Get Community College Credit for What You Already Know (page 4)
Once you're admitted to a college, see what options there are for receiving credit for prior knowledge and learning experiences, especially if you're an adult learner. Standards are high, so it's not a breeze to get credit this way, but you could save some time and money.
In addition to taking community college courses while in high school, there are several other ways to turn knowledge and experience gained through formal and informal means"such as on-the-job training, independent study, or life experience"into a head start on your college degree or certificate. Normally, you will need to be admitted to the college before pursuing this type of credit. Common methods include:
- Credit earned in high school
- Credit by examination or certification
- Credit for nontraditional programs or life experience
- Credit by transfer
Some colleges allow you to earn credit; others may not award credit but allow you to bypass or waive certain introductory courses, or advance to another level of coursework. Because
college policies and standards differ, be sure to check with the office of admissions or registrar about what options are available to you. Usually, the college catalog will have the policies listed under a heading such as "Advanced Standing" or "Credit-by-Examination."
Credits Earned Through Examination or Certification
Some common ways that you can earn credit by examination are:
- Advanced Placement (AP) examinations. If you've recently taken Advancement Placement courses and examinations in high school or through independent study, your prospective community college may award you credits in certain subject areas, depending on your exam scores and their policy.
- College-Level Examination Program (CLEP). Taking CLEP exams, which test for material covered in introductory college courses, are a common way to earn credit by exam. You may have acquired the knowledge through self-study, your job or life experience, home schooling, advanced courses in high school, or many other ways.
Credits for Nontraditional Programs and Life Experience
You'll be surprised to find how your life and work experience can count for college credit. You'll spend some time to document your experiences, but it may help you get a head start.
- Workplace Training. Training that you have received in the workplace and through military service courses, computer certification coursework, or through various academies
recognized by your community college, such as a police and corrections academy or a federal government training
center, may also allow you to qualify for credit, advanced standing, or a waiver of certain requirements.
- Portfolio Evaluation Program. Your life or work experience may earn you college credit at some community colleges through a portfolio evaluation.
A portfolio is a written record of specific experience, accomplishments, knowledge, and documentation of learning related to the courses for which you would like credit or the degree you want to pursue.
Typical elements of a portfolio include a life history essay; a statement about your short- and long-term goals; a discussion of major accomplishments and supporting documentation such as a performance evaluation from work, transcripts, and samples of work; and a narrative about your learning experience and how it relates to the core learning outcomes of the course(s) for which you are seeking credit.
Faculty members in specific subject areas then evaluate the portfolio for credit.
Creating a portfolio is not easy! Many community colleges will require you to take a Portfolio Development course to help guide you through the process.
- International Baccalaureate. The Swiss-based International Baccalaureate Organization, a nonprofit educational foundation, offers a curriculum and diploma recognized by colleges and universities worldwide. Check with your prospective
community college to see if they offer credit for this exam-based diploma or coursework taken through this program.
Credit by Transfer
If you've earned college credit at another educational institution, be sure to speak to a transfer counselor about whether or not your credits will count at your community college. You already paid for them elsewhere, so it's worth seeing if you can get credit at your new institution.
Transfer credit for vocational/technical coursework may be accepted by your college, but it's more the exception than the rule, and may also have time limitations.
Community colleges will also consider credit for military service school courses and skills, so be sure to check on your college's policy if you're a veteran or an active-duty service member.
TIP: An official transcript is required to ensure authenticity. That means one that has the seal of the institution and the signature of an official from that institution. Usually, a transcript is acceptable only if sent directly from the transferring institution to your community college.
If you are a foreign-born student or have taken college-level coursework overseas, you'll need to have your courses evaluated by an outside evaluation firm to see if the credits will transfer to your new college. See the end of the chapter for information on this type of service.
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