Three (3) Reasons to Take an Alternate Route to College Credit

Have you ever been stuck in traffic? How about an alternate route?

If you’ve ever been stuck in traffic, you’ve probably thought: “There’s got to be a way around this mess!” So, you take out your smartphone and begin searching for an alternate route, and then you wait... horns honking, cars creeping... you inch forward. Suddenly, success!

“Just take the next... Exit, and...” Yep, “the next Exit” is 10 feet behind you. Now, all you can do is turn up the radio, find your happy place, and wait it out.

Whether heading out on the road or plotting an education or career path, a bit of prior planning and mapping out alternate routes will save you time and, more importantly, help you avoid a whole lot of frustration.


For many Service members, the road to an education can seem impossible to navigate—jammed up with all kinds of military and personal responsibilities. The Defense Department (DoD) understands that it can be difficult and continually looks for ways, or “alternate routes”, to be more efficient and successful at reaching your goal or destination—let’s call them “less congested” roads to your educational success.

One of the most universally known alternatives to the traditional education pathway is Credit by Examination, also known as CLEP and DSST tests. This program, widely accepted by colleges and universities, provides a means to getting college level credit without actually taking a class. And, as if that wasn’t enough, it’s free for Service members through DANTES.

Imagine how much closer you can be to your education destination if 1/3 of the distance, magically, disappeared—with minimal effort and time.


For the sake of our traffic analogy, let’s say getting a college degree is like taking a long road trip—and one (1) college credit equals 1 mile.

The distance to “baccalaureate town” is approximately 120 miles away, but before we can assess our ETA, we must determine our rate of speed. Given a single college course yields about three (3) credits per semester—our average rate of speed would look a lot like a snails pace of one (1) mile per month. That’s a long time to travel and work towards your end goal. Now, imagine if you could shave 40 months off your total trip with the Credit by Examination program.

Here’s how it works: You can choose from more than 60 subject examinations, register and schedule the exam, and here’s the hard part—pass the exam using knowledge you already have and you get college credit! You’ve just cut down on time and money, because DANTES will pay for one attempt at each exam per Service member. Yes, you can take more than one exam for free.


Okay, we may have oversimplified it a bit with the traffic analogy, but in actuality, many Service members discover at least one subject exam that they can pass with minimal preparation. For instance, say you’re fluent in Spanish—why not get free college credit for what you know? Here’s a common military scenario: You just finished weeks of training and have a wealth of knowledge just sitting there waiting to be used. Why not see what subjects align with what you just learned? The information is fresh, and it only takes a few hours to take an exam on what you already know.

With CLEP and DSST, there are more than 60 exam subjects to choose from:

So, don’t just sit there in traffic wondering which way to go—take the short cut! And before taking the exam, be sure you talk with an education counselor to make sure your academic institution and degree program will accept these types of exam credits. Also, check out the DANTES website, www.dantes.doded.mil for more information on the Credit by Examination program, funding and reimbursement, and how easy it is to have your score and college credit delivered to your school and added to your Joint Services Transcript (JST). Yes, another no-cost education tool provided by the DoD to help keep you successful on your career and education journey. Check it out at: https://jst.doded.mil/.

Other DANTES resources for information and blogs include:

DANTES Website


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