Prior Learning Assessment

Bethel’s Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) program is designed to award college credit for knowledge you have gained from significant life experiences as an adult.

Professional and personal learning experiences are eligible as long as there is a balance of theory and practice that can be documented. The PLA program allows you to validate your learning in three ways: written documentation, examinations, and evaluated programs.

To help us determine your knowledge base, it is preferable for you to complete the following checklist BEFORE completing the college application.

What is it and who is eligible?

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is the process used by Bethel University to validate college level learning obtained outside the college classroom. This learning could include professional training and/or lifelong learning experiences. It uses knowledge you have gained through significant life experience.

PLA is an active process open to current nontraditional students with at least one full semester remaining. You will need to meet with an advisor to decide how you want to validate this knowledge and whether it can be used as credit toward your degree.

How do I validate my experience?

1. Written documentation

A maximum of 30 credits may be earned through this method.

Structured learning
This is structured college-equivalent learning for which academic credit has not been awarded. It is comprised of continuing education courses, professional workshops, company-sponsored seminars, apprenticeships, licensing preparation and other structured instructional experiences for which verification can be obtained and significant learning can be demonstrated. Credit is not given for attendance but only upon verification of college level learning which demonstrates a balance between theory and practice.

Self-directed learning
This learning may come from professional positions, volunteer work, civic responsibilities, travel and other significant life developments. Verification is accomplished through essays, which are presented to appropriate faculty evaluators in related disciplines. A balance between theory and practice must also be demonstrated.

2. Examinations

Externally Developed Examinations
College credit may be earned through College Level Examination Program (CLEP). Contact our office for registration and testing information or visit

3. Evaluated Programs

Transcripts may be obtained from the appropriate agency.

ACE: College credit is awarded based on recommendations by the American Council on Education, the National Program on Noncollegiate Sponsored Instruction (PONSI)

MILITARY: Guide to the Evaluation of Educational Experiences in the Armed Services.