Skip navigation

Prior Learning

​What is Prior Learning Credit?

Prior Learning credit can be awarded for college-level learning students have already acquired from work, training, and life experiences.

As an adult, much of your personal and professional development has probably occurred outside the traditional academic classroom. Through such experiences, you may have acquired skills and knowledge that could satisfy some of your CMU degree requirements.

CMU's Prior Learning model is based on "competencies" rather than on course "equivalents," but the credit awarded may be applied to your degree program, usually elective credits. The competency model allows you to have your college-level learning recognized, regardless of whether CMU offers specific courses pertaining to what you have learned.

For any of your learning from work, training, and life experiences to be considered for credit, you will need to assemble a portfolio that explains and documents the experiences and what you learned from them (i.e., what "competencies" you have acquired). A key component of the portfolio is your "self-assessment" of learning, which explains the learning that occurred through the experiences. Your portfolio will then be evaluated to determine whether credit can be awarded for undergraduate or graduate-level competencies.

Students should meet with their academic advisor before beginning the portfolio-development process. The advisor may be able to help you identify the experiences that would be most applicable to your degree program if Prior Learning credit is awarded.

  • Graduate credit: You can use experiences only from the previous seven years or the completion date of your latest undergraduate degree, whichever is more recent.

However, prior learning does not work for everyone, and there is no easy answer as to whether you should spend the time, energy, and money involved in preparing and submitting a portfolio. Individuals have had different experiences, for differing lengths of time, and will explain these experiences in different ways, all of which can affect the amount of credit received. 


When should I apply for Prior Learning credit?

We encourage you to submit a portfolio early in your academic program, before taking courses that may duplicate your Prior Learning experiences. 

What's involved in preparing a Prior Learning portfolio, and how long will it take?

Developing a Prior Learning portfolio requires organizing and collecting documents; writing self-assessments of the learning acquired from various work, training, and/or life experiences; and completing the fillable forms according to the guidelines explained in the Student Handbook .

The process of preparing a portfolio varies substantially from one student to the next. The time involved will depend on your work responsibilities, family obligations, volunteer activities, community involvement, and the number of courses you are taking during the time the portfolio is being prepared. Other factors include the number of years to be covered, the number of experiences submitted, and the availability of verification documents. Occasionally, a student will prepare a portfolio in as little as three months, but most take six months or longer. The sooner you begin, the better.

How do I submit my Prior Learning portfolio for review, and how much will it cost?

You will send one scanned copy of your portfolio to The $125.00 for the portfolio-processing fee (per degree program) will be added to your student account.

For additional information, please contact the Prior-Learning Assessment Office Central Michigan University, Center for Administration and Leadership, EHS 421, Mount Pleasant, MI 48859 or (989) 774-7126 or   


How will my Prior Learning portfolio be evaluated, and how long will it take?

Members of the Prior Learning Assessment Team (PLAT) will evaluate your learning based on the content and quality your self-assessment in the portfolio, not on its applicability to a specific degree program. Each portfolio is evaluated independently by three PLAT members, who are graduate faculty at CMU.

Evaluators use the "Portfolio Checklist" (which students are required to include at the end of the portfolio). In general, though, they do the following:

  1. They first look at the duration of each experience, because the length of the experience determines the maximum number of potential credits for the experience.
  2. Evaluators then look at the supporting documentation for each experience submitted. If any documentation is missing, incorrect, inconsistent, or in some other way problematic, evaluators will not review further that section of the portfolio.
  3. Evaluators then decide whether the self-assessment(s) for each experience demonstrates college-level learning.
  4. Evaluators also consider the quality of your writing. If they have to work too hard to figure out what you mean, they will be less likely to grant credit.

Evaluation takes about 8-10 weeks from the date the portfolio is received by the Prior Learning Assessment Office. However, if evaluators must postpone reviewing or return a portfolio because it is missing components or information or has inconsistent or conflicting information, then the review process will take longer.

How will Prior Learning credits be applied toward my degree, and how much will they cost?

After you receive your Prior Learning award-notification letter, you need to meet with your academic advisor. Your advisor will determine whether and how the awarded credits may be used in your degree program in consultation with the program Director, based on the following policies:

  • You may complete and submit a portfolio at any time (after becoming a CMU student and meeting with your advisor). However, you must have completed 5 semester hours of CMU course work before Prior Learning credit can be recorded on your transcript.
  • You will pay only for the credits you actually use for your degree (i.e., credits posted to your CMU transcript), whether these are all or only some of the credits awarded.
  • You have one year from the date of the award-notification letter to pay for and transcript your Prior Learning credits. Credits not paid for and posted to your transcript within one year are lost; however, you can start the process over by submitting a new portfolio .

Maximum award at the Graduate Level is 10 credits. 

You will also be informed of the cost to apply all the credits, although you will be charged only for the credits you actually want to include on your transcript ($115/credit hour). Your advisor will work with you to decide which and how many credits you can use.

 Visit the Prior Learning page for more information.

College of Education and Human Services | Central Michigan University | | 195 Ojibway Ct | EHS 426 | Mt. Pleasant, MI 48859 | (989) 774-3079