I tell you, back in 1995, they knew HOW to teach ENGL 101.
May 22, 2011 10:48 AM   Subscribe

So am I going to have to start college over, or what?

I graduated high school in 1995. I immediately started up at the local university, and did that until late 1999, when I took a medical withdrawal due to anxiety. In early 2000, I didn't think I was ready to go back, so I got a part-time job that has morphed over the last 11 years into a career.

In 2006, I returned part-time to the school I originally attended to get back on the horse. After one class, though, I was offered a job promotion in a different state and left.

I've reached a point, though, where the fact that I don't have a degree is going to hold me back - I've got about as far as I think I'm going to be able to go until I get that piece of paper. I was agonizingly close before - I think I was something like 18 or 19 credit hours away, I had satisfied all but one gen ed requirement, etc.

What am I going to face if I try to get into the local university here? Will most/some/any of my previous work carry over? I had someone tell me once that after ten years, everything you did is "voided" and can't be used as credit, but that seems ridiculous and such a blanket rule that I have a hard time believing it. Then again, it's been a really long time since I was in college.

(In before "take online classes at the old school" - they don't offer them in the field I was studying and would like to get the degree in. )
posted by Golfhaus to Education (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You need to look at the graduation requirements for the university you're looking at. Sometimes there are time requirements for graduation, in which case, yeah, maybe you'll have to retake courses. But it depends on the university.
posted by smorange at 10:50 AM on May 22, 2011

So the "local university here" is a second university, in another state? You'll have to look at their graduation requirement, as smorange says; the universities I went to only granted you a degree if you'd taken at least x% (something like half) of the courses with them.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:53 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Most colleges have a transfer officer who is in charge of assigning credits to transcripts, and before you even start the application process or give them a dime, you can ask to have your transcript assessed. Some to most of your previous credits will transfer; how many they will take depends on their degree requirements and policies, but you will not have to start over.

The other option is to reverse this: talk to your old college and see if they will take transfer credits from other, online universities to complete your outstanding 19 credits, or if you can just take them at new local U and transfer them back in. Probably not, but worth asking.

Final option: see if you can get them to take at least the Gen Ed from Local U or online U so that you're down to 15 credits, take a leave from work, and do them all in one 5-class summer session in person at Old U to complete. Summer sessions tend to be pretty short so that could work.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:58 AM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

Echoing the above. There's no universal answer to this question, because every college/university has their own policies about when they can give credit for work done elsewhere. At my institution, each department handles it themselves, so if you want to get credit for a math course done elsewhere, you have to talk to the math department and get a faculty member to sign off on it.

So yeah, talk to the local university's admissions office and see what they say. I guarantee you that your situation is not so uncommon that they won't know what the procedure is.
posted by Johnny Assay at 11:03 AM on May 22, 2011

Echoing what everyone else says. I used to work in the department of a university that did the exact thing you need (evaluate past transcripts for credit), and our policies might not be the same as your college's policies. Call the registrar's office and ask to speak to someone in the "prior learning assessment department" or search for that on your college's web site.

My guess, and don't take this as gospel, is that English/Math/etc classes will be OK as long as they meet the current standards of the college's accrediting body. Anything that is dependent on software and was taken over 5 years ago will probably not be accepted (i.e. Introduction to Microsoft Office or somesuch).
posted by desjardins at 11:33 AM on May 22, 2011

It depends greatly. But I will point out that my dad used a few credits from work he did when I was five years old toward the degree he got when I was in my early 20s. In my experience, the biggest stumbling blocks are in the courses needed as prerequisites for other courses, especially in technical areas (math, science, etc.) When I forwarded my bachelor's degree transcripts to a community college in order to get out of one statistics class required for a certificate, they accepted the statistics from 9 years earlier but voided the calculus course which was two years older than that. They kept the American history from the same quarter.

(There was also a process to ask for mercy in terms of the related courses, but there was no point in me availing myself of it, since they took the stats course. Oh, and I had to both get the credit recognized by the transfer office and get it approved by a department rep to count for the stats requirement.)
posted by SMPA at 11:34 AM on May 22, 2011

I knew a girl in college that had a nervous breakdown and she attended our college freshman year, a community college sophomore and junior years, and came back to graduate senior year (after being on residence in campus for senior year---2 years).

