Are you a military member who would like to earn your college degree? Are you wondering if there is a way to translate the skills and training learned during your time in the military into college credit?
Fortunately, there are several options available to those who desire to further their college education after serving in our nation’s armed forces. We’ve gathered this information here to help you avoid common problems freshmen face in college and to take the next step in your educational journey!
Our nation relies on its service members and veterans to protect and serve the country. Many of these service members participate in advanced military training or leadership development courses throughout their years with the armed forces.
To support our veterans in advancing their education after their military service, accredited universities throughout the country recognize the effort and skills gained from this experience. They do this by offering a variety of ways to earn college credit for undergraduate degrees.
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In the information below, we will cover three standard ways that you may be able to earn college credit for your military experience.
It is important to note that every college has its own unique policies for transferring credits and advanced placement. Speaking with an academic advisor at your chosen school can help you ensure that its policies align with your educational and career goals.
Opportunities to Turn Military Experience into College Credit
Earning credit for your military experience can be very helpful in your pursuit of advanced education. Not only will you have the opportunity to potentially accelerate the timeframe of your degree program, but you may also save a substantial amount on tuition costs!
When choosing one of the options below to receive credit for your military training, it’s important to keep in mind that there are no standard requirements for what a college has to accept.
While many schools are willing to work with students in this regard, their individual policies will ultimately be the deciding factor on how your military experience will play into your placement in a degree program.
Joint Services Transcript
The most popular way of requesting college credit for military experience is through the submission of a Joint Services Transcript (JST).
This document is accepted at over 2,000 institutions across the country and is used to validate a service member’s military experience in accordance with the American Council on Education (ACE) recommendations.
When it comes to earning credits for life experience, the ACE is the standard that most accredited universities use to determine what can be applied to a degree program.
The ACE has collaborated with the Department of Defense since the 1950s to review JST submissions of service members and help ensure that military personnel can receive credit for their training. It is still up to the individual school to make the final decision on which credit recommendations are accepted, though.
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How do you submit a JST to your school?
The process is fairly straightforward and simple. If you are a member of the Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, or Navy, you can access your JST by visiting the JST website. If you served with the Air Force, you can receive your JST by contacting the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF).
From there, you can work with your academic advisor to officially submit your transcript to the school for credit consideration.
While the JST is an excellent start to earning college credit for your degree program, you still have to be aware of the fine print in your college’s policies. Some schools only allow credit based on ACE recommendations to apply to general elective credits—not to specific degree requirements.
Credits by Exam
If you do not receive the college credit that you hoped for with the JST, there are still other options to earn advanced placement in your degree program. Thousands of accredited schools across the country accept successfully completed examinations as a way to “test out” of specific college courses.
There are several recognized exams available that you may take in an attempt to earn college credit for your experience and prior knowledge, including the following.
- College Examination Program (CLEP): The CLEP exam is the most widely accepted test for college credit by examination and is recognized by over 2,900 colleges and universities in the country. With 33 different examinations offered, passing a CLEP exam can help you earn credit that can be applied to a wide range of degree programs.
- DSST Program: Recognized by over 1,900 higher education institutions, the DSST exam is often an excellent choice for military members seeking to earn college credit for their life experience. This exam was originally designed to support those who served in the military, and it is fully funded to offer free, first-attempt examinations for eligible service members.
- Excelsior College Examinations (ECE): Although not as widely accepted as the DSST and CLEP, this examination program offers 50 different tests covering a broad range of subjects. Due to the nature of the ECE exam, it is essential to check with your individual school to see if they accept credits earned through this program.
The credit by examination program is a useful tool for military members to receive credit for experiences that may not appear on a JST or school transcripts.
While some schools have restrictions on the type of courses that are eligible for credit by examination, other colleges may offer up to 60 credits earned through the successful passing of these exams.
Submitting a Portfolio PLA
While the JST and credit by examination are the most time-effective ways of applying for credit for your military experience, service members can also attempt to present a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) portfolio.
A PLA portfolio gives you the opportunity to showcase the skillsets and knowledge you’ve gained through your military experience. Many schools across the country offer this option to students looking to earn advanced placement in their degree programs.
It is typically required that you are already enrolled as a student at the university before submitting a PLA. It is also important to note that the majority of institutions only accept portfolio submissions for undergraduate credit consideration.
The process of submitting a portfolio can be lengthy and may require:
- Meetings with an academic advisor or counselor
- Completion of PLA preparation courses
- Successful completion of any prerequisite university course requirements
- Development of a professional portfolio for submission
- College evaluation processes, including interviews and submission of additional documentation
The goal of a portfolio is to demonstrate to the traditional or online college you’ve chosen that your prior military experience has taught you the essential skills covered in the college courses you’d like credit for.
You can use a variety of documentation to build your portfolio, including military certification and leadership training, honors and awards, and experiential learning essays.
Serving our country through the military offers students the unique opportunity to acquire skills that can greatly benefit them in their future careers. By the above methods, you have the opportunity to turn this valuable training into college credit that can be applied to a professional degree program.
Regardless of the major you wish to study in college, it is worth the effort to look into the different ways that your military experience could save you time and money on your college education.