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High School Transcript: Here’s What You Need to Know

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There is a lot to look forward to in high school. Not only is it the time to make memories with your friends, on the sports fields, and in your classes, but it’s also the best time to show colleges you’ve got what it takes to succeed.

When you apply to college, you’ll prove your worth in a variety of ways. Not only will you be required to fill out lengthy college application forms, but you’ll also be required to submit test scores, letters of recommendation, essays, and of course, the ubiquitous high school transcript.

You’ve probably already heard of the high school transcript, but do you know what’s on it – or more importantly, why it’s such an important part of the college admissions process?

We’ll tell you everything you need to know about the high school transcript in this guide.

What Is a High School Transcript and What Makes It So Important?

At the most basic level, a high school transcript is a record of your academic accomplishments in grades 9-12. It will list each class you took along with the grade that you received.

Some high school transcripts also include information such as standardized test scores, final examination grades, and even any honors you may have received.

It doesn’t matter who you are or even whether you plan on going to college – you have a high school transcript. This document is updated as you complete each course.

There are several reasons as to why a high school transcript is so important. You’ll need it if you want to:

  • Apply to college
  • Graduate high school
  • Transfer to a new high school
  • Apply for jobs

Many people recognize that a high school transcript is necessary to apply for college, but most don’t realize that it’s also necessary to apply for some jobs or transfer to a new school.

The college admissions process places a huge emphasis on the high school transcript when it comes to your enrollment decision. There is so much vital information on a high school transcript, including the list of courses you took and how well you did in them.

Each college will look for something a little bit different in your high school transcript, so it’s important to do your best in all of your classes.

You will also need a high school transcript when you finish up high school. The officials at your high school will closely evaluate your transcript to make sure you have everything you need in order to graduate. Similarly, if you transfer high schools, the guidance department at your new school will look at the classes you took at your old school to figure out how to place you in your new setting.

Finally, many jobs ask for a copy of the high school transcript when you apply. This is especially important if you are applying to a job that requires special skills that you may have learned in high school.

What Information Is On My High School Transcript? How Far Back Does it Go?

A high school transcript includes more information than just what classes you took while enrolled in secondary education. In most cases, a high school transcript includes all information starting in grade 9 and culminating in grade 12, when you graduate.

At its most basic, a high school transcript will include:

  • The list of classes you took
  • The grade you received for each course
  • The date you took each class
  • Scores on standardized tests and final examinations
  • Your disciplinary record

A high school transcript will include the name of each class you took, along with whether you were retaking the class or dropped it at any point. This will show how difficult your program of study was and whether you met various graduation requirements.

The grades you received for each class will also help colleges and employers determine how well you mastered the material in the classes.

Not only can your grades in these courses serve as a good predictor of how well you will do in the future, but it lets universities compare your scores to those of other applicants. While college admissions officials will look at all of your courses, they will place the most emphasis on the grades in classes that directly relate to your chosen major.

Your employer or college admissions counselor may also look at your class rank and your overall GPA, too. The dates on your high school transcript are important because they will let the reader see the progression of your courses. They’ll easily be able to determine whether you challenged yourself or whether there were periods in which your grades were lower than normal.

Finally, an often overlooked component of the high school transcript is the behavior record.

In some cases, transcripts will include information related to your attendance record and other disciplinary actions. While the odd detention here to there likely won’t appear on your transcript, suspensions or other severe disciplinary actions probably will.

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What Is the Difference Between an Official and Unofficial Transcript?

Unofficial and official transcripts usually look quite similar and contain the same exact content. However, official transcripts are usually marked by distinctive seals or tamper-proof markings. Often, an official transcript will also be enclosed in a separate interior envelope, too. This envelope is also sealed.

The point of all of this security is so that college admissions officials – or whoever else chooses to read the transcript – knows that it has not been altered or tampered with in any way. Usually, official transcripts need to be sent directly by your high school to their final destination.

However, you can also print off a copy of your unofficial transcript. While official transcripts are generally required for colleges to make final admissions decisions, an unofficial transcript will tell you everything you might want to know about your own grades, too.

High schools usually have the ability to send electronic transcripts that are considered official, too. They usually do this by emailing the transcript directly to the requestor. Forwarded official transcripts, along with electronic transcripts that are printed and then rescanned, are both considered unofficial.

