As a military or veteran student, you’ve gained valuable training, skills, and experience while serving your country, which is documented in your Joint Services Transcript (JST). You’re probably aware that your JST can be used to earn transfer credit when applying to school, but are you taking full advantage of the different types of military college credits available?
Step 1: Use Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) to Your Advantage
To understand how your JST can help get the most transfer credit into your chosen college degree, first you need to understand the variety of ways in which transfer credit can be achieved.
Generally, PLA refers to any means of bringing transfer credit into a degree program at any college. Common examples include:
· Prior college learning
· AP examinations from high school
· College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) scores
Some schools offer a structured PLA program to help you maximize the credit you can transfer into an academic program based on your military and life experiences. For adult students with real-world experience, seeking out such schools can be advantageous, because you may be able to graduate sooner and for less cost.
Our PLA program at American Military University gives you the opportunity to earn credit for learning outside the confines of a traditional classroom, in addition to what may have been earned via the American Council of Education (ACE) or college-level testing. Our unique PLA process allows you to demonstrate this through:
· College-level knowledge
· Skills and abilities as the result of work experience
· Formal corporate or military training not evaluated by ACE
· Business ownership
· Volunteer work
· Independent study
· Travel and many other life experiences
Documentation is Your Friend
Documentation will help you get as many credits as possible. It can include sample work products, training certificates, workplace evaluations, letters of recommendation, and photographs. As a military student, you have the advantage of providing your JST as documentation in support of these requirements.
Consider a military intelligence analyst stationed abroad. While credit may be recommended on the JST due to the analyst’s formal intelligence training, the region-specific knowledge and skills the analyst attained while living abroad will not. However, the analyst can use the JST to verify training, in combination with a resume and narrative to demonstrate years’ worth of experience and observation in a local culture. This could demonstrate the analyst’s mastery of certain learning objectives of a particular course in a degree program, such as intelligence or international relations, and provide sufficient evidence to earn college credit awarded through the PLA process.
Before you apply to such PLA programs, which do require some time, effort and expense—be sure to maximize the more common means of transferring credits into a degree program.
Step 2: Maximize Transfer Credit Using Your JST
The Military Course Completions and Military Experience sections of the JST contain a list of all your military training and occupational assignments. Often, these have been recommended for credit and are certified by ACE. ACE specializes in translating military experience into recommended college credit. Verify that your JST is included with any application when enrolling at a college. First, ask the college to confirm that it will accept relevant credit recommendations from your JST.
Under the Other Learning Experiences section, other training and real-world knowledge and experience is listed. Although no course credit is earned for these experiences, the information is valuable in proving competency for credentialing and qualification for employment. This is important for students attempting to earn additional transfer credits at colleges that offer a prior learning assessment option.
Step 3: Choose Your School & Program Wisely
Be aware that there are limits to the amount of transfer credit any reputable college or university will allow. Institutions of higher education that maintain expectations of academic rigor often have a residency requirement, which stipulates that students must take at least 25 percent of their program at their school in order to award a diploma. Schools that do not enforce this industry standard warrant a second look.
Selecting a specific degree program is a personal and important choice. It should be based on your long-term career and individual goals. If earning a degree in the shortest amount of time is critical to your goals, be sure to first review the degree requirements. Match them to any prior learning you already have, or to what you believe might earn you credit through a PLA program with your JST.
Consider schools that have a history of accepting legitimate transfer credit from legitimate sources, such as prior college credit, college-level testing and ACE-recommended military training. Do not ignore accreditation. As a general rule, for academic degree programs look for regional accreditation. Then, confirm that the school offers a formalized PLA process.
Different schools have different policies regarding the acceptance of transfer credit. Some accept minimal credit based on military training. Some do not provide sufficient military specific services that current and former Servicemembers deserve. So get another opinion. By using these three steps and knowing how PLA works to your advantage, you’ll be well-equipped to maximize the academic credits you may have already earned by serving your nation.
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