December 24 2014

I Love Steno The Student Edition: Things To Know Before You Enroll In A For-Profit School

New York City’s website offers advice for citizens who are considering enrolling in for-profit schools. (Note: This advice is great for students who reside in any locality.) The site states: “As the number of enrollees continues to grow, there is concern about these schools’ high cost and aggressive marketing, especially when few students are graduating and few graduates are finding jobs. For-profit schools widely market their services on subways and buses, TV and radio, and in community and ethnic newspapers, but many students are unaware of the potential implications of enrolling in a for-profit school or of the free and low-cost education and training programs that are available.” also offers the following 10 tips to consider before enrolling in a for-profit school:

“(1) Free and low-cost education and training options are available.
There are many free and low-cost options for adult education and training.

(2) If a school or training program sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

(3) Research, research, research.
Consider multiple schools before deciding which one is right for you. Ask for information on graduation and completion rates, student loan debt, and whether or not the credits you get will transfer to other schools. Sit in on a class, ask to speak to former students who have completed the program, and read reviews from real students in the NYC Training Guide. Ask to see a list of employers that hire graduates, and call those businesses to ask their opinion of the school. You should also research the general field you’re interested in to make sure it’s the right fit and there’s potential for job availability and growth.

(4) Avoid unlicensed schools.
Some schools are operating illegally. Remember, even if a school has a license, it might not be well-run, so research the school before you sign up.

(5) Don’t sign up the day you visit a school.
Before you sign up, you need to understand how much the program will cost and how you will pay for it. Do not make such an important decision on the spot! Take your time, and research the school. Use our online resources below to learn more about specific schools and programs.

(6) Never sign anything you don’t understand.
If a school pressures you to sign a contract or agreement on the spot, walk away. You have the right to bring home important forms so you can read them more carefully and review them with people you trust.

(7) Ask for the school’s tuition cancellation policy in writing.
The policy should describe how you can get a refund if you need to cancel or withdraw. However, once you have signed up, it can be tough to get your money back.

(8) Be careful of taking on a lot of debt.
Some schools charge tens of thousands of dollars. Often, the “financial aid” that is available isn’t free money, but rather loans you have to pay back – with interest. School loans last a long time, and there’s a limit on how much money you can borrow. Loans can also lower your credit score if you don’t pay them back on time. Make sure you understand the terms and will be able to make the payments.

(9) Avoid schools that “guarantee employment” after you graduate.
A school can’t guarantee that you’ll get a job when you graduate. Many times, the schools that make these types of promises don’t actually place you in a job.

(10) You have the right to file a complaint.
Did you enroll in a school or training program but didn’t get what you were promised? You can file a complaint…In New York City, call 311, or contact 311 online.” In other jurisdictions, research your complaint options.

This is awesome advice!

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July 31 2014

I Love Steno: The Student Edition: Things To Do Before Working: Read & Edit Your Dictionary

When attempting to master any language, the most basic and wisest course of action is reading the dictionary for that language. I would argue that the same can be said for steno.

You should periodically read and edit your dictionary. I would especially advise reading and editing your dictionary at the point when you notice a drastic change in your writing style. Studying your dictionary at this pivotal period will reinforce the modifications that you have made to your writing, as well as encourage you to make mental notes of what you have chosen to “throw away” and what you have chosen to “keep.”

Personally, I have read and edited my dictionary in its entirety twice thus far. The first time was when I reached 180 WPM writing speed and realized that it would greatly benefit me to implement phrasing into my writing. The second time was after earning my AOD degree in court reporting. I want to bridge the gap between being a student and a working reporter.

As a student, your focus is often on gaining speed so that you can complete your school’s course of study within their allotted time parameters. Therefore, sometimes, there is neglect to methods of study that don’t focus on speedbuilding. I felt that in order to be a proficient working reporter, reading and editing my dictionary (among other things) was something I should concentrate on. Therefore, I dedicated a chunk of my time to this exhaustive endeavor.

At first, I was concerned that using a large percentage of my daily study time to once again become well acquainted with my dictionary would negatively affect my speed. However, I found that just the opposite occurred.

