By Jennifer Wegerer
If you’re a working adult who wants to return to school to finish your degree, you don’t have to start from scratch. More online colleges are offering a life experience degree or credit for life experience than ever before which can put you on the fast track for finishing your bachelor’s degree.
For working adults who have ample experience in a specific area, life experience credits can significantly reduce the time and money it takes to earn a degree through traditional methods. If you started a program at another point in life but circumstances altered your direction, life experience credits may be invaluable in helping you finish your degree. You’ll get a good return on your investment; bachelor’s degree-holders earn twice as much as those with only a high school diploma.
Here’s how you can apply life experience credits toward an undergraduate degree which will help to save you time and money and quickly increase your earning potential.
The Nitty Gritty on a Life Experience Degree
1. Assessing Prior Learning
Typically, the college you apply to will require a copy of your transcripts and a portfolio that includes a written description and samples of your prior experience. The school evaluates your transcripts and experience and helps you design a plan to earn a college degree. Your plan may involve taking a series of exams to verify your prior learning, along with additional course work.
2. What Counts Toward Prior Learning
If colleagues consider you the “expert” in your field or if you’ve mastered a craft through years of self-study, you may be able to translate that extensive knowledge and experience into credits towards a valuable college degree. Knowledge may come from work experience, military service, prior college work, professional development courses or certificates, community and volunteer services or travel.
3. Costs and Fees
Keep in mind that different colleges have different policies regarding life experience credit, and some may require a fee to assess your prior learning. Some schools charge a per credit fee like those for regular course credit; however, a life experience credit costs less. Before you apply, carefully research your college's life experience degree program to discern its costs and the process you must follow to receive credits for your experience.
4. Choose Accredited Schools Only
Look for accredited online schools that suit your academic goals, career objectives, schedule and budget. Unfortunately, not all schools offer credible life experience degrees, so if this is something that could be applicable to your education, examine your college choices thoroughly.