School is expensive. The average undergraduate student is now taking on about $37,000 in debt after college. But if you’ve ever wondered if there is a cheaper way to go about earning your UNT degree, you may be surprised to realize you can actually complete anywhere from a class to over half of your degree(!) at a fraction of the price, all through credit by exam programs that you can use and study for on your own schedule! Below, I’ve detailed a step-by-step guide on how to pull off this ultimate college hack.
1. Evaluate where you are
Any good hack requires knowing what your starting position is. Like any good play in football, you gotta account for all the players before you strategize a route to the goal.
Start out by getting a verified degree audit from your counselor detailing the credits you have to date and the credits you’ll need to graduate. Your major(s) and minor(s) will also be important in determining how well this plan works for you—engineering majors and music majors for example will probably have to take a larger chunk of their courses at UNT.
2. Eliminate the excess
It’s easy to fall into the trap of taking classes you don’t need. Take the time to figure out if the classes you’ve signed up for next semester are REALLY necessary. It’s not so fun to realize afterwards that the psychology class you slept through all semester wasn’t necessary in the first place.
Figure out if any courses you are taking double dip to fill multiple requirements. Killing two birds with one stone is especially satisfying when those birds cost at least $1100 a course for in-state students.
Author’s note: keep what you’re passionate about. College is about self-discovery and expanding your mind. Take the time to pursue the courses that fascinate or move you—you can now afford it with all the money you’ll be saving. Besides, you never know how that Art History course is going to impact your work in the future. It might just be the game-changing inspiration you’ve been looking for.
3. Residency requirements? Check!
If you’re planning on graduating from UNT, then you know that UNT requires a certain number of credits be completed in-house. This number is anywhere from 30-50 credits and varies by your major. Before starting anything, you’ll want to reference your audit to determine how many hours you have left at UNT. Pay special attention to major-specific courses and upper level requirements so you don’t end up taking more than you need to, or worse, not enough by the time you graduate.
4. Find CBE courses that grant college credit for little to nothing
If you’ve ever taken an AP or CLEP exam, you’re probably familiar with how Credit By Exam (CBE) works. UNT has generous credit-by-exam policies that this hack takes advantage of. Look for CLEP, NCCRS, or DSST courses and exams that match the courses you have to take at UNT.
Some sources provide their study materials for free before the exam so you can get a feel for the course difficulty and give you the option of learning the material risk free.
UNT also has an on-campus testing center that offers many exams for free… so you can get the exam AND the study materials for exactly $0. And if there’s one thing a struggling college student knows, it’s that there is nothing better than FREE.
I know, I know. This information is mind-blowing. FREE COLLEGE COURSES? But it gets better: regardless of whether you get a 70 or a 99 on the exam, your CBE course does not affect your GPA when transferred in. All you have to do is pass.
Be smart though. Check each and every course with your academic advisor to make sure they are approved. Don’t create extra work for yourself.
5. Create a study schedule and accountability network
Now comes the actual tough part. Studying. When you don’t have a professor drilling deadlines into your head, it can be easy to get lazy and lose track of your goals. To combat this, get an accountability network (friends, family, other students) and create a consistent study schedule to follow. Reward yourself for each milestone achieved, and in no time you will have racked up dozens of hours of college credit.
6. Double check your courses with your academic counselor!
This cannot be said enough. Double. Check. With. Your. Academic. Advisor.
7. Enjoy the success.
What are you going to do with your newfound free time? A CBE course can be completed in a week. Take 5 courses and that’s 11 weeks (and likely $5200+) you now have free. Take a cruise. Backpack through Europe. Start that nonprofit you’ve been thinking about. For dedicated students that are savvy enough to hack your way through college, the possibilities are endless.
Just don’t forget to submit your exams/courses to the University Registrar.
Happy studying and don’t forget to share!
Marium Hameed is a vocalist, entrepreneur, and writer whose passion involves empowering young people to live fuller lives. She is the founder of Express College, where she coaches individuals to maximize their college experiences and graduate faster with less debt. Marium’s mantras are: “whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve” (Napoleon Hill) and, “we are all geniuses in slow motion”, a profound realization she wants to spread across the world. You can connect with Marium using her FB page, Marium Hameed, or on Instagram with the handle @not_so_secret_soprano.