Go to a community college for filler credits and try to transfer them over. Also, there are plenty of accredited nonprofit schools with online classes now, so it should be easier than ever.
posted by anniecat at 11:38 AM on May 22, 2011

Offered as a data point. My mom left college after her sophomore year to get married. She went back to college 17 years later, at a different university in a different state, and graduated two years later.
posted by bentley at 11:55 AM on May 22, 2011

At the state university here, there are classes that can be challenged by either test, comprehensive long essay, or interview. They also give credit for "life experience"--basically what you have done in your job--I've known people who have gotten as many as 12 credits this way. Ask questions of several schools, as people above have said, and talk with the dean of the department you'd be in about the possibility of alternate credits. The best scenario would be you're only going to have to finish a semester, the worst would be two years. If you're happy with the answers, go somewhere else. Some colleges do require you take at least a year to 18 months with them before they will graduate you with "their" degree, so inquiring of your original school isn't a bad idea also. Careful with the online degrees--there are some that are total ripoffs and extremely expensive. Check the fine print. Good luck.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:59 AM on May 22, 2011

If you can afford to do so, I guess getting the degree makes sense, but to be honest, do you really think the lack of one is holding you back? I'd find some way to make your work experience count towards a BA (in anything) and then get into an MA program in the field you really want, if at all possible. Spending money or going into debt to get a BA in a field different from the one you started doesn't make sense to me.
Being a "non-traditional" student can get you some extra help etc., at some colleges.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:07 PM on May 22, 2011

I see that you are in the US, so this isn't particularly relevant to you but it answers the question for a part of an international market. My experience with Australian universities (both as a student and admin) is that you have 10 years to get your degree, after that time, no credit will be given for the courses you have undertaken. And further, if you are going for post-graduate qualifications, your degree should be no older than 10 years, unless you have worked in the field and can demonstrate that you have kept your knowledge up to date.
posted by b33j at 12:25 PM on May 22, 2011

Yes, just talk to the transfer office. As a data point, I was in pretty much your same situation. When I returned to school, my new college only took 88 transfer hours. I went back part time for two and a half years (including summers) and graduated in December. Except for a couple of English classes and a public speaking class, I only had to take the requirements of my new major. I didn't have to repeat anything but I ended up with 20+ more hours than the base requirement for graduation.

You might also check if your original school offers the remaining classes you need online, or if you can take just the remaining classes you're missing and transfer them back to the original school. Schools often have a requirement that you have to take the last 30 hours or so locally, but there's usually a procedure to waive that.

Good luck!
posted by sugarfish at 1:17 PM on May 22, 2011

Another data point: my undergraduate university expired credits after seven years. However almost everything can be overridden with the right signature on the right form. Go talk to them, but be your own advocate and do your best negotiating to get as much as possible transferred and credited. Also ask about testing out of courses that won't transfer. Good luck to you, and focus on making it happen.
posted by jeffamaphone at 1:37 PM on May 22, 2011

what about going back for an MBA or its equivalent in your field? your experience and 'almost-degree' should get you into such programs as a non-traditional student, and having a master's will supersede the requirement for a bachelor's for any job.
posted by sid at 3:33 PM on May 22, 2011

I graduated with a BS in 1998 from Pitt but with credits toward that degree from three other schools stretching back all the way to 1982. When I started the application process at Pitt, there was a person in the college office who went through my transcripts and mapped each class that I took to an equivalent there. I ended up transferring in 78 credits so I was automatically 2/3 of the way to a BS as soon as I started there.

Get your transcript and see if you can't get an appointment with a councilor in the school that you want to go to and see if he/she and map out the transfers.
posted by octothorpe at 4:47 PM on May 22, 2011

yeah at my University in Australia subjects completed could only be counted towards a degree if they were completed within the last 10 years. i.e. the credits expire.

so you might have to start again i'm afraid.
posted by mary8nne at 4:03 AM on May 23, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. It sounds like here in America, there aren't any set-in-stone rules about what they'll take. Time to plug my nose and take the dive, I suppose.
posted by Golfhaus at 11:55 AM on May 29, 2011

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