Life Experience College Credit Essays

because what you've done in life matters

We respect what you bring to the table. The experiences you have had, and the knowledge, skills and wisdom you have gained over the years matter and are worthy of up to 105 academic credits. Of the 105 credits you have the opportunity to bring in or earn for your prior coursework, prior learning, and work & life experience, up to 75 can be transfer credits and up to 30 can be UMass Amherst residency credits.  75 + 30 = 105. The best part? Earning credit this way saves you time and money. 

the details

prior coursework
UMass Amherst has a generous transfer credit policy. Learn more about what prior coursework is likely to transfer in.

professional or military trainings and certifications
In your first semester as a UWW student your advisor will ask you to dig up and put together documentation of any professional or military trainings and certifications you have that are directly related to what you're studying. The best part is the credits you are able to earn this way help fulfill your degree concentration. Even better? There is no per-credit cost for the transfer credits you earn this way which can mean huge savings for you- savings of time and money.

credit evaluations & exams
There are a number of organizations that offer credit by examination or conduct official evaluations of professional trainings. Learn more about credit evaluations and exams.

credit for basic training
All U.S. veterans and active duty service members receive 3-4 credits for completing basic training. Learn more about our support for military families.

In your second semester as a UWW student you will write a portfolio of essays about what you have learned through your life and work experiences. This portfolio is then evaluated for academic credit.  You will be eligible to receive up to 30 credits towards your degree, with the average student earning 15 credits. And the credits you earn this way are counted as residency credits (UMass Amherst credits) and not transfer credits, making it easier for you to fulfill the university's degree requirements. Even better, the cost of these credits are about 1/5 the cost of course credits. Learn more about cost savings from writing a portfolio.

Northwestern Prior Learning Assessment

NCU Prior Learning Assessment

"Your PLA Portfolio"

Not required for Master's and Doctorate Degrees

   Project Time Requirement: 1-2 weeks maximum   *For bachelor degree credit

*Do Not Complete Your NCU / PLA Assessment Until After Enrollment.


*Following enrollment, NCU staff will provide a FREE assessment of your prior life learning experience based on PLA completion using the following assessment guide. This FREE service is provided as an added benefit to all applicants who enroll within the 14-day enrollment period. There is a $500 fee for this assessment service for applicants who enroll beyond the 14-day enrollment period. *Earn up to 72-Credits by PLA assessment toward your NCU bachelor degree program now!

Today most colleges and universities are providing the great benefit of PLA: Prior Learning Assessment, for their more experienced students, to translate lifetime learning experience into credits to be legitimately applied to degree programs. This translates into huge savings in both time and educational expense. NCU is also providing this great benefit to all qualified students.


 NCU Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Outline For Preparation of Your NCU/PLA Portfolio:


    Gather all life/ educational documentation in the form of degrees, certificates, diplomas, award letters, Military DD-214, Citations, Job descriptions, Promotions, News articles, college / university transcripts, if available, for credit recognition. Credit hours from courses on your transcripts will be counted separately. In addition to course credits earned at other colleges and universities, your PLA assessment by life experience essay and documentation summary, will be recognized in your total prior learning assessment credit count.. Credits earned by PLA assessment are used in combination with your transfer college/ university credits as total credits. One essay including documentation summary, provides details for 3 credits of education related life experience. *24 essays equal (24) 1-3-credit hour courses and will provide 24-72 credits.  *1-3 credits may be awarded for an essay based on detailed content and summary of documentation. * 20 essays can provide for 20-60 PLA credits etc, The PLA credit award is not for the essay, but for the value of the life experience expressed in the essay and supported by your documentation summary which is included as a conclusion to then essay.

Documentation Summary as conclusion to each essay:     A documentation summary is written at the conclusion of each essay to review any supporting evidence for the experience described in the essay. Certificates, awards, letters of recognitions etc should be mentioned. *Your Christian word of honor will be acceptable for description of documentationwhen physical copies are not available for placement in the final documentation section of the PLA portfolio, which follows the essay section. However, transcripts showing your prior college or university course credits, must be provided. However, prior college or university education is not a mandatory requirement.

