Today’s the day!

I’m so excited to be at Book & Game from 11am-3pm today to sign copies of College Without the Campus! Drop by to enter to win one of two $25 Book & Game gift certificates. Have a wonderful Friday!

Book & Game Co.
38 East Main St.
(Corner of 1st & Main Streets)
Downtown Walla Walla, WA

Black mortarboard from College Without the Campus

Book Review by Nicki Truesdell

Book Review & Giveaway by Nicki Truesdell


If you’ve been wanting to learn more about College Without the Campus and the topics it covers, check out this new book review from Nicki Truesdell. She explains how she and her family view college and then summarizes each section of the book. My favorite quote from the review is her thoughts about the later chapters of the book:

“Chapters 12 and 13 address concerns about socialization and credentials, as well as life after college. As a homeschool parent, I love her perspective on the socialization issue. Since Hillary’s goal was to earn a degree, college wasn’t meant to be an “experience,” but rather a focused time of learning. I wholeheartedly agree with her.”


You can enter to win one of two copies of College Without the Campus at Nicki Truesdell’s website: The giveaway is open now through April 7th, 2017.

Book Signing and Raffle at Book & Game in Walla Walla

Book Signing and Raffle at Book & Game

I will be at Book & Game in Walla Walla on Friday, April 14th between 11am-3pm for a book signing and raffle. Come enter to win one of two $25 gift certificates to Book & Game!

My gratitude goes to Book & Game for hosting this event. Book & Game has been serving Walla Walla since 1989 and offers a wide array of books (including College Without the Campus), games, journals, curriculum aids, and cards. A map to their location is included below.

For more information, feel free to email me via the contact page. I hope to see you then!

Book & Game Co.
38 East Main St.
(Corner of 1st & Main Streets)
Downtown Walla Walla, WA

Black mortarboard from College Without the Campus

How to Reduce Test Anxiety

How do you respond to taking tests? Testing is one activity that is a part of life for most of us, and despite its ubiquity, it brings feelings of dread to many people. Tests crop up in school, work, extra-curricular certifications, and even workouts! Because tests are a perennial part of life, I share two test-taking techniques that have helped me manage my testing nerves.

Out of all the types of tests I’ve taken, such as end-of-the-school-year tests, computer tests, quizzes, CPR tests, CLEP tests, language exams, and swimming tests, the one type of test that most unnerved me (and gave me good skills for taking credit-by-exam tests) was piano syllabus tests.

The piano program I participated in had one test for Levels 1 through 10. At each level the student was required to learn specific music theory, demonstrate music skills, and play a certain number of pieces from different eras. I typically completed one level yearly, so every spring I would put my acquired knowledge to the test. It was a doable task, to be sure. But something about having to prepare such a well-rounded set of skills and have them all top-notch on a particular date made me nervous.

When the testing day came, I needed to remain calm. Scheduling the test in the morning was helpful, so I didn’t have as long to worry. Meanwhile, I trained my mind toward the test benefits—I had learned new repertoire and bolstered my music skills. Once I arrived to the test location, I mentally pictured myself walking out of the room after the test having done my best. This post-test visualization is one of the most helpful tips I have for test taking. The more vividly I could picture myself successful at the finish line of the test, the more peace I had while waiting to begin. Visualizing success is well known to athletes who report improved performance and confidence.[1]

Another strategy is to confront my worst fears. This wasn’t as effective on the day of the test, but a day or two before testing this strategy was quite helpful. I would imagine what would happen if I broke down into tears during the test—embarrassing for sure, but nothing else would happen. I would get it back together and continue. If I failed the test, I could retake the test at the next available opening, or I could review the material on my own and then move forward without completing this level. Though the path to move forward after failure depends on the specific test, there will almost certainly be a way to move forward.

Testing can bring up many of the more uncomfortable emotions such as fear, anxiety, nervousness, nausea, loss of focus, and even physical pain. Who in their right mind would purposely do something to trigger these emotions? I know why we do. Once I have tackled a test, I am stronger. I have not shrunk from what I know must be done. This boldness brings new resolution to the test taker. So, pass or fail, let’s conquer our tests!

What are your favorite ways to combat test anxiety?

[1] Matt Mayberry, “The Extraordinary Power of Visualizing Success,” and

Carolyn Gregoire, “The Brain-Training Secrets Of Olympic Athletes,”

FAQ #22

Q: How do I determine parameters for my study, and how do I know when I’ve studied enough?

A: This is a difficult aspect of credit-by-exam testing; however, with each test you take, you have more experience to gauge this for yourself. The three things that helped me know that I was studying relevant information were the test outline from the test creator, pretests, and the Exam Specific threads on

The test outline is the number one source to help you choose the resources you will use because it shows how much emphasis the test will place on individual subject areas. Pretests, especially those from the test creator, will indicate if you are studying the right topics and give you ideas of concepts to review. After you take around three tests, you will learn how your practice test scores translate to actual test scores, and how familiar you need to be with a subject to be comfortable in the test room.

The Exam Specific thread can help you pinpoint how ready you are to test. You’ll find practical suggestions such as: Did you nearly ace Peterson’s practice test? You’re probably ready to test because Peterson’s practice test for this subject is harder than the actual exam. Have you extensively studied topic X? Good, because the test focuses on it.

Walla Walla Bricks and Party Lights

Self-Definition: What Are You For?

