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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 even 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 many decades, and many schools, NOVA included, are continuously working on expanding the PLA options available to students and the promotion of those options.
  • Prior learning credits will show up on a student’s transcript as the equivalent NOVA course for which credit has been awarded.  Unsuccessful credit attempts will not be recorded on the student’s permanent record.
  • Prior learning  credits show on a student’s transcript with a grade of P or W, and these credits do not affect the student's grade point average (GPA).
  • There is no limit to general prior learning credits a student can earn, however different methods may have different regulations.  Additionally, prior learning credits do not apply to the residency rule at NOVA, which states that a student must earn at least 25% of credits towards graduation on a NOVA campus.

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

For general prior learning questions, you are welcome to contact NOVA prior learning staff at or 703.425.5835.