Unfortunately, university and college transcripts don’t always reflect real life experience. If you have a lot of knowledge and practical experience in your field but no qualification to show for it, life experience credits may give you some of the recognition you deserve. Several distance learning programs review students’ real life experience and grant experience credits based on what students have learned outside of the classroom. Perhaps you’ve learned French from travelling abroad, had field-specific experiences in a business environment, or have designed websites for professional use. Instead of sitting through a class to learn what you’ve already mastered, requesting life experiences can save you time and money. By following these four steps, you’ll be on your way to getting some credit for your knowledge and accomplishments:
1. Find a distance learning program that considers life experience credits and is also properly accredited. Not all programs will consider your outside experience. Check with a school’s admissions or counseling office before enrolling in a school. Also, make sure that your school is properly accredited by the correct regional agency. Be wary of “diploma mill” type schools that solicit students by promising easy degrees done entirely, or mostly, through previous life experience. No legitimate university will award you a complete degree on the basis of life/work experience alone.
2. Contact your school’s guidance office to find out how to apply for credits. Most schools require students to complete a life experience application and turn in a portfolio of their work. You may also be asked to provide references, meet with school officials, or pass a test in the subject matter you are requesting credit for.
3. If your school requests a portfolio, collect all material that proves your experience. Materials will vary depending on what your experience has been but will include any documents that demonstrate your knowledge and skills. Possible materials may include:
• work samples
• awards you have received
• references of people who are familiar with your work
• multimedia (photographs, videos, etc.)
• newspaper / magazine clippings
• job descriptions
4. Organize and present your portfolio in a concise, convincing manner.Your college will explain the specifics about how the material should be presented, but make sure that your message comes across in the way your work is organized. Providing a list of included documents and the respective skills and knowledge that they prove, as well as suggested course equivalency, may help reviewers to understand your experience and target credits to specific courses.
Applying for life experience credits and organizing a portfolio may take quite a bit of time. But, when you compare it to the time you would have spent in class learning material that you’ve already mastered, you’ll be glad you took a few extra hours to get credit for what you already know.