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Prior Learning Credit

Credit for Learning Experiences Outside of College

MCLA recognizes that significant learning occurs outside the formal academic experience in work and home settings, through community activities, military service, or in individual reading and study.  Students may receive credit for such experiences through a number of programs that are detailed below.  CSSE/Advising can assist students in determining which option would be best suited to awarding credit for their experiences.  Individuals interested in seeking credit for learning experiences outside of college must begin the process by contacting CSSE/Advising at 413-662-5400 or  It is important to note that credits awarded through AP, IB, CLEP and Prior Learning are not included in the 45 credits that must be taken at MCLA to earn a degree from the college.

Standardized Tests - Academic credit will be awarded for students achieving certain standards on the following assessments:

Advanced Placement (AP) Program, sponsored by the College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB), offers students the opportunity to earn college credits.  The standardized AP exam is usually taken upon completion of a specific course of study in high school.  An AP score of 3 or higher is required to receive credit.  An official copy of the CEEB report should be sent to MCLA Office of Admission for evaluation.

International Baccalaureate (IB) Program, offered through a number of high schools, offers pre-university courses in a variety of subject areas.  Students must earn a score of 4 or higher for MCLA to award IB credit.  An official copy of the IB score report should be sent to the MCLA Office of Admission for evaluation.

College Level Examination Program (CLEP), also sponsored by the CEEB, provides standardized tests across a diverse array of college-level courses.  For each CLEP examination that awards 3 or 6 credits, MCLA requires a minimum score of 50, representing the mean test score of students who earn a C in the corresponding college level course.  For students seking 12 credits in foreign language, the following scores are required.  French 62, German 63, Spanish 66.  CSSE/Advising maintains a list of the MCLA course equivalents (core and departmental) for many of the CLEP exams.

Steps in Prior Learning Process

~ Student meets with CSSE/Advising for an interview to explore potential creditable experiences.

~ Student submits a 2-3 page summary essay to CSSE/Advising.

~ CSSE/Advising determines if student must enroll in English 395.

~ CSSE/Advising makes preliminary identification of courses and mails likely syllabi to student.

~ Student meets with appropriate department chairs, as needed, to discuss experiences and documentation and identify specific courses.

~ Student enrolls in ENGL 395: Experiential Credit Portfolio Preparation and Writing.  Enrollment in ENGL 395 and submission of a completed portfolio does not guarantee credit will be awarded.

MCLA recognizes that significant learning occurs outside the formal academic experience in work and home settings, through community activities, military service, or in individual reading and study.  Students can earn up to 30 credits for learning experiences outside of college.  To apply for these credits, students develop a portfolio documenting life experiences (work, community, military service, etc.).  The content of the portfolio must be consistent with the educational goals and outcomes of specific courses or general areas of study.

A meeting with CSSE/Advising is held to discuss the nature and extent of the experiential learning for which credit is sought.  The student then submits a 2-3 page summary of his/her experiences to CSSE/Advising for an initial evaluation.  Students should later meet with appropriate chairs, particularly when seeking substantial credits in a single academic area.

The prior learning process involves the completion of a portfolio, including a reflective narrative that describes the experience and the learning that took place.  Appropriate documentation is required to support the student's explanation of the overall value of the experience as well as specific skills, abilities and knowledge that were gained.  Students seeking prior learning credit must also enroll in MCLA's Experiential Credit Portfolio Preparation and Writing (ENGL 395) course to receive additional support and assistance with the process.  The ENGL 395 requirement may be waived by CSSE/Advising based on factors such as demonstrated writing proficiency, the nature of the portfolio's content, and/or the number of credits being sought.

The completed portfolio is submitted to CSSE/Advising along with the APPLICATION SHEET.  CSSE/Advising transmits the portfolio to the appropriate academic department(s) for faculty review by the department chair(s) or his/her designee(s).  Evaluators make a recommendation of the number and distribution of credits awarded.  These recommendations are reviewed by CSSE/Advising and then transmitted to the Dean of Academic Affairs, who makes the final decision.



How do I get credit for Physical Education experiences?

Students seeking credits for 1 or 2 physical education experiences (e.g., First Aid/CPR and lifeguard certifications, individual physical wellness activities) that occur outside of MCLA should submit a completed application along with appropriate documentation to CSSE/Advising Services for review and approval by the Physical Education department.  There is a $25 administrative fee for this service.

Will the credit appear on my transcript?

Yes.  All credits granted for Prior Learning Experience will be equated to MCLA courses and will appear on your official transcript.

Do these credits count toward my residency requirement?

No.  Prior Learning credits do not count toward the residency requirement of forty-five credits at MCLA.

Must I be matriculated to MCLA to receive prior learning credit?

Yes.  In order to participate you must be matriculated (admitted and enrolled in a degree program) at MCLA.

When should I begin the prior learning process?

You should begin in your first or second semester at MCLA.  The longer you wait, the greater the chance that you could enroll in a course for which you might have received credit through Prior Learning.  To prevent this, you should look into the process early in your college career.

Is credit available to me outside of my major?

Yes.  Prior Learning credit may be granted for learning experiences of all kinds, not just those in your major.

What is the cost for prior learning credit?

For every credit awarded a $100 fee is assessed prior to posting the credits to your academic transcript.

How do I get started?

To begin the process, please contact CSSE/Advising to set up a meeting to learn what initial steps need to be taken.