Finally the world is recognizing life experience as achievements worthy of college degree acknowledgment. This makes perfect sense for older college students trying to propel their educational goals in a more proficient direction. Yet most of these ‘college kids’ have no idea this option exists. It is not a well-advertised one and only in the last few years has the idea begun to catch on.
What is this mysterious life experience degree program? Let’s say you are a typical 34 year old who acquired specialized knowledge on the job, maybe through training or even independent hobbies. All the collective work and life experience can be converted into true college degree credits.
Getting a degree like this is valuable in two ways. One, you are going to save money in educational costs and two; you can fast forward through courses where you are already proficient.
When you are ready to launch into college in a revolutionary way, here are 5 ways to earn college credit for career and life experience:
1. Corporate Training Programs
Many large corporations create an immense amount of training for employees; some even have their own ‘corporate universities’. All this training can transfer to your life experience portfolio. There is a review process known as the CREDIT program which is endorsed by the American Council on Education’s Program on Non-Collegiate Sponsored Instruction (ACE/PONSI). This is a program which reviews in-house training courses for college level credits. Once they assess an employer-based program, they will assign a college credit value.
At this time, it is estimated that about half of accredited colleges will accept ACE recommendations to transfer these credits into the school. There is a working list of ACE’s free college credits which is offered by employers: National Guide to College Credit for Workforce Training.
2. Experiential Learning
If you can prove you have college-level knowledge and experience with subjects, you may be able to receive college credits. How is this done? Create an academic portfolio. This will require effort and insight, but the payoff is huge. The first step is to speak to your university admissions department prior to beginning so you can get approval for the project and the necessary help in the right direction. Some schools even offer a short course in putting academic portfolios together. The portfolio is reviewed and scored by expert professors in your subject matter.
You are a good candidate for this if you have an applied working knowledge of your specialized area of study rather than just textbook theory. Remember you are selling ‘you’ so if you have certificates, business plans, written reports, artwork, software, articles or any other representation of your completed life learning, be sure to include all of it in your academic portfolio.
3. Challenge Exams
For older students wanting to accelerate their education, participating in challenge exams is a key way to accomplish this feat. Anyone can take these exams. Local testing sites offer college-level exams in a variety of subject matters ranging from nursing to foreign languages to computer programming. The tests are typically in multiple choice formats with around one hundred questions.
The most widely accepted of these exams is the College Level Exam Program (CLEP). With over 2,900 accredited colleges, including online schools, the CLEP test features 33 single-subject and five general exams. The general areas include demonstrating freshman-level knowledge in English Composition, Humanities, Natural Sciences, College Math, and Social Sciences. This equals up to 30 college credits if you pass all exams, and a savings of an entire year of college.
The best part about tackling these exams is the price. The cost for each CLEP exam is $80 dollars, which is only a fraction of the tuition for the same course taught in college.
This is the number one accepted way to use life experience in exchange for college credits. For more information about CLEP exams, contact: The College Board, 800-257-9558.
Another series of exams available to the public is the Defense Activity for Non-traditional Educational Support (DANTES). The name on this has been changed to DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST). There are 38 different specific subjects for testing, which can include Business, Humanities, Social Sciences, Math and Physical Sciences. The cost for testing is the same as CLEP exams at $80 dollars per test. For more information and testing sites contact: DSST Program Office, 877-471-9860.
4. Professional Licenses and Credentials
If you have been steadily collecting professional certificates over your career and life path, these hold incredible value. The American Council on Education (ACE) reviews professional licenses and certificates and makes credit award recommendation to colleges. Additionally, many online colleges recognize state licenses, and certifications for credit transfers.
The recognized credentials are listed in the free National Guide to College Credit for Workforce Training.
5. Military Training Programs
The military life experience can be applied towards college, with boot camp as a chosen elective credit. Basic training teaches first aid, physical education, marksmanship and hygiene, all which are viable college credits.
Access ACE’s list of credit recommendations offered in The Guide to the Evaluation of Educational Experiences in the Armed Services for a complete look at applicable credits. You can also check with your school to find out what standardized tests are necessary for military credit transfers. Military members can take the DSST exams free of charge.
Always review your college’s transfer credit policy to find out how many credits you can transfer, even if you are entering from another school. This will save money and time committed to school courses.
As of now, most life experience college credit programs only apply to undergraduate degrees. Slowly, online schools are beginning to award credits for life experience. Expect to see this area burst wide open in the next few years.