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Home > Academics > Additional Learning Opportunities > Credit for Prior Learning > Overview of Credit for Prior Learning

Overview of Credit for Prior Learning


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Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) helps inventory the college-level learning in your life, possibly helping you get a head start on your degree work, before you have taken a college course. 

For some people, life lessons can equate to college-level learning. PLA isn't always easy or fast, but in many cases credit earned through PLA can help reduce the number of courses and amount of time it usually takes to earn a college degree.

  • Prior learning can include, but is not limited to work, family, civic and religious duties, or occupational, military, and recreational training programs. It is best to speak with your advisor or counselor to determine if any experiences not listed above could equate to college-level learning.
  • Prior learning credits can be earned in many different ways including exams, evaluated credentials and portfolio development. 
  • Credit for prior learning has been around for decades, and many schools, NOVA included, are continuously working on expanding the PLA options available to students. PLA is common among colleges and universities, however, credits earned through prior learning are not always transferable. Students who plan to transfer should check with their intended schools.
  • Prior learning credits show on a student’s transcript as the equivalent NOVA course for which credit has been awarded.  Unsuccessful credit attempts will not be recorded on a student’s permanent record.
  • Most prior learning credits will show on a student’s transcript with a grade of T (transfer) or P (pass) for PLACE portfolios and ABLE exams. These grades do not affect the student's grade point average (GPA).
  • Although there is no limit to the amount of prior learning credits a student can earn, prior learning credits do not apply to the residency rule at NOVA, which states that a student must earn at least 25% of credits toward graduation with NOVA courses.

Before proceeding with any prior learning options, please speak with your advisor, counselor or a PLA staff member to confirm the best option for your personal situation.

Contact PLA at or 703.425.5835.