Do You Qualify for Life Experience College Credits? – Have you ever heard of people getting college-level credits for their life experience, and wondered if the whole thing was just a big scam? Contrary to the suspicions of many, the process if completely legitimate and more difficult than it’s often portrayed in the media. Post-secondary educational institutions are quite strict about awarding credit hours for anything other than in-class or approved online study. If you want to add hours to your transcript any other way, be ready to jump through a few hoops and cut through a bit of red tape to get the job done.

But the effort is nearly always worth the trouble because school can be a pricey affair these days, so even getting six or nine additional credit hours for life or job experience is a financial windfall. And it’s not just about the money, either. You’ll save lots of time when you bypass the need to take specific, in-person classes. If you’re interested in making the most of what you’ve already learned, even if it wasn’t in a formal classroom setting, here’s how to proceed.

Arrange Financing for Your Degree

First things first, and that means financing. Getting your degree and paying for it are two separate challenges, but the paying part should come first. The smartest way to do that is to apply online for an educational loan through a private lender. Not only are there plenty of options when it comes to terms, rates, and repayment periods, but getting a private loan is the most efficient way to fit tuition cost in your budget, and that is what smart financing is all about.

Beware of Scammers and Super-High Fees

The world of internet-based education has its share of unsavory characters. That’s why it pays to be on the lookout for college credit deals that sound too good to be true. For example, when you search for CLEP and life credit programs, you’ll inevitably come across organizations that offer full four-year degrees, and even graduate diplomas, to anyone who applies and agrees to pay a rather massive processing fee.

These fly by night entities used to be called diploma mills, and they should be avoided like the plague. No legitimate college-level institution makes any such offer, and if you check out those processing fees, they’re typically in the range of $500 to $5,000. Yes, you’ll get a nice, framed diploma sent to you via overnight mail, but it is literally a worthless piece of paper.

Take Challenge Exams

Challenge exams are a way to assess what older adults know about a given list of subjects. Say you worked as a tax accountant for 15 years and decided to finish that university degree you began years ago. Many schools would ask you to take a challenge test in one of the many sub-categories of accounting. It’s a great way to show what you know and potentially earn a few hours of credit without having to take a formal course.

Take Challenge Exams

Build an Experience/Work Portfolio

If you want formal, credit hour recognition for your work, lifetime, or solo study efforts, you’ll have to build a portfolio that details what you’ve done. If you worked as a project manager on a major construction job, include documentation about your role and exactly what the work entailed. Likewise, perhaps you spent four years as a volunteer with a government aid organization, helping communities in impoverished areas set up local businesses and establish schools. If so, get written letters from former supervisors that explain what your daily responsibilities were.

Leverage Current Credentials and Licenses

Are you a certified public accountant, licensed plumber or electrician, massage therapist, or substance abuse counselor? If so, you almost certainly have a framed document on your wall that proves you earned that specific credential. Often, official licenses and professional certifications are worth several credits of college study.

Understand the Pros and Cons

It’s essential to understand the pros and cons of qualifying for life experience hours at the university level. Of course, the big plus is that you stand to save thousands of dollars. The downside is that it can take time, months even, to assemble a convincing portfolio for admissions officials. And even then, they might not grant you any hours, which can be disappointing, to say the least.

Know How CLEP Exams Work

The College Level Exam Program (CLEP) testing units have been a mainstay of the educational scene for decades. Nearly all accredited institutions, from two-year community colleges to major universities accept CLEP credit. The exams are challenging but the administrators offer short study guides that explain in detail what material is covered by each one. In all, there are five general exams worth six credits each, as well as 34 individual subject examinations in a wide variety of topics. Unless you’re in the military, each CLEP test will set you back about $90. A very popular way to use CLEP is to prepare for and take the five general units. If you pass all of them, most schools will award you 30 credit hours, the equivalent of an entire year of university study. That’s an incredible value for $450

Check School Limits on Credits

Be careful not to get too optimistic. Regardless of how talented and experienced you are, there are almost no post-secondary institutions that will award more than one-year of credit. You might be able to prove that you designed a skyscraper, invented a new kind of electric battery, or won first prize in a major art contest. You’ll still get no more than a year, or 30 hours, for all your hard work.

Be Careful with Graduate Schools

For various reasons, the majority of graduate programs have not taken to the transferable or life experience credit system at all. Be wary of any master’s program you come across that offers full course credits for on-the-job training coursework, CLEP-like exams, or international travel. Most, not all, are illegitimate and are out to make a huge profit off of unsuspecting college grads who are in search of valid post-graduate degrees.