(1) The first tip to all is to learn theory BEFORE attending class. This will save you months of theory and guarantee that you don’t fall behind at least initially (which is very important). You will be ahead of your class, and that confidence will give you momentum.
(2) Don’t be close-minded. Do not just write out or just brief. Do not just do high speed or just control speed. Try EVERYTHING. How will you find what works well for you if you go in thinking something will not? It only works if you do. You can benefit from every method and nearly every type of dictation.
(3) Buy as much dictation as possible. Variety is key. It will be more interesting to write and also more challenging. I spent about 1K on dictation, and while you can spend a fraction of that through Magnum Steno and NCRA downloads, at the time, I didn’t know which dictation gave the most bang for my buck, so I tried them ALL. Now I am here to save you money. Just stick with Magnum Steno Club and NCRA downloads from the NCRA site.
(4) Go to a brick-and-mortar school if at all possible. Yes, people have graduated online and have become reporters by self-teaching, however with only a 10% graduation rate, the odds are ALREADY stacked against you. Why not stack some odds in your favor? I am not interested in the EXCEPTION who graduates online or by teaching themself, but in the rule. And the rule is the more people graduate in brick-and-mortar schools.
I even went so far as to move next door to my brick-and-mortar school. If I can move to Hawaii to Texas to get to a brick-and-mortar school, so can YOU. The only two good reasons to not move is if you have a decent paying job where you’re at or if you have free rent or free daycare (with parents or spouse) in some way where you are. Other than that, I would not consider online. Again, I’m not interested in the exceptions, but the rule, and you should feel the same as it is your money and your odds of making it out. Even if you save one year by going to a brick-and-mortar school, that is a savings of 5K in tuition minimum and 40K minimum in quicker wages. So that’s almost 50K! Plus all the stress you’ve avoided.
(5) Do NOT choose an expensive school. When it comes to court reporting schools, you do NOT get what you pay for. The best schools are generally the ones that charge the least. For me, I would not pay more than 400. There were a few that are about 200 a month. Once you get locked into massive student loans, you cannot just switch to a low-cost school that offers no government loans. Your other loans will come due too soon. Do NOT make this mistake. This mistake will cost you the most.