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Prior Learning

  • Many adults have acquired knowledge outside the classroom through jobs, independent study, or volunteer work. Universities sometimes award college credits for these kinds of practical education, provided that certain criteria are met: it can be documented, it is comparable to knowledge that could be obtained in college-level courses, and it is relevant to the student's declared course of study. There are a several methods available for assessing prior experiential learning. The two most common are testing and portfolio assessment. Both are available in The New School's Bachelor's Program for Adults and Transfer Students.

    Below are answers to frequently asked questions about our prior learning credits option.

    What kinds of learning can I get credit for?

    The Bachelor's Program for Adults and Transfer Students awards credit for college-level learning comparable to the content of courses currently offered for credit at The New School: For liberal arts subjects such as literature, philosophy, religion, history, sociology, anthropology, political science, creative writing, and foreign languages; and for professional and studio/performance experience (not liberal arts) such as fine arts, music, theater, dance, film production, photography, journalism, computer science, counseling, and business.

    How many credits can I receive for my prior learning?

    A maximum of 6 credits can be awarded for experiential learning in any specific area of study. The maximum total number of credits any student could receive for multiple areas of study is 30. This includes credits awarded through language testing and portfolio assessment, as well as for any internships undertaken at The New School. The New School requires 120 credits for the bachelor's degree. At least 36 credits must come from courses taken as a matriculated student at The New School. Not more than 84 credits may come from any combination of the following: 1) credits earned at other colleges and universities, 2) credits awarded through foreign language examination, 3) credits awarded through portfolio assessment, and 4) internships completed while at The New School.

    If you are considering applying for credit for prior learning, discuss the options with your faculty advisor first to coordinate your prior learning credits with your BA or BS program at The New School. The Bachelor's Program for Adults and Transfer Students will then review your transcripts in order to assess the maximum number of credits that you could receive through a prior learning assessment. Keep in mind that any credits earned through portfolio evaluation will be assigned as "liberal arts" and "non-liberal arts" credits according to the credit distribution requirements of your degree program (BA or BS).

    How does the assessment of prior learning work?

    The first step is to take the Workshop on Credit for Prior Learning. This one-credit workshop is offered every fall and spring semester. The workshop is open to students who have significant prior experience in appropriate subject areas, are in good academic standing, and have transferred 60 or more credits into the Bachelor's Program for Adults and Transfer Students or else have earned at least 12 credits as a matriculated student at The New School. Permission from the Prior Learning Coordinator is required to register for the workshop.

    In the workshop, you'll learn how to compile the required portfolio, which consists of a narrative essay describing your previous experience in the context of your academic and professional goals; a learning assessment for each prior learning area, including the title as it will appear on the transcript, the number of credits you are requesting (from 1 to a maximum of 6 for each area of study), a description of the setting of your prior learning, your role and responsibilities, summary of skills and knowledge you acquired, and relevance of the experience; and appropriate documentation to substantiate and verify the learning for which credit is requested. By the end of the workshop, you should have a draft portfolio on which you can continue to work after the end of the workshop. Successful completion of the workshop and award of the credit is determined by your attendance and progress in compiling a portfolio.

    During the following fall or spring semester (or any subsequent semester), you submit your completed portfolio(s) to the Prior Learning Coordinator, who assigns each portfolio for evaluation to an instructor with expertise in the field for which credit is requested. In some cases, in addition to reviewing the portfolio, the evaluator may ask a student to take an oral examination or demonstrate understanding of the portfolio contents in some other way. The evaluator assesses the quality of learning and recommends the number of credits to be awarded (which could be fewer than you requested). Credit is entered on the transcript at the end of the semester during which the portfolio is assessed. The entry includes the title of the learning area and the number of credits. No letter grades are awarded for prior learning.

    What kinds of portfolios have received credit?

    Every person's experience is distinct, and the portfolio process allows you to package your specific set of skills. Submitted portfolios range from business management to ballet technique. Some recent examples are listed below, but the list is merely representative of the possibilities.

    • Acting: The Meisner Technique
    • Advertising and Promotions
    • Ballet Technique
    • Black and White Photography
    • Crisis Counseling
    • Establishing a Church
    • Film Production
    • Interactive ASP Web Sites
    • Jewelry Design
    • Legislating Women's Health
    • Music Production
    • Neighborhood Journalism in NYC
    • Nonprofit Arts Management
    • Principles of Financial Markets
    • Public Relations
    • Sales and Marketing
    • Theatrical Stage Management
    • Screenwriting
    • Starting a Business
    • TV Post-Production
    • Writing the One-Act Play
    • Youth Organizing

    What is the tuition cost of portfolio evaluation?

    Tuition for the Prior Learning Workshop is charged at the regular tuition rate for 1 credit. For the semester in which you submit your portfolio(s) for evaluation, you register for the number of portfolios you are submitting and are charged a flat assessment fee of $600 for each portfolio (regardless of the total number of credits you seek).

    How Do I Earn Credit by Testing?

    The New School prefers the portfolio process for assessing prior learning because a portfolio can be developed based on each student's personal experiences. We rarely award credits for examinations, such as those offered by the College Board (CLEP). The main exception to this policy is that students with ability in a foreign language can receive up to 16 prior-learning credits by passing an examination offered by New York University. Visit the NYU Proficiency webpage for a list of languages tested, fees, and examination schedules, and to download an application form for Credit for Prior Learning for Knowledge of Foreign Language. Before taking any prior-learning examination, you must obtain prior approval from the Prior Learning Coordinator at The New School.

    If you are currently enrolled in the Bachelor's Program for Adults and Transfer Students, call 212.229.5119 for more information about earning credit by foreign language testing. If you are prospective student, speak to an admission counselor.

  • The New School has been regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education since 1960. For more information, visit Accreditation and State Regulatory Authorizations. Middle States Commission on Higher Education, 3624 Market Street, 2nd Floor West, Philadelphia, PA 19104. 216.284.5000

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