Also called credit transfer or transfer credit in academic parlance, advanced standing is a term employed to denote a common practice among higher learning institutions. Just as its label suggests, admission with advanced standing allows expedited completion of educational programs by receiving credit in lieu of required coursework.

Advanced Standing Advantages

The most obvious benefit of initial entry at a later stage of progress into training or degree programs is eliminating class attendance, submitting assignments and passing exams. Instead, specific course(s) are subtracted from the curriculum required to earn your desired degree or certificate before you even attend a single session of remaining classes. Besides a bunch of time, it saves tons of work and bundles of wasted tuition bucks to “learn” what you already know.

Less apparent, but equal or greater advantages are earlier entry into chosen career or profession that provides a competitive edge in faster forward progression from job promotions and enhanced earnings potential.

For example, Payscale.com reports as of January 2014 that average annual salaries for registered nurses with bachelor’s degrees are $4,710 more than nurses with associate degrees. Thus, BSN degree program admission with advanced standing equates to an extra $9,420 in two years’ gross annual income and $15,000 saved on tuition. Additional gains come with two years’ seniority for future pay raises and promotion to nursing and clinical supervisory positions.

Those same benefits may be reaped in reverse by busy RNs with families and full-time jobs that require a more leisurely pace of part-time attendance. Because prerequisites are pre-awarded, they may earn a BSN to enter higher occupational echelons in just four years instead of burning the midnight oil for nearly a decade.

Allowable Avenues to Advanced Standing

Several paths to advanced standing are open to would-be scholars with prior experience or higher learning.

Transfer credit

Probably the most common means of attaining advanced academic status, this method provides credit for coursework previously completed in equivalent or comparable subjects being applied by current or prospective school. A frequent scenario involves applicants being awarded credit toward bachelor’s degrees for classes taken to earn diplomas or two-year associate degrees in identical or related fields. Credit is generally awarded only for accredited courses completed with a specific grade point average.

Credit by exam

Many schools allow students to earn advanced standing by passing a comprehensive exam in the same subject as mandatory coursework. Although some programs offer institutional “challenge exams,” virtually all U.S. institutions accept standardized exams prepared by the College Board. Collectively called the College Level Exam Program, individual tests are available in several dozen subjects. Minimum passing scores vary by exam and awarding institution, but 50 is most typical.

Portfolio credit

A growing number of schools award credit for work history, life experiences, professional licensure and continuing education. Students must submit a detailed summation and documentation of previous vocational, civic, and personal activities. A committee or faculty member analyzes relevance, substance and recency of portfolio contents to award academic credit.

Advanced Standing Final Analysis

It is important to note that most advanced standing is granted on an ad hoc basis and specific acceptance criteria vary widely. However, due to greater mobility, emergent technology and efforts to enhance educational transparency, it is becoming increasingly acceptable throughout Academia. Moreover, many institutional coalitions and state education boards** have devised efficient schemes for transfer credit. Thus, time and energy spent on investigation of all options to obtain advanced standing via maximum application of extracurricular involvement is worthwhile.

*Assumes $250 per credit hour with 120 total credits required for BSN degree program completion.

** Arizona, New Jersey, Indiana, Illinois, Washington, California, Texas and Pennsylvania. (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_standing).

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