Home Education Options Prior Learning and Success: From Stay-at-Home Mom to Online College Student
Prior Learning and Success: From Stay-at-Home Mom to Online College Student

Prior Learning and Success: From Stay-at-Home Mom to Online College Student


prior-learning-SAHM-attendingschoolThere are many reasons a stay-at-home parent decides to return to college to complete a degree. You have probably heard, or maybe even uttered some of them yourself. They may have said:

  • I want to set an example for my children.
  • I want to make sure I am equipped to help my kids with their homework.
  • I want to reenter the workforce in a few years and I feel I need to update my skills.
  • I want to be able to compete with the new college grads when I reenter the workforce.
  • Earning a degree is on my bucket list.
  • I want to pursue my passion in ______ .

You have probably also heard even more reasons these same people may delay making the final decision to attend college and/or never act upon the decision. Perhaps you have heard:

  • It will cost too much for childcare while I attend classes. (Online programs solve this problem.)
  • My schedule is already full; it would be hard to schedule classes around the kid’s activities and my volunteer work. (Online programs address this issue, too)
  • I am afraid I forgot how to study or what I learned in high school. (Developmental/refresher courses, online reading, and tutors can help with this issue.)
  • It will take too long. (Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) can shave months off the time required to earn a degree.)
  • It costs a lot. (PLA can also save students tuition dollars)

The last two responses to excuses are often met with comments such as, “but I am just a mom.  I don’t have prior learning to assess. I don’t do anything I could earn credit for!”

Not necessarily so! Meet my friend Carla. Carla’s story proves there is no such thing as “just a mom”! Carla quit her job outside the home when the first of her three daughters was born. She did not go back to school until her youngest was thirteen. She had been out of the workforce and away from school for nearly 20 years.  However, when she examined her activity during that 20-year period, she discovered she HAD learned a lot and she was a good candidate for prior learning assessment.

Carla held multiple volunteer positions supporting her daughter’s activities. She was continually learning new things and meeting new challenges. After talking with an advisor, Carla realized she had acquired quite a bit of college level learning over the years. The chart below shows some of the courses for which Carla earned credits. Through a combination of national exams and portfolio submissions, Carla earned 18 semester hours and saved over a semester’s worth of time and a significant amount of money in tuition. PLA gave her a good head start toward degree completion.

Basic computer applications courses Carla’s volunteer work with the PTA included publishing the newsletter for several years. She learned the basic and advanced functions of Word and Excel through trial and error.
A leadership course Carla also served as a Girl Scout leader. As such, she attended leader training and applied the skills she developed as a Girl Scout leader and as a board member on the PTA.
Spanish I Carla’s oldest daughter had a Spanish-speaking friend. The daughter started taking Spanish lessons at an after school community program, in order to communicate better with her friend and her friend’s family. Carla learned Spanish along with her daughter so she could communicate with Spanish speaking parents on the PTA and translate the PTA newsletter. She was able to take a CLEP exam and earn three credits.
Accounting I Carla managed her household budget for years. With only one breadwinner, budgeting was critical. She had experience with basic bookkeeping at her job years ago. So, when the PTA was at a loss for a treasurer, Carla stepped up to the plate. She knew she would need to expand her knowledge in order to develop the various financial reports necessary for a non-profit. She went to the library, checked out some books, and bartered with her CPA, exchanging some tutoring for some word processing help.
Environmental science Carla’s girls loved learning about nature. In scouts, Carla was the leader who always engaged the troop in nature hikes, trips to the science centers, or led the community service project to clean up the environment. Part of the older scout’s community service was teaching younger scouts about the environment. As the girls were learning so was Carla.


Carla’s story is just one of many demonstrating how much learning takes place outside the classroom. Prior learning assessment helped Carla achieve her goals. Once she realized how much she really knew, she had the confidence to move forward and earn her degree. She graduated with a degree in business administration the same year her youngest graduated from high school.  The graduation party was fabulous.

PLA may help you too. To learn more visit http://www.amu.apus.edu/admissions/general-information/pla.htm or http://www.apu.apus.edu/admissions/general-information/pla.htm.

By Tedi Thompson-Magrini
Associate VP/Prior Learning Assessment at American Public University System



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