“But different is simple. Like the easiest way to explain black is to call it the opposite of white, often the first thing we know about ourselves is not what we are—it’s what we aren’t. We mark ourselves as not-this or not-that, the way Ian was quick to say he didn’t want to sit at the same desk all day. But self-definition cannot end there. An identity or a career cannot be built around what you don’t want. We have to shift from a negative identity, or a sense of what I’m not, to a positive one, or a sense of what I am. This takes courage.

“A braver form of self-definition dares to be affirmative. Ian needed to move from talking about what he wasn’t going to do to talking about what he was going to do. ‘Being against something is easy,’ I said. ‘What are you for?'”

—Meg Jay, The Defining Decade

Book Review: Homeschooling for College Credit by Jennifer Cook-DeRosa

• • • • • • • ► Meet Jennifer Cook-DeRosa

I was doing college research on when I first learned about author Jennifer Cook-DeRosa. Because she was both a parent and someone who had earned a bachelor’s degree in social sciences using distance learning techniques, she had experience coaching her teens in earning college credit as well as taking credit-by-exam tests. (Cook-DeRosa has since gone on to earn her master’s degree.) I appreciated her regular posts pertaining to Thomas Edison State University, accreditation, and credit-by-exam tests such as CLEP.

In 2012, Cook-DeRosa published Homeschooling for College Credit. This 200-page book guides parents through implementing courses worth college credit into their high school students’ schedules. She begins the book by encouraging parents that teaching high school is doable and then lists some foundational, but critical, information about college courses.

• • • • • • • ► Transferring College Credits

One of the most memorable stories she shares is how the credits she earned for her AOS (Associate in Occupational Studies) in Culinary Arts did not transfer when she went back to college later in life. Not being able to transfer credits was one of my fears about distance learning, and Cook-DeRosa explains how to avoid this (see chapter 3).

Another helpful tool in Homeschooling for College Credit is her four-year high school planning templates. These are designed to schedule credit earning into your high schooler’s curriculum while meeting the requirements for high school at the same time. Essentially, they’re dual credit plans.

Later in the book Cook-DeRosa covers test resources, test-taking skills, making a high school transcript, paying for college, and taking your credit to a college. Also provided is a list of things she prefers in a college and ten colleges that meet those preferences.

• • • • • • • ► A Valuable Resource

Throughout the book, Cook-DeRosa’s experience as a parent of homeschooled children and as a distance learner give the reader plenty to absorb and put into use. Her love for learning, stretching the family’s dollar, and helping other parents jump-start their teen’s college education make this book a handy resource.

For more information about Homeschooling for College Credit, you can preview the book on and visit the Homeschooling for College Credit Facebook page, which is updated regularly with tips and distance learning news.

This is an unsponsored review to share a book I found helpful.

Black mortarboard from College Without the Campus

College Without the Campus FAQ #7

FAQ #7

Q: What about financial aid for distance learners?

A: Student financial aid is available through three sources: from the government at both the federal and state levels, from colleges and universities directly, and from private parties. The main criterion for a distance learner to receive financial aid is if the student is enrolled. This is understandable, since it is easier to ensure that the aid is used as intended if a student is enrolled.

For aid from the federal government, students are required to be enrolled at an accredited institution.[1] Thus, once a student enrolls, she will be eligible for funding regardless of whether she attends on campus or off campus. The same is true for aid from state governments, from colleges and universities directly, and from most—if not all—private organizations. Once the students enroll, they are eligible for aid. The good news for unenrolled, off-campus students is that the reasonable fees of non-traditional learning can preclude the need for financial aid.

[1] an accredited institution.

Black mortarboard from College Without the Campus

CLEP Official Study Guide

Product Review: CLEP Official Study Guide

Sometimes the hardest part about taking a credit-by-exam test is finding the right materials to use to prepare. College Board, the creator of CLEP, has made this process easier by offering the CLEP Official Study Guide. This book gives students an overview of each of the 33 CLEP tests and also provides a nearly full-length practice test for each subject. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty details.

Annually updated

The official exam guide is published yearly and updated to match any changes that have been made to each test. Without having a copy of the past year’s edition to compare with the current edition, it can be tough to tell what (if any) changes have been made. Sometimes book reviewers will note changes on bookseller websites like Amazon, or you can check for posts related to changes. If you are using an older edition of the book, you can double-check the test description online to be sure nothing has changed (e.g. an online calculator is still part of the test).

If you are only planning to take one or two CLEP tests, you may prefer to buy the individual exam study guides. The individual guides feature the same information as is in the book. You may save a little money if you only need a guide for one test: the book retails for $24.99, while the individual exam guides cost $10.00 each.

Not a study guide?

An important note is that the CLEP Official Study Guide does not provide the material to use for studying. In this book CLEP offers suggestions on which textbooks and other resources to use. This information can also be found for free by selecting a specific exam at While you’re there, you can download the exam’s resource guide to view a small selection of free practice questions.

Is it worth it?

By now you may be wondering why this guide is worth purchasing. If CLEP offers textbook suggestions and practice questions online for free, why purchase this guide? What this book can give you is a more accurate practice test experience. With the longer practice tests, students can better gauge if they are ready to take the test and get a feeling for taking the actual test. Plus, the test questions are developed by CLEP, so although you won’t find the same questions on an actual test, they will be very similar.

When you’re looking for a handy resource to get you started on learning to take CLEP tests, the CLEP Official Study Guide is a great way to start! The guide is available at bookstores nationwide,, and at the CLEP website.

This is an unsponsored review to share one of my favorite CLEP products. 🙂