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DoD to Help You Turn Experience Into College Credit

The Defense Department is adding a new facet to the their Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) program that aims to help you turn life experiences into college credit: portfolio credit for stuff you already know.

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It goes like this -- working with a SECO counselor through their hotline, you figure out what experience you have that may be college credit worthy. Then you locate a college or university (there are over 110 of them) that will accept it -- even better if it's the school you're already attending, plan to get your degree through or allows transfers of these types of credits. Next you work with the school to submit what is known as a "portfolio" or "prior learning assessment." They evaluate it, and if it proves that you have experience equal to what you would've learned in a basic class they offer on the subject, they'll give you the credit.

Pretty cool, huh?

You can read all the details of the nitty gritty of the program over here in my Military.com story.

It's worth noting that the portfolio process itself was not DoD's idea and isn't the pilot program. Prior learning assessements themsevles have been around for a long time. I used it to earn three college credits for a basic "interpersonal communications" course back in 2003. The DoD program is just the part where the SECO counselors are trained to help you identify potential areas for credit.

Like I talk about in my article, this could be a major cost saver. Here is an example from the story.

 

So how do you put together a portfolio? From my own experience -- it goes like this:

Looking at the description for the class you are trying to pass via portfolio, you sit down and write what is basically a huge paper on why you already know all of those things. You document your experience and submit evidence that supports it. So, for example, if I was going to attempt to submit a portfolio for a basic news writing, I would write about my internships, work history and non-college classes and courses I've done. I would submit blog posts and every news article I've done that I could get my hands on. I would ask my employers to write letters of recommendation confirming that I've done what I've said I've done. I might even submit invoices showing I've been paid for it.

The really neat thing about portfolios is that they can be used to round-up and earn credit for volunteer experience. And since 68 percent of respondents to a recently released Blue Star Families military lifestyle survey said they have volunteered in the last year, we know the experience is out there.

DoD officials say the best portfolio candidates have between five and 10 years of experience in a field.

So say, for example, you want to go back to school for some kind of basic business degree, and one of the courses covers volunteer management. If you were the leader of an FRG, you probably already know all of that stuff. You would write about your experience, the various events you organized, the roster that made you want to shoot someone, and the volunteers you kept track of. You would submit documents showing the hours you logged, the events your organized and that horrifying roster. Maybe you would track down some of the commanders you worked with for letters of recommendation. You could include volunteer awards and all that other stuff that feels pretty pointless when you originally got it.

You would submit all of that to the college you plan to use. And if they decided it measured up to their course description, they would hand you your credits. Just like that.

Interested? Give SECO a call at 800-342-9647 about this starting Aug. 22.

 

Photo courtesy of Texas A&M University under the Creative Commons license.

 

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