How to Turn Life Experiences Into Real College Credits

What if someone told you there might be a shortcut to earning your degree? It may even be possible to turn some of your life experiences into real college credits, saving both time and money. As wild as it sounds, it’s completely true!

It’s called a PLA, or prior learning assessment, and it takes real-life experiences and translates them into college course credit. PLAs have been around for a while, but they’re receiving new attention as more college students show interest in skipping unnecessary courses and fast-tracking degree programs. If you want to know whether you’re eligible for a PLA course credit, here are the basics.

Submit a Portfolio

You can prepare and present a portfolio of your skills to CAEL, The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning. They’ll review it to decide if you’ve demonstrated expert-level proficiency in the subject. You could end up being awarded college credits if they determine your life experience is a reasonable substitute for coursework.

Take an Exam

Have you ever heard the term CLEP-ing out of a class? It’s an old-school way of saying that you were able to take a placement test to get out of taking the class. It stands for the College-Level Examination Program, and you can sign up to test out of subjects you’ve already mastered. Other testing sites to get around taking a course include DANTES Service Standardized Tests (DSST), Advanced Placement (AP), or the International Baccalaureate Program (IB). These tests are great for determining if you need a college course or if you have enough knowledge to get the credit without the class. 

Discover Which Life Experiences Qualify for Credit

Members of the military can qualify for college credit. You can apply to the American Council on Education (ACE) to see if you are eligible. The ACE also reviews certifications, on-the-job training, and apprentice programs to determine if they meet the criteria for course credits. 

There are many benefits of having your life experience counted toward a college degree. It can save time, allowing you to take other classes that may enable graduating sooner or reduce the amount of tuition you owe, which lowers your need for student loans. Finishing your college program sooner lets you begin earning money using your degree and qualifications faster — and that can save big bucks, too. 

Your life experiences matter whether or not anyone gives you credit for them. But just think of how quickly you could move through a degree program once you’ve demonstrated mastery over a topic! If you’re curious whether your experiences qualify you for a PLA, take the leap. It just might fast-track your education and get you out in the real world living your dream.