Alternative College Credit


By speaking with the Registrar’s Office, you may find you have alternative college credit that can be applied to your current degree program (photo courtesy of Flickr_Rick).

With so many people enrolling in college courses and degree programs now-a-days, there is bound to be a significant number of students with experience both in and outside of their selected field of study. That being said, there are methods available to students to earn credit towards their degree program without actually taking required courses. Here are four examples of how this may be done, but always remember to check with your school’s Registrar for details.

1. Transfer Credit

When students transfer from one school to another, a transcript can be requested and evaluated by potential transfer credit; this works only with assistance from the student. First, students need to request a copy of their official transcript to be sent directly to the new school; there may be a fee for this document. Next, the Registrar at the new school will evaluate the transcript (and the previous school’s accreditation and catalog) to determine whether or not classes taken at the old school meet the requirements for coursework at the new one.

For example, if an A was earned for Composition and 3 semester credits given, this class may transfer into the new school if a Composition class is required in the degree program.

2. Challenge Exams

In some instances, transfer credit cannot be awarded for a variety of reasons:

  • Low grade earned – most schools won’t accept below a ‘C’ for transfer credit
  • Credits are not equivalent – 3 credits cannot be given for a class orginally worth only 1
  • Curriculum is not equivalent – courses must cover the same, or substantially similar, material
  • Accreditation is not acceptable – a recogonized accrediting body is essential in the evaluation process 

In such cases, students may be able to register and complete a challenge exam. These exams may be offered on campus through the school, or through an outside program such as the College Level Examination Program or DSST. These exams require a certain grade in order to award credit (which may vary based on subject area) and typically cost money to take.

3. Work Experience

Perhaps you do not have a significant academic background but you do have a lot of work experience. In some instances of substantial measure, students are awarded experience based on their professional experience. If this option is available through your school, be prepared to submit a complete professional portfolio for each class you believe you have enough work experience to substantiate the curriculum. Typical submissions by students include career certificate, professional portfolios, copies of presentations and training sessions that were administered by the student, etc.. Your school may also offer this option if:

  • Challenge exams are not offered in your area(s) of expertise
  • What you know represents applied knowledge, rather than textbook theory
  • You have products—such as artwork, certificates, business plans, articles, software, videos or written reports—which attest to your competency in selected subject areas.

4. Military Training

If you’ve been in the military in the last decade you probably have a transcript through the American Council on Education. Military credits may be applied to your academic file if courses satisfy the needs of the degree. The good news, however, is that school can actually use basic coursework, like boot camp or basic training, for elective credit.

Ashley Benson is a distance education professional with five years of experience in the for-profit sector. She has worked coast-to-coast within the United States as an academic advisor, an adjunct teaching assistant and, most recently, a campus Registrar. Through formal education and industry experience, Ashley practices staying informed on the current events and changes within higher education and the students involved.

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