEP, DSST, ECE, and one TECEP exam. My Associates in Applied Science in Electromechanical Technology (AAT) was officially completed 07/16/2004. My Bachelor's of Science (BS) degree in General Business will be conferred on Sept 17, 2004; both @ Excelsior College, Albany, NY. I do plan on enrolling in a Master's of Science (MS) in Management @ Colorado Technical University in Colorado Springs, CO.

My main purpose of building this website is to show other persons seeking a higher education that it is possible to earn a regionally accredited, legitimate associate and bachelor's degree while on active duty, WITHOUT STEPPING A FOOT INSIDE OF A CLASSROOM. Other such persons include, but are not limited to:
  • military (active or reserve)
  • working parents
  • high school juniors/seniors (prospective students)
  • current students
  • returning students
  • retirees
Another point that I want to emphasize is that, with the proper motivation, dedication, and academic potential, the slightly above average layman can do this. I am certainly NOT a brainiac, nerd, or some teacher's pet. I'm your slightly above average 22 year old male that simply saw an opportunity and took advantage of it. (I was actually 21 at the time that I completed the degree requirements). I am now presenting the same opportunity to you in the hopes that it will encourage and motivate you to do the same. Most of us are fairly intelligent individuals just trying to get ahead in life. But we also know that, in this world, having a degree is important in quantifying that intelligence to help make you more marketable in the work force!

I have already motivated several others at the Navy College in Jacksonville, FL, at my workcenter, via e-mail, posting to the discussion board @ Excelsior College and other publications of the advantages of credit-by-examination. Many people before thought it was either too time consuming or too difficult to start or finish their degrees. Kids, work schedules, and other time commitments have slowly eroded their own self-confidence that they can in fact acheive that "piece of paper" degree and move on with their careers.

It is my hope that with this website, I can reach thousands or more that also wish to complete their degree via distance learning in the most expeditious means possible. Since I was on active duty when I completed my degrees, I do emphasize military resources/discounts that you can use, when available. But the information on my websites are just as good for military and civilians alike. (In my webpages, I highlight the advantages/disadvantages of using the military to complete a degree).

I strongly encourage feedback.  I sincerely want to put out the most accurate, helpful information about the subject material (mainly credit by examination) possible.  Constructive critisicm, questions, comments and success stories are greatly appreciated and will help keep this website going (see the contact us page).  Good luck in your studies and I hope to hear about your success(es) soon.

Stop procratinating and get started NOW in your studies.
My name is Joshua Graham. I was born in Poughkeepsie, New York in 1982 where I spent many years of my life living with my father.  I moved to Atlanta, GA in 1997 to live with my mother. After graduating from Columbia High School (Decatur, GA) in June, 2000, I moved onto getting a full time gig at an upscale downtown hotel.  After continuous bombardment from my mother (i.e. "you WILL go to college or else..."), I started attending college full time @ Georgia State University (GSU) in Atlanta, GA for the Spring and Fall of 2001.  I "dropped out" of college with a total of 21 passing credits and in July of 2002, I enlisted as an E-2 in the US Navy.
Author's Background
  • Learn step-by-step how I earned my degrees here.

  • Learn more about instantcert, the most cost effective way to study for the college credit exams here.

Joshua A. Graham
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