When nontraditional students return to college, they bring a wealth of life skills with them. They may have served in the military, run their own businesses, worked in the arts, cared for children or dependent adults or performed various tasks in the workforce. These valuable life skills can be used to earn college credits.

Reasons Students Want Life Skills Credits

College is costly, and one of the biggest worries for adult students is how to pay for it. According to an April 2012 article in the Deseret News, paying for college is a major concern for 54 percent of adult learners. The time factor is also important for adults who are trying to balance school, work, family and other commitments. Managing time is a major concern for 50 percent of students, and 47 percent are very interested in programs that can be finished faster than normal. Earning credits for life experience can reduce the cost of college, as well as allowing the students to earn their degrees more quickly.

Experiences That Can Count as Credits

The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article in March 2010 that told the story of several people whose work experience successfully translated into college credits. Shelly Stam had worked for many years in retail and management, where she gained knowledge that was applicable to the degree she chose to pursue in organizational management at Empire State College, New York. Ron Heath ran an advertising and public relations firm for almost 30 years before pursuing a bachelor's degree, also at Empire State. Deseret News told the story of Gloria Wagner, a woman who had worked as an accountant for many years and wanted to earn a degree to increase her earning potential.

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How Students Showcase Their Experiences

In the Deseret News, Gloria Wagner wanted to earn life skills credit for the required class in accounting with a microcomputer -- a subject that she knew well due to her work experience -- so she submitted a 20-page report and had a supervisor write a letter vouching for her. Both Shelly Stam and Ron Heath submitted portfolios of their work to the faculty at Empire State College, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. In their portfolios, they described their work experiences, special projects and achievements; the faculty then reviewed the portfolios and awarded them credit hours for their work.

Evaluation and Earning Credits

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, some colleges are more stringent than others regarding their requirements for awarding credits for life experiences. They may require students to submit portfolios and letters from supervisors, and then discuss their experiences in front of faculty members who will evaluate their work and determine how many credits to award them. Students can also take standardized tests like the College Level Examination Program tests, which tests students' knowledge of subject matter. The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service helps people get college credit for courses and examinations they have completed through the workforce or military.

About the Author

Janet Clark has written professionally since 2001. She writes about education, careers, culture, parenting, gardening and social justice issues. Clark graduated from Buena Vista University with a degree in education. She has written two novels, "Blind Faith" and "Under the Influence." Clark has received several awards from the Iowa Press Women for her work.