Prior College Experience? Get a Jumpstart

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Remember back when you went to college? That’s right. The college you never finished! Living with regret is one of the worst things you can do to yourself. Regret for things you can never change is bad enough. But some things you really can change. Finally finishing up a degree program you started long ago is one of them. And getting your degree online can mean re-visiting some of the work you’ve already done, no matter how long ago.

Some online schools, like American InterContinental University, make an effort to change the regret of never finishing your college with a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) test for adult learners. The test, actually a series of assessments, can seriously reduce the number of credits you ultimately need to complete. AIU, like all accredited schools, works with all of the hundreds of regionally accredited institutions to assess and accept prior learning so that students don’t need to start all over again at square one.

Still, you need to understand that life and learning experiences alone can’t always be accepted for credit with the Prior Learning Assessment. To demonstrate proficiency, you need to prove that “outcomes” were documented and that they are applicable to the program of study you’re trying to get out of. These outcomes need to be shown to be similar to or meeting the requirements of learning that would otherwise be gained through the college courses of the program you’re planning on entering. For that you need either unofficial transcripts or other documentation of completion of the course or the training, though there may be a few exceptions depending on the type of online degree program you’re entering.

AIU uses the PLA test to offer all students the chance to receive credit for any number of prior life experiences. These can include transfer credits from any and all college and university level courses. Completion programs also include military training and especially any occupational specialty training included in your military career. That might mean any technical training or management or accounting methods or procedures.

Standardized assessments or examinations you’ve taken could also knock off some of your credit requirements. If you’ve taken a CLEP or DSST Examination, either could count for college credit. Any Course Challenge Examinations or Advanced Placement (AP) Examination can count and, most schools, AIU in particular, will consider just about any examination you may have taken.

Just about every online degree program will consider some experiential learning, which can also depend a lot on the program you intend to enter into. In particular, courses in design, technology or accounting may be more likely to accept these types of experiences. Experiential Learning Assessments are usually conducted as portfolio reviews or intensive interviews over some or all of the course materials. An Evaluation of Local Training might evaluate material from instructional programs that the school is already aware of, and some schools will conduct Challenge Exams which are tests designed specifically to verify learning that took place in a non-academic setting.

Advanced Placement (AP) Exams, Excelsior College Examination Program, (formerly, Regents College Exams or ACT/PEP Exams), and DSST Credit by Exam Program (formerly known as the DANTES Program) can all count for lower level course work and should clear up some of your earlier credit requirements.

Adult learning can and, very often in life, does take place outside of your school. You know that. Luckily so do most of the online schools you’ll encounter when looking to advance your own lot in live. Look carefully through the catalog of whatever school you’re considering, especially if you’ve had any of the tests, training or courses mentioned above. There’s nothing worse than the regret that comes from not doing something you really could take care of. Fortunately, not getting your degree is one thing you really can change and the Prior Learning Assessment can make it easier, faster and cheaper.

Written by James Tomon – Degree Jungle Staff Writer

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