There are ways to earn college credit for things you already know. Most Tennessee colleges and universities offer this type of credit – they may call it experiential learning credit (ELC) or prior learning assessment (PLA) or credit for life experience. We call it TimewiseTN – ask for it at your college!
Quite a lot has happened in your life since you finished high school. You have gained a lot of experience at work, in the military, or in volunteer positions. This knowledge may mean that you do not need to start from scratch. TimewiseTN can save you from taking courses in subjects that you already understand. If you earn college credit through TimewiseTN, you can get your degree more quickly and at a lower cost.
You could get your degree faster
You can earn credit with TimewiseTN much faster than even the most accelerated college courses. For example, your college may award credit for military or work training without you needing to take any additional steps. There are also hundreds of exams you can take to show proficiency in a subject area. This means that you can take a 1-3 hour exam, and be awarded up to 12 credit hours at once. It could take a semester or more to earn those credits in a traditional college classroom.
You could spend less on tuition
PLA is not free credit. However, nearly all colleges and universities in Tennessee award PLA credit below the cost of full tuition. This means, for example, that you could pay $80 for a CLEP examination and earn 3 credit hours. It could cost you $500 or more to earn the same credits in a traditional classroom.
How does TimewiseTN work?
Getting credit for what you already know depends on two things: 1) whether you can demonstrate that your knowledge (from work, hobbies, volunteering, and other sources) is equal to what you could learn in a college classroom, and 2) whether your college or university has a program like TimewiseTN to help you do that.
Does that sound hard? It doesn’t have to be. But there are a couple of things you need to know, and questions to ask your college.
What you should know about TimewiseTN
Your experience must be relevant
Your knowledge must be relevant to your proposed degree. You may not be able to get credit for your knowledge of computers for a degree in music; however, there are many options for what past learning you can demonstrate and how you can demonstrate it.
You must prove your experience resulted in college-level learning
TimewiseTN does not give you automatic credit for past experiences - you cannot simply turn in a resume or work history and receive credit. Usually students must demonstrate that past experiences resulted in college level learning, and there are a variety of options to help you do this. The faculty and staff at colleges and universities will help you determine if your knowledge is college level.
You have options
There are many options for earning credit through TimewiseTN, like taking exams, evaluated corporate or military training, or creating a portfolio that demonstrates your knowledge outside of college classes. Explore types of credit from prior learning here.
Questions you need to ask at your college or university
Do you offer TimewiseTN credit?
Most Tennessee colleges do offer credit for learning that occurs outside the classroom. They may call it Prior Learning Assessment, Experiential Learning Credit, or Credit for Prior Learning. We’ve made it easier by calling it TimewiseTN, but be aware you may need to ask for it by the other names listed above.
Each college that offers TimewiseTN credit may offer different types of credit, or accept different scores on exams for credit. Make sure you know the institution’s requirements and acceptable forms of credit first.
Who can I contact for more information?
Most Tennessee colleges and universities have a contact who can answer specific questions about the requirements and offerings at that institution. Check the TimewiseTN Contacts page for more information.
How will these credits apply to my degree plan?
If you are a returning student, it is very important that you have a formal degree audit performed by your institution first. The degree audit will show you what specific courses are required to finish your degree. Then you can ask your institution which of those course credits can be fulfilled using TimewiseTN credit. If you’re going to college for the first time, you also need to ask what credits you can complete by using TimewiseTN credit. Depending on the institution, the TimewiseTN credits may be used to fulfill general education, prerequisite, major, minor or elective requirements. If you have already taken a CLEP or Advanced Placement (AP) exam and would like to know which institutions will accept it and for what courses, click here.
How much does it cost?
Costs vary by institutions and by type of credit (exams, credit recommendations for past training, or portfolios). However, in all cases, TimewiseTN credit is a fraction of the cost of tuition for a course. Check with your TimewiseTN contact for more details.
What are my next steps?
- First, contact your college or university TimewiseTN contact to find out what forms of TimewiseTN credit they accept, along with the requirements and the cost.
- Second, if you already have some college credit from classes you’ve taken in the past, ask for a degree audit, find out what courses you’re lacking and which ones you can fulfill with TimewiseTN credit.