After completely reading and editing my dictionary, I had markedly less hesitation. I also felt a lot closer to being realtime ready. I felt very pleased and accomplished for building a strong realtime foundation (although I’m not totally doing realtime yet). I even got extremely nice compliments from reporters I sat in with who observed my screen while I was writing. (SIDEBAR: I have a small theater size laptop screen. They couldn’t miss it. Lol.)

Be sure in your quest for speed you don’t neglect your dictionary. You may not have the time to read your dictionary from beginning to end, but you can pace yourself. Even perusing a page full of definitions every few days can help your writing immensely.

Remember, dictionary study doesn’t solely include adding words to it. It also means having a working knowledge of what words, briefs, and phrases your dictionary contains; eliminating conflicts; coming up with a consistent writing pattern; and “taking out the junk.”

Love, Speed & Accuracy,

Elsie Villega

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July 23 2014

I Love Steno: The Student Edition- Working On Speed & Accuracy? Get Your Emotions In Check

Going through court reporting school can evoke a cornucopia of feelings and emotions. It’s important to enjoy the ride and put anything that may be causing you stress into a perspective that makes it manageable for you. Remember, everyday is progress! Everyday you commit to bettering your skill is a step forward, no matter what the present results may be.

There is a direct correlation between how you “feel” about being in school and about learning your new skill, and how effectively you learn. There have been many studies on this topic. According to, “How The Brain Learns,” “How a person ‘feels’ about a learning situation determines the amount of attention devoted to it. Emotions interact with reason to support or inhibit learning.” Scientists have also proven that stress can affect your ability to retain information and learn. “How The Brain Learns” also states, “The hippocampus is susceptible to stress hormones that can inhibit cognitive functioning and long-term memory.”

Trying to pass that speed test or master your theory? Relax!!!! Go enjoy your favorite activity. Exhale!!!! Don’t look at the learning process as a burden. Don’t look at it as something you can’t wait to be done with. Enjoy it, and revel in all of its twists and turns! Practice, practice, practice; then, treat yourself to a fun activity or outing.

Love, Speed & Accuracy,

Elsie Villega

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July 18 2014

I Love Steno: The Student Edition- Students, Know Your Rights

The starting point for any skill or career is learning the fundamentals. It is important that the enthusiasm of a novice drawn to learn a skill is complemented with a warm, proficient, and welcoming educational environment. This is especially true when it comes to a skill like stenography, which requires an immense amount of concentration and time to achieve mastery.

It is an unfortunate reality of society that there exists “educational institutions” that do not have the educational advancement of their students as their foremost goal. Some schools are primarily profit-seeking entities that expend a minimum amount of resources catering to the basic learning needs of their students.

A student should always be aware of their rights and various options of recourse should their rights be violated and their educational standards be left unmet.

Be sure to request that your school provides you with a written/published copy of their grievance policies. Also, be certain to get all other important school guidelines in writing. If a school is refusing to cooperate with your request to get their policies in writing, get their refusal in writing.

It is beneficial to communicate with school administrators in a manner that will document any promises or declarations that are made to you. For this reason, favor written communications over verbal communications.

Schools that are certified by the National Court Reporting Association (NCRA) must adhere to the “General Requirements and Minimum Standards (GRMS)” that are set by the NCRA’s Council on Approved Student Education (CASE).

The NCRA allows for the filing of complaints against member schools. However, they require you to accompany their complaint form with the “final written decision of the institution.” You must also cite the specific GRMS rule number that the court reporting program has allegedly violated. Be aware that filing a complaint via the NCRA also requires that the student signs a form stating that they “have received a copy of the complaint procedures,” and “agree to abide by them.” The complaint form also asks the student to agree to “disclose the contents of [the] complaint to the approved court reporting program complained against, the members of the Council on Approved Student Education Association directors, officers, and appropriate staff.” It should be noted that, “The NCRA Council on Approved Student Education will not consider and monetary disputes.”

The aforementioned courses of action are not your only options. If necessary, you may want to reach out to an education attorney. There are great legal sites, such as, that will list attorneys in your geographical area. This site also provides information for pro bono attorneys.

