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Everything You Need To Know About Getting Transcripts for Colleges

A high school transcript is like an official and thorough report card. It’s a record of your academic performance and accomplishments throughout high school, making it one of the most important factors in college admissions decisions, if not the most important.

What information is included in my high school transcript?

Transcripts include tons of information, such as:

  • The name of each class you took, from freshman year to the present
  • The grade you received in each class
  • When you took each class
  • Your GPA (weighted and unweighted)
  • Your class rank (if your school does class rankings)
  • In some cases, your attendance record and any serious disciplinary actions (e.g. suspensions)
  • Sometimes, your standardized test scores and honors/awards

The transcript demonstrates your strength of schedule, improvement over time (if applicable), and overall performance in high school. Colleges view the transcript as a solid way to predict how you’ll perform in college.

It’s your job to earn the best grades possible, but it’s not your job to send your transcripts to schools. However, you do need to understand the basics of getting transcripts for colleges so that this vital step in the application process goes smoothly.

Who sends my transcripts?

Your high school guidance counselor will be responsible for sending your transcripts to colleges. You can’t personally provide the transcript because it must be an “official transcript” received directly from your high school.

If a college does accept unofficial transcripts, you can request one from your guidance counselor and send it yourself. However, most schools will specifically request an official copy of your transcript. These are verified transcripts that may have a stamp, seal, or letterhead from your school.

In some cases, your guidance counselor will also need to send a mid-year report and/or final report of your grades. This is so colleges can ensure that you’ve kept your grades up and didn’t stop taking school seriously after receiving your acceptance letter. (So no matter what, be sure to finish senior year strong!)

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How are transcripts sent?

Different high schools have different procedures for sending transcripts to schools. It’s likely that your guidance counselor(s) will host a presentation explaining this process sometime during your junior year, often through English classes or a grade-level assembly.

If not, or if you miss the presentation, visit your guidance counselor and ask about the procedure for requesting transcripts. You may need to fill out a request form on paper or online, and some schools require a small fee per transcript. Some high schools will have you request the transcript via a third-party site, which will carry a fee.

Whatever the procedure is, follow all instructions precisely. Provide your guidance counselor with a complete list of the colleges you’re applying to, and do this well in advance of the deadlines.

You should also pay attention to each college’s instructions for sending transcripts. You may simply need to have your guidance counselor attach it to your School Report in the Common Application or Coalition Application, or it may need to be sent individually via snail mail, email, or another type of form. If you’re confused, your counselor can help.

Some colleges do not require a transcript at the time of admission. They’ll allow you to unofficially report your grades, then request an official transcript if you’re accepted.

If this is the case, be sure to tell the truth when self-reporting. If you’re caught in a lie, your application will be rescinded. This is basically the school telling you, “Never mind. You’re not accepted after all,” and it’s not fun.

What’s my role in getting transcripts to colleges?

Your role is to ensure that your guidance counselor has all the information he or she needs to get your transcripts to colleges in a timely fashion.

If you’re not absolutely certain that your counselor has already sent your transcripts, follow up two weeks before the deadline. Remember, guidance counselors are busy, and many are working with hundreds of students. It’s your job to make sure that your transcripts don’t fall through the cracks.

You’ll also need to verify that colleges have actually received your transcript. In most cases, you will be able to do so through the applicant portal on the school’s website. If there is an issue, talk to your guidance counselor and/or call the school’s admission office.

How will colleges evaluate my transcript?

Colleges evaluate your transcript in context. This means they do much more than simply glance at your GPA. They’ll consider the difficulty level of your school and the courses available to you. For instance, a 3.7 GPA at your school could be a greater accomplishment than a 4.0 at a less challenging school.

Admissions teams also look at the difficulty level of the classes you took. Did you choose to challenge yourself with some of the most difficult courses available at your school? If you received straight “A’s” while taking several AP and honors courses, this is a much more significant accomplishment than receiving straight “A’s” in only entry-level courses.

And, of course, they will review your performance in each class. Have you consistently earned solid grades in your classes? If you struggled early in your high school career, did you recover and finish strong?

Through a combination of these factors, colleges will try to predict how well you’ll perform in rigorous college courses.

Overall, you should aim to perform well in the most challenging courses available at your school. Your transcripts will show colleges that you’re capable of successfully navigating college-level work.

Final Thoughts: Everything You Need To Know About Getting Transcripts for Colleges

  • High school transcripts provide colleges with extremely valuable information about your academic performance throughout high school. It’s essential that this part of your application(s) is handled in an effective and timely manner.
  • Your guidance counselor will mostly handle sending college transcripts, but you need to stay on top of the process to ensure all of your colleges receive your transcripts by the deadline.
  • Prepare a list of the colleges you’re applying to, along with their deadlines, and provide it to your counselor. Check with your guidance counselor about the process for requesting transcripts, and follow all directions exactly.
  • Follow up with your guidance counselor two weeks before the deadline to ensure your transcripts have been sent. Then, continue checking the college’s application portal and/or your Common Application until you see confirmation that your transcripts have been received.

If it’s not quite time for you to send transcripts yet, make sure yours are up to scratch. Take challenging courses, study hard, complete assignments on time, and earn the highest grades possible.

This way, you’ll be sure to submit impressive transcripts that give you a major advantage during the college admissions process.

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Author: Jason Patel

Jason Patel is the founder of Transizion, a college counseling and career services company that provides mentorship and consulting on college applications, college essays, resumes, cover letters, interviews, and finding jobs and internships. Jason’s work has been cited in The Washington Post, BBC, NBC News, Forbes, Fast Company, Bustle, Inc., Fox Business, and other great outlets. Transizion donates a portion of profits to underserved students and veterans in of college prep and career development assistance.