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For adult students, it can be intimidating to consider spending several years working on an undergraduate degree part time, especially while working a full-time job. Thirty-eight percent of students enrolled in higher education are over the age of 25, and one-fourth are over the age of 30.* This means that the majority of college students are most likely juggling college, careers, and family. That’s the main reason adult students need to earn their degrees as quickly as possible.

According to the Digest of Education Statistics report by the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of adults age 30 and over who are enrolled in some form of higher education is currently 5.5 million—a 322% increase from 1970.

Colleges and universities are paying close attention to the special needs of this burgeoning population of adult students and how their needs differ from younger students. For many adult students, degree acceleration is the only reason they are able to pursue their college degrees.

How to Get College Credit for Work and Life Experiences

Degree acceleration gives you credit for what you know. Whether you’re working on your degree for the first time or you had to delay finishing a degree you started years ago, an online degree acceleration strategy may be the perfect solution for you.

To determine how much of your life and work experiences can count as real credits toward your college degree, enrollment advisors look at all aspects of your life experiences and how they align with the curriculum of the bachelor’s degree you desire:

  • Work experience – Present and past jobs
  • Certificates of completion – Public seminars and on-the-job training courses that recognize your participation and successful completion
  • Independent study and massive open online courses (MOOCs)
  • Volunteer work – Perhaps you volunteered for teaching a workshop at a senior center or assisted teachers at a day care center. Depending on your chosen degree, volunteer work may count as a college credit transfer.
  • Military training – College credits for military training and national testing programs you’ve completed while on active duty may be transferred.
  • Previously completed college courses – Transfer of previous college credits may help accelerate your current degree.

You’ll be surprised at how much of your life and work experiences will transfer as college credits. With degree acceleration, some adult students have already earned 75% of the total required credits by the time they enroll in a bachelor’s degree program.

How to Make Everything Count

Universities are committed to providing degree acceleration options for adult students. Walden University’s Center for Degree Acceleration is dedicated to helping you obtain your degree faster and more efficiently, and trained academic advisors offer a free transfer-of-credit evaluation for all potential students. They will also recommend a specific strategy, known as a Prior Learning Assessment Portfolio, to make sure you benefit from the maximum amount of credit transfers available to you.

The Prior Learning Assessment Portfolio is a collection of your job experiences, previous college course credits, résumés, narrative essays, and documentation that shows how prior or current jobs, military experience, volunteer work, corporate training, or other relevant experience align with specific academic courses in your chosen degree program. Once your portfolio is reviewed, you could earn up to 75% of the college credit transfers required for your undergraduate degree.

Explore Walden University's Center for Degree Acceleration and change your future faster! Earn your degree at a pace that fits your life and schedule.


*Hess, F. (2011, September 28). Old School: College’s Most Important Trend is the Rise of the Adult Student. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/09/old-school-colleges-most-important-trend-is-the-rise-of-the-adult-student/245823/

†Digest of Education Statistics, 2010 Tables and Figures. “Total fall enrollment in degree-granting institutions, by sex, age, and attendance status: Selected years, 1970 through 2019.” From the Institute of Educational Sciences website at http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d10/tables/dt10_199.asp

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