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I'm trying to express the following situation:

  • A college student has decided to change his field of study as his fellow students are already ahead of him because of the prior learning from their school. What is the term to describe the advantage that other students have due to their prior experience?

  • Similarly, a person has given up on doing something that he was trying to do for a long time. His reason is that it is too late now to do it because even after accomplishing what he set out for, the achievement's worth has diminished.

    • However, the situation can be re-presented to him as the case that he should continue with this attempt because he is now ahead in the race already due to the prior experience he has. This puts him in a stronger position than others he is competing with and will enable him to achieve more than he is actually looking for.

Can someone suggest me a good word or a phrase for someone having an advantage owing to their prior experience?

  • It might help if you specify the context. In a job interview, for example, it might simply be called "extensive hands-on experience". You might also need to adjust the wording depending on whom you speak to. If you are remotely conducting a job interview in India, for example, the guys on the far of the phone might not get what you mean with "has a leg up". – Klaws Nov 28 '17 at 9:12
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There's a few ways to communicate this. The simplest of these might be seasoned.

Most of the track-and-field team is made of newcomers, except for that one. He's been on the team for 2 years now and is well seasoned.

Part of the reason you should aspire to do internships while still in school is that so that when you go searching for a job after graduation, you have a one-up on other applicants because you're already seasoned from the internship experience, which makes you have an advantage.

If you're referring to the specific advantage in it of itself, the idioms one-up or leg-up apply here. Similarly, it can be referred to as a head-start, if the idea is that these people with the advantage are already ahead of the game if comparing from a starting point.

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    Of these I think head start is the closest to what OP is asking about and a good antonym in this context would be handicap. E.g., “The other students have a head start on me—I have a handicap because I just changed majors”; “Our company has a market advantage because our R&D department has a head start on our competitors in solving this problem”. – Jon Purdy Nov 28 '17 at 1:15
  • Yes.. I was looking for 'head-start'. – displayName Nov 28 '17 at 1:24
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You can say they have a leg up on the competition.

Grammarist says:

The idiom a leg up means (1) a boost or (2) a position of advantage. When you get a leg up on your competition, you’re at least temporarily ahead of them in some significant way. The phrase comes from foot racing, where getting a leg up at the start of the race gives an edge.

Here you want (2) a position of advantage. I have always pictured this in my mind as being like a race up a ladder where you have one foot on the bottom rung already and your competition is standing with both feet flat on the floor.

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"... advantage owing to their prior experience?".

Accomplished or proficient means that one is practiced. Being "grounded in the Arts" suggests a lower level of accomplishment than an Artist.

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