For the past two years, I have been working towards my Bachelors degree using alternative, self-education methods. Essentially, this means I have been taking a lot of CLEP and DSST exams, and other lesser known methods, along with a couple of online courses. Lumerit Education (formerly CollegePlus) helped me through this process. It was a delightful and challenging process. One which I am happy to say I completed this month! This girl has completed all the credits required for her degree. Here is what I’ve taken away from the experience. It’s quite possible that these facts only apply to me. But maybe not.
Motivation is impossible without purpose. A task has to be something worth fighting for. If the subject matter of a course wasn’t motivating enough in itself – aka was a topic I found completely boring – I had to identify a specific greater purpose for learning that material. And just needing to complete the course in order to graduate did not cut it for me.
Self motivation is hard. My major was a subject that I love and want to learn more about. No one was pressuring me into a boring major because it was the practical thing. I was studying what I love, and self motivation was still hard. Sometimes it feels like the most draining thing. It’s also immensely satisfying. It may be a bit of a pride issue, but it feels pretty great to know I’ve earned my degree and did it entirely on my own.
Set specific goals and deadlines. Vague goals are not achievable for me. It was too easy to keep putting them off or making excuses about why they were too hard for me. If I was concrete about my goals, they would actually happen.
The hardest thing about self-education was not having a community around me that was in the same process/phase who could understand and sympathize. When none of your friends or family are also in the midst of completing their education, you can feel isolated in a world of textbooks. I had to say no to late night board games times or movies outings or slumber parties, because I knew that I would need energy left to study after I got off work the next day. It is painful to reject friends attempts to have fun with you because you’ve got school to do. This is another instance where I had to keep my focus on the greater purpose behind my education. Education must be worth fighting for, because many days it is a fight.
But in reality, the only way self-education was achievable was when I remembered that I was not doing on my own. As Jesus kept reminding me, I was not doing it alone. Here is a snippet of one journal entry, as an example:
Terah, so, speed reading is hard? Like, impossible? Eyes don’t work that way? I can make the eye work however it needs to! Doing life together means everything.
School isn’t something you have to conquer alone. We don’t need space from each other.
Ask, and you will receive.
(Kinda like your Mom was telling you).
I miss you when you’re off trying to battle school on your own. Remember, “I can carry you.”
Also, “can’t help fallin’ in love with you.”
Fish gotta swim,
birds gotta fly.
I gotta fall in love
with you forever,
can’t help Lovin’ that Terah o’mine.
Along with choosing an attitude of resting in God in my academics, I had to learn to give myself days of rest. Just because you can push yourself to keep working doesn’t mean you should. The self-education method I chose to follow did not have set semester breaks or vacations. I decided my schedule and found it very hard to release myself from the duty of school to enjoy Sabbath days. If you are doing college entirely through self-motivation, you have to learn how to turn off that motivation for some times of rest. Ideally, figure out how to do that in a weekly or bi-weekly way so that you don’t end up having to take a month off from all the duties of your life because you are so burnt out. (Although, that month was real fun). I was more efficient if I gave myself intentional days of rest. Be intentional about rest and soul-refreshing.
Stefan Vandenkooy summarized everything I needed to know in order to succeed with my college experience in this spoken word. It is beautiful and powerful and says things that the world needs to hear. Many days, it was the motivation and greater purpose that helped me to open my textbooks rather than lazing around or reading novels. “Rest in God in your academics, seek the Holy Spirit in your studies, and realize that your degree is not for you.”