Also, be mindful that, according to, “The United States Department of Education monitors the distribution of federal financial aid for education, focuses national attention on key educational issues and ensures that students are given equal access to school programs.

Love, Speed & Accuracy,

Elsie Villega

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March 15 2014

I Love Steno: The Student Edition- Theory

Theory is every students introduction to stenographic writing. Steno theories can range from writing everything out, to “short writing,” to a combination thereof.

Theories that emphasize writing everything out focus on getting a stroke for every syllable of a word. Writing a word out syllable-by-syllable is a very useful skill to have in your writing repertoire. This method of writing especially comes in handy when you encounter words that are unfamiliar to you. It can also be helpful when you are writing multisyllabic words. However, a theory that focuses on “getting a stroke for every sound” can be very constricting when you are writing steno at high speeds.

Steno theories that emphasize “short writing” encourage the writer to write words with a minimum number of strokes. This type of writing can be advantageous when writing with speed. However, when it is not combined with the skill of writing unfamiliar words syllabically, it can lead to hesitation when the writer hears unfamiliar words.

There is also another very important part of stenographic writing, phrasing. Phrasing is usually also emphasized in “short writing.” Phrasing provides one-stroke briefs for oft-heard phrases such as, “I don’t think so, what is your name, I don’t know, etc.” In my opinion, phrasing is a very important part of the formula to successfully writing at high speeds. Phrasing is also helpful in relieving writing fatigue. Being able to write multiple words in a single stroke greatly cuts down on hand movement.

As a student, you have a great stake in the writing methods that are taught to you in theory. These methods will be the foundation of your writing and have a direct connection to how successful you will be at writing at high speeds.

Here is where students can benefit from my 20/20 hindsight. This is some great advice that I wish I knew as a student: If you want to get an idea of how effective your school’s theory is, ask the students in the last speed class, particularly students who are at the 225 testing level.

Be aware that some schools will teach you to write everything out. Some skills will also fail to teach you the skill of phrasing, or will introduce phrasing into the teaching curriculum at the high-speed level where it will be extremely difficult for the student to quickly implement it into their writing due to months or years of practicing a technique that excluded the skill.

Be alerted to the fact that there are some schools that have a self-serving agenda when they teach you to write everything out. Learning the long way of writing will likely slow your advancement through the high-level speed classes, thus allowing the school to collect more of your tuition money when your progress grinds to a halt. Therefore, I reiterate, ask your schoolmates in the higher speed class if the theory they were taught has been a help or a hindrance to their advancement through school. Ask students in the high speed class how long they have been in the class. If there are students who have been in the last speed class for an inordinate amount of time, despite practicing diligently, this could be a sign that they were taught an ineffective theory. It will be helpful to you as a student/potential student if you are able to poll some of the higher speed level students BEFORE you enroll in a school.

Best wishes on your speed journey.

Love, Speed & Accuracy,

Elsie Villega

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June 14 2012

Why You Should Feel Like A Superhero When You Graduate From Court Reporting School

I’ve heard working reporters say that school was the most challenging part of their court-reporting journey. As any student- or ex-student- can attest, learning the skill/art of stenography is time-intensive and demanding; love it as we might :).

The website, “Court Reporting FAQs,” cites some information that should make all court-reporting school graduates feel like superheroes.  After all, there aren’t many professions that require the level of preparation and dedication that stenography does.

According to Court Reporting FAQs:  “Most court reporting schools base their programs on 24 months, studies by the National Court Reporters Association and independent research show very few students actually graduate in that length of time, with most taking 3 to 5 years or longer…Traditional for profit court reporting schools’ tuition costs range from $25,000 th $57,000.  You may be surprised to learn that these colleges of court reporting and court reporting schools have 85% to 90% dropout rates and average graduation rates of 2 to 14 percent.”

“An average graduation [rate] of 2 to 14 percent?”  Graduating is indeed worthy of superhero status.

If you are an illustrious graduate, CONGRATULATIONS!

If you are a student, hang in there and keep pushing forward!  Everyday is progress!

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