How to Apply Your Work/Life Experience to College Credit

work life experience

If you've already been in the workforce or received significant training outside of school, you might be surprised to learn that your skills and knowledge could apply directly toward earning your college degree. Many schools let you earn college credit for work or life experience, saving you valuable time, money, and effort in the long run.

If you're ready to use your work and life experience to fast track your education, here are just a few of the ways you can apply non-traditional credits toward your degree today.

Work Experience

If you've worked in one industry for several years, you may be able to prove that you have acquired theoretical or practical knowledge because of it. Whether you intend to pursue a degree in a related field or use your industry experience to meet certain core curriculum requirements, you should prepare in advance to document and explain how your experiences apply toward a specific degree requirement.

Keep in mind that earning credit for work experience is about more than proving that you can hold down a job – it's about showcasing that you have valuable skills learned through working. Review the course requirements for your degree and find the classes that cover topics you've already explored on the job. Then, talk to an advisor about demonstrating your relevant knowledge. Consider creating a portfolio of your experiences or results to prove that you deserve college credit for those skills. Most non-traditional credit applications require a significant writing component to be approved, so documenting your progress as you go along may help.

Life Experience

While browsing your degree requirements, you may discover that you've gained relevant experience outside of structured work or school environments. Maybe you founded and ran your own business, nonprofit, or community organization. Maybe you wrote a book or learned a language through independent study. In such instances, it's highly recommended that you discuss your individual experiences with an advisor to see if your life experience can fulfill any of your degree requirements.

Once you've identified the skills that could apply to certain course requirements, pull together as many details as you can into a written statement or portfolio that demonstrates why you deserve college credit for your life experience. Describe how the information you learned corresponds to specific learning outcomes outlined by your classes or degree program. Summarize any concepts, theories, or principles you practiced that relate to those learning outcomes, and explain how you will use and apply this knowledge in the future.

Military Training and Experience

Military-friendly online colleges recognize that military personnel gain tremendous life and work experience through boot camp, basic training, officer training school, and other courses offered by the military. Check with your college of choice to see if they will grant credits for your military training. Then, request your Joint Services Transcript (JST) and speak with a Military Enrollment Services Advisor about maximizing your current earned credits.

Military training can help you complete your degree much faster. If you are actively serving or a veteran of the US Armed Forces who wants to go back to school, learn more about how to earn college credit for your military training today.

National Testing Programs

A final option for earning college credits for life experience includes national testing programs. Examinations are administered through various organizations for a fee, and a passing grade may qualify you for earned college credit. Military personnel can use the GI Bill to pay for certain nationally approved tests.

Check to see if your college accepts transfer credits from national testing programs before you complete them. Some programs you might consider include:

• Advanced Placement;
• Berlitz Language Evaluation;
• College Level Examination Program (CLEP);
Dantes Subject Standardized Test (DSST);
• International Baccalaureate (IS);
• Coursera;
• And more!

Keep in mind that the better you understand your school's transfer policies, the more likely you'll be able to succeed in applying work or life experience toward your overall degree. Talk to your school today to see if you qualify for any non-traditional course credit.

Give yourself a running start when you head back to college. With quality work and life experiences to back you up, you could be further along in your degree program than you think.

Written by Ashford University staff.

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