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.

The following documents are in PDF form:

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 College to validate college level learning obtained outside the college classroom. This learning could include professional training and/or lifelong learning experiences. It utilizes the knowledge you have already gained through significant life experience. PLA can save considerable time and money.

Prior Learning Assessment is an active process open to current nontraditional students with at least one full semester remaining. You must first reflect and think critically about your prior learning experience to determine what you have learned and whether the learning is college level. You will need to meet with the PLA director to decide how you want to validate this knowledge and whether it can be used as credit toward your degree.

How can I validate my learning experience?

At Bethel College you can validate your experiential learning in three ways:

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.

Workshops and online resources are available to help prepare essays for submission.

2. Examinations

Externally Developed Examinations

College credit may be earned through College Level Examination Program (CLEP). Contact the PLA 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.

Contact Us

PLA office, Bethel College
1001 Bethel Circle
Mishawaka, IN 46545
Phone: 574.807.7550

Contact us

Bethel College is a member of the Council for Experiential Learning (CAEL).

Get more info!