70 credit hours may be fulfilled by PLA essays and prior education supported transcripts. (In ANY combination)*If you have  70 or more prior education related credits as supported by transcripts, then the PLA will be waived and not needed.

*If you do not have college transcript related transfer credit, it can be made up by PLA essays and additional NCU course assignments.

* Some students will exceed the 120 Credit hours required for a bachelor degree, if more than 75 credits are supported by transcripts.

* If any of the 5 core courses have been taken elsewhere and can be supported by transcripts, then those specific core courses will be waived form the 5-core coiurse requirement.

* Core courses are mandatory unless fulfilled elsewhere. The thesis is also mandatory.

90-Day Accelerated NCU bachelor Program:

Credit fulfillment example For a 120 Credit Bachelor degree

5-core courses from NCU        15 Credits

2 Major Courses                    10 Credits

Bachelors Thesis                   25 Credits

PLA Essay Credit                   40 Credits

*Transfer Transcript Credits    30 Credits * Not Required

Total Credits                      120 Credits  Fulfills Requirement

*Any lack of credit can be fulfilled by completing additional course assignments or PLA essays provided by NCU.

Master's and Doctorate Requirements:

A PLA assessment is not required for the 90-day master's and doctoral programs, which are completed by NCU course work, directly related to the major, along with a thesis or dissertation..

DOCUMENTATION  (Christian word of honor policy)

All essays must be supported by a documentation summary which is written as the conclusion to each essay. This is an important part of your essay as it validates your life/educational experience by listing names of people associated with your experience such as instructors, teachers, fellow students, bosses, supervisors, fellow employees as well as the addresses where experience occurred along with dates and any other pertinent information. * Whenever possible, any supporting college and university transcripts, and all diplomas, certifications, Military DD-214, citations, licenses, newspaper articles, photographic evidence, letters of recognition or recommendation etc. should be scanned and added to your PLA portfolio following your essay section.

Begin by listing as follows to determine what areas of your life and educational experience will be best for the writing of your 1-page descriptive essay/report. When determining which subjects/ topics will be selected for your essay/reports, you should select only those topics or subjects of life experience for which you can provide adequate documentation.

   1. List all employment positions, job title, job description, dates and places of employment. Write essays for each job describing all aspects of your responsibilities. Provide address of job, supervisors and dates of employment

   2. Have you started or operated businesses that you owned? Describe every aspect and provide documentation

   3. Have you written books, articles, poetry, done painting, sculpture, composed music?  Provide documentation

       4. List all seminar and workshop training you have attended also include diplomas and certificates if awarded. Provide documentation

       5. List all certifications that you have earned for other learning or performance related activities. Provide Documentation

       6. List any work training, technical, computer or skill training that you have attended.  Provide documentation

       7. List public speaking events you have performed. Provide documentation

       8. Consider any church services that you presided over as a preacher or teacher. Provide documentation    

       9. Have you served as a department head at work or church?       Provide documentation

      10. Do you have experience in business management, planning, advertising, marketing, secretarial services, accounting or book keeping etc? Provide documentation

       11. List military training and experience  Provide documentation

       12. List all citations, awards and commendations not already mentioned   Provide documentation

       13. Have you been active in recruiting or training volunteers or work staff?  Provide Documentation

       14. Have you been active in community service? Provide documentation

       15. List any areas that show your abilities and skills. Provide documentation 

       Now use this data to write descriptive reports/essays on any listed item and also provide a documentation summary as part of the essay.  Each of the 15 numbered statements (above) reveal numerous suggestions to provide incentive for your mind to remember perhaps 20-30 areas for which you can list descriptions of your experience in the form of a short one page essay or report..

     Just 24 or more short (1-2 page) descriptive essays describing each result from the suggestions above will provide from 24-72 credits toward your degree program. Just write an essay for every job position, volunteer position, award, certificate, military or non military training experience, seminar attended, non traditional education certificates, diploma, degree etc. more essays equal more credit.

