Is PLA right for me?

For many learners, the traditional path to a college degree can seem like a long one. Finding the time to complete a degree program can be challenging. However, at Penn State, it may not take as long as you think. If you have prior college-level learning—at another college or university, in the military, in the workplace, through self-study, or in high school—your academic adviser can help you identify how alternative credit acquisition can apply toward meeting your degree goals.

What is PLA?

Prior Learning Assessment is the process of determining whether knowledge gained (in addition to course work) outside of the traditional academic environment is at the college-level and worthy of college-credit.

How to Earn Credit

  1. Meet with your adviser and make sure any transfer courses have been reviewed. Be sure all your transcripts are in, including those from the military or work training. Discuss if an exam matches your knowledge or if a portfolio showcases your learning. Your adviser will help you choose the PLA option that best suits your needs. If you are exploring your options with Penn State, please contact Admissions at 814-865-5471 or
  2. If you are interested in credit by exam or credit by portfolio, work with your adviser on the necessary forms and approvals. Not all courses are eligible for these options, so discuss your interest with the department before you proceed.
  3. Contact us if you have any questions not answered below. It's important to start the process early.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q. I have 20 years of work experience. How much credit can I receive?

A. We award credit for the demonstration of college-level learning and not experience alone, so you will need to present your training transcripts, develop a portfolio, or take an exam. Talk with your adviser about the best option for you.

Q. Do I pay a per credit fee?

A. We do not charge a fee per credit. We charge a fee when students pursue credit by exam and credit by portfolio to cover the cost of the assessment service.

Q. Are PLA credits transferable if I leave Penn State?

A. That decision would be made by the college/university you plan to attend.

Q. If I am not awarded credit after a PLA evaluation, will I get a refund?

A. No, the fees cover the cost of the assessment and are not refundable.

Q. All of my previous college credits did not transfer in. Can PLA help me?

A. It is possible to use one of the other PLA options to show you have met the outcomes for the course. That will be the department's decision.

Q. Who evaluates my prior learning?

A. Faculty members in the department have reviewed the transfer courses. They are also responsible for any credit by exam and credit by portfolio evaluations.

Q. Can prior learning credits be substituted for any Penn State course?

A. No, there are some courses that are unique and necessary to the goals of the degree. Therefore, the department has determined that you must enroll and successfully complete the course work at Penn State.

Q. If I am not awarded PLA credit, can I appeal the decision?

A. Yes, you may. Penn State adheres to the standards of conduct advanced by the Council of Adult and Experiential Learning. If you do not successfully pass credit by exam or credit by portfolio, you have the right to appeal by first resolving the disagreement with the instructor and then through the Grade Mediation and Adjudication procedure.