Prior Learning Assessment allows students to earn college credit for learning gained through relevant work and life experience.
We all know there are some things you can learn only from experience. Even if you’ve read about a process in books or even observed it in action, there’s nothing quite like learning on the job to really understand how it works.
Education relies largely on teaching a base of knowledge and theories, with application typically woven in toward the end of your degree path. But what if you had the chance to take your real-world career experiences and apply what you already know directly to a degree program? It’s possible.
University of Phoenix’s Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) program allows students to submit past training, certifications and experience for evaluation toward college credits that can expedite their education. For 3 credits earned through PLA, an undergraduate student can graduate 5 weeks faster, with a savings of about $1,200. PLA credits end up saving working adult students two of the most precious commodities — time and money.
Ann Szychowicz, a 2019 graduate of UOPX’s undergraduate business program, was able to graduate early because of PLA credits. Szychowicz worked closely with her Student Services advisor to choose skills that aligned with her two decades of work experience prior to submitting her PLA application for consideration.
“For me, as someone who has over 20 years of diverse work experience and was struggling financially, it was a good fit,” Szychowicz said. “I could write, which was on my own timeline, and I saved money because I had to complete fewer classes to graduate.”.”
Szychowicz noted that the process is rigorous, as it is intended to prove proficiency that an entire course would provide, but she also encouraged students with a strong work or volunteer background to pursue PLA, saying it is worth it in the end.
What to know about PLA credit?
So, what exactly are we talking about here? PLA credits are earned for learning that took place outside of the traditional school or classroom environment. Students looking to take advantage of UOPX’s PLA program are undergraduate students
As was mentioned, PLA credits can expedite a degree path and save money. When you’re a working adult student, this is a tremendous benefit. It’s like a gift of time and resources.
“For me, as someone who has over 20 years of diverse work experience and was struggling financially, Prior Learning Assessment was a good fit.”
— Ann Szychowicz, (BSB, ’19)
How to Take Advantage of PLA
Nathan Cicchillo, director of admissions and evaluation for PLA, international and college articulation at University of Phoenix, notes the three ways students may demonstrate knowledge and proficiency through PLA:
- Portfolio – Students submit proof of corporate training, licenses, certifications, vocational coursework and other credentials for review. Credit could be awarded and applied directly to a student’s degree plan if the credential upholds the rigor, content and time associated with a college-level course. Examples of Portfolio credits include licensing in sectors such as real estate, insurance, piloting, corporate training, industry certifications or other college coursework.
- Experiential Essays – Students write on previously approved topics aligning with their life experience, demonstrating the learning that was achieved. Students work directly with their Student Services advisor to identify topics that may be applicable to their degree program prior to choosing a topic. Examples of Experiential Essay topics include communication in management, weight management, and/or parenting. Students are provided a template for journal structure and then write on six sub-topics that outline and describe the learning and education they acquired during the experience.
- Required Course of Study waivers (RCOS) – Students may apply for a PLA course waiver by using industry licenses and certificates that directly align to a course in the required course of study. Students would coordinate with their Student Services advisor to work through the waiver process. Examples of RCOS credit include Adobe, Microsoft and project management certifications, as well as police academy training.
How to Apply for PLA
You’ll start by filling out the PLA application on the UOPX website. If you aren’t sure whether your previous experiences, jobs or certifications may qualify for PLA credit, you can find opportunities linked to past training for credit, topics linked to the writing option and current tests and providers on the PLA landing page.
Current UOPX student Beth Mann, who is working toward her bachelor’s degree in business management, offers words of encouragement to students considering PLA. The process is rigorous, she said, but it’s worth it in the end. She suggests staying organized during the application process using spreadsheets to align certificates and experiences with specific courses and credit hours.
“Do it,” Mann encourages. “This process is well worth the initial work.”