    You will receive 1-3 credits for the life/ educational experience described in each essay which includes your documentation summary. *Documentation enhances the quality and credit value of your essays

    You should also try to provide any physical documentation to support your experience, in the form of verification letters or actual certificates, diplomas etc. For example if military, it will be supported by your DD-214 form. *Hand written letters from former employers, employees, or training participants are acceptable as documentation for descriptive essays. All essays are to be scanned as a Microsoft Word document for processing into a PDF file..  * Physical evidence in the form of scanned documentation form  third parties along with certificates etc, is not mandatory but does enhance the value of your PLA. Prior college and university transcripts if available are required for students seeking to transfer existing educational credits.

 Preparing your PLA: Prior Learning Assessment Portfolio

   * 4-parts: Title Page, Table of Contents, Essays with documentation summary, and finally any Supporting Documents; certificates, letters etc. if available

    Create 2-Microsoft Word docs. for your Title page and also your Table of Contents:

A. Title Page: PLA: Prior Learning Assessment Portfolio

Then below the title, enter the following:

Your name

Your e-mail address

Your home address

Current date of Submission

B. Table of Contents:    (Partial Example)

Page One:   Essay concerning my position as Sunday school teacher

Page One A:   Documentation Summary

Page Two:  Essay concerning my position as an Army Medic

Page Two A:    Documentation Summary with a copy of Military DD214 form included at the back of the portfolio following the essay section.

Page Three:  Essay on my position as a sales manager

Page Three A:  Documentation Summary

Page Four:  Essay on my training in hypnotherapy

Page Four A:  Documentation Summary and copy of:  hypnotherapist certificate included at the back of the portfolio following the essay section.

      C. Essay Section:

    When you write each short descriptive report / essay (1-2 pages) describing your experience and performance, be sure to put your last name at the top of the page followed by the subject of the essay. Do this for each essay. Then write your descriptive essay/ report followed by a documentation summary as part of the essay.

·         Hint; For your first essays, just locate all supporting certificates and awards noting life accomplishments or training classes or seminar attendance etc. then write a report/ short essay for all certificates, awards, diplomas, degrees, commendations, citations etc.) The certificate is  your documentation for the essay which is included at the pack of the portfolio following the essay section.. Your essays should be detailed and informative, listing all names, dates, locations etc. *Save all essays to a folder on your desktop titled PLA Essays. Create each as a Microsoft WORD doc. only. *Later these docs. will be converted to PDF and become an important part of your PLA Portfolio


      D. Supporting Documents

        Gather all supporting documentation (transcripts, degrees, certificates, diplomas, letters of support/ recommendation etc.) and scan each document and save to a folder on your desk top titled: PLA Documents. *Save each document as a Microsoft Word document only.

           Your organized folders including 1)Title page,           2)Table of Contents, 3) essays with documentation summaries and 4) scanned documentation; letters of recognition, certificates, diplomas, award letters etc., *when combined into a PDF file, this becomes your "PLA portfolio". Be sure to save a personal copy.

      Now compile your Title page, Table of Contents, and arrange your Essays with documentation summaries and finally your Supporting Documents in the form of certificates, letters, photos etc. Finally: Process it in order, as a PDF file.. Then name your PDF file:  Example: "PLA Portfolio" of Jim J. James

    Then send your PDF portfolio by e-mail attachment to:

Enter this subject line on your e-mail:PLA Portfolio

*We will confirm receiving your portfolio within 72-hours.

    Your assessment will be graded Pass / Fail within 7-10 business days and you will be informed by e-mail of your approved credits which may be applied to your NCU degree program immediately.

* Note:  It is a simple process to save files to folders and then to arrange into a PDF file for your PLA Portfolio.  However, if you are not computer savvy, just ask a friend or family member to assist you.

Congratulations on your progress toward your degree.


"Study to show yourself approved, a workman who need not be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of Truth" (II Timothy 2:15)  *paraphrase

(c) Copyright all rights reserved to Northwestern Christian University 2006                           You may not publish this document without the express consent of NCU.

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