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Understanding Life Experience and College Credit

written by: Laurie Patsalides•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 12/6/2011

If you are thinking about an online degree, then you should know about eligibility for college credit for life and experience. Let's answer the questions, what are life learning credits, who is eligible for them, and which are some of the distance colleges that accept life learning credits.

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    How to Earn College Credits

    At the undergraduate level, life credit may be the one area which adult students are the least familiar with and could really utilize to their advantage to save money on college. Life credit is available at most accredited colleges at the undergrad level, but harder to find at the graduate level.

    Life credit bears many names. It is also known as life experience credit, achievement credit or even experienced-based learning. You will need to know the terminology to research at the college's student admission department where you plan to attend. Most times you apply for the degree first and afterward you apply for life credit.

    Simply defined, life credits are work or life experiences translated into college credit. Credits that may be eligible are certifications/licensure, military experience, examinations, work experience, ministry, or corporate training.

    You must be able to prove this experience to the potential college and how you prove it varies by the college. For example, you may be asked to submit a portfolio, take an examination, write a paper or submit copies of exams/certification records and/or classes taken to be considered, depending upon the university. Each university has specific requirements. Some requirements might be, you must be over the age of 25; you must have at least 4 years of work experience similar to the degree in which you are applying; you must submit records of training related to the degree, or military records. So be sure to inquire about the policy at the college you will be considering. Also, be aware that some colleges charge you for the evaluation of the portfolio.

    Different colleges also allow different numbers of transfer credit, but I have seen them allow up to 21 life credits, which transfers to about 7 college courses at the bachelor degree level.

    Your information is then assessed and if you qualify, then you will potentially save money and time in the long run.

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    The American Council of Education (ACE)

    If you are interested in learning how to transfer your credits, then you can research The American Council of Education (ACE).This is a College Credit Recommendation Service (CREDIT) in the US.Through this program, an organization submits courses taken by its employees and the ACE faculty evaluators, which are credentialed and must be faculty from an approved university, review the course to evaluate if it can be equivalent to college credit. Another way to earn credit is by examination like DANTES, DSST or CLEP, but be aware that these exams are not free.

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    Considering a College

    Although colleges which participate in college credit for life are too numerous to name, a few worthy universities to look into that offer life experience credit toward an online degree are Thomas Edison State College, Peru University and Excelsior College. Bear in mind that many accredited online universities and state universities offer distance learning programs to look further into as learning from home is often beneficial to the adult learner with other responsibilities.

    Regardless of college choice, you have worked hard and should take advantage of college credit for life and work experience. It just might save you hundreds of dollars, a few semesters of work, and encourage you to go back to school.

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    Reasons to Try

    In summary, adult learners who find themselves in the middle of needing to change careers for one reason or another will find the college credit for life program helpful. You can receive life credit for corporate/workforce or professional training programs, military or ministry experience, credit by examination, or a portfolio/work experience – in which case you inquire at the university. Each university will provide its own requirements. It is worth your time to prove it, because going to school may launch you in the new career direction you need.

    Laurie Patsalides, M.S.Ed., provides this information in the hope of helping a potential student go to school for the degree he or she has always dreamed about. Information gathered was from reading many college websites.