You will usually be required to pay for copies of official transcripts (though not always), while unofficial transcripts are typically free and unlimited.

Do Colleges Want My Official or Unofficial High School Transcript?

Colleges almost always want official high school transcripts. This must be sent directly from your high school guidance counselor. You cannot provide these because it must be received directly from your high school. This transcript must be verified with a stamp, school letterhead, or seal.

Sometimes, a college will accept an unofficial high school transcript, which you can send along yourself.

This is rare, however, and usually only in certain circumstances. Sometimes, a college will want to verify your grades halfway through the year and will ask for an unofficial mid-year report to expedite the process.

Reports sent at the end of your senior year, however, almost always need to be in the form of an official transcript. Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to request the transcripts from your guidance office and have them sent to your college.

In some cases, you may need an unofficial transcript for your own records or to submit to various scholarship or internship applications. In these situations, you can often print your own unofficial transcripts out online without having to contact the guidance office at your high school.

How Do I Get My High School Transcript?

Next, we will give you a quick step-by-step guide on how to get your high school transcript.

To receive an official transcript:

  1. Attend any informational workshops offered by your school. At the beginning of the junior or senior year, your high school’s guidance department will likely host a presentation explaining the process for sending transcripts to various schools and employers. It is important that you attend this, as the process is often different between individual schools.
  2. Pay a visit to your guidance counselor. If you have any questions about the transcript request process or you aren’t clear about any of the information in the presentation, make sure you follow up with your counselor to ask your questions.
  3. Follow instructions carefully. Some schools will require you to fill out a paper request form for your transcript, while others need to be completed online. Some make you request your transcript through a third-party website. No matter what procedure your school chooses to follow, make sure you adhere to the instructions. There is not a lot of wiggle room here!
  4. Communicate with your counselor. Make sure your counselor knows all of the schools you are applying to, and provide him or her with the information long before the deadlines approach.
  5. Pay any fees. While some schools will send an unlimited number of transcripts to your colleges for free, others charge fees. The same goes for the third-party vendors we mentioned. Make sure you have some money set aside to pay these necessary payments.
  6. Research the college’s requirements. Pay close attention to the requirements of your college when you submit your transcripts. Again, each one is likely different. Sometimes, your guidance counselor will simply need to attach your transcript then he or she will submit the School Report in the Common Application or Coalition Application. At other times, this document may need to be sent via email, mail, or fax.
  7. Pay one more visit to your counselor. If you aren’t sure what your colleagues are asking you to do, check with your counselor. He may be able to clear things up for you. Now is also a good time to make sure your guidance counselor has all the details he needs to get your transcripts to the colleges.
  8. Understand that transcripts aren’t always required. Keep in mind that some schools don’t require official transcripts when you apply – you can submit an unofficial transcript or self-report your scores. Then you will submit an official document if and when you are accepted. If you’re asked to self-report, be honest. You won’t gain anything by lying or inflating your scores because the school will get your official grades later on anyway.
  9. Follow up. Check in with your guidance counselor to make sure your transcripts were sent. Counselors are busy people, and they have a lot on their plate at this time of the year. You don’t need to nag your counselors on a daily basis, but you should wait two weeks and then check in to make sure your transcripts have not fallen through the cracks.
  10. Double-check with your college to make sure the transcripts were received. Usually, you don’t even need to contact the school directly – you can just log in to the applicant portal, in most cases, to confirm that your documents were received.

If you want a copy of your unofficial transcript, this is usually a matter of logging on to your high school’s online portal or asking your guidance counselor to print you off a copy of your records.

How Do I Get My High School Transcript If I Switched Schools?

When you switch schools, you’re technically disenrolling in one high school and enrolling in a new one. Moving from middle school to high school in the same district is not the same thing as switching schools, although you will technically be switching buildings.

If you need to get your high school transcript after switching schools and you are younger than 18, you will need your parents or guardian to submit your request. If you’ve recently moved, you may have to wait a few weeks for the documents to be finalized and sent.

Often, your current school will have copies of your official transcripts from your other schools. They can send all of your official transcripts together to save a few steps.

If that’s not the case – or if it’s been a while since you graduated from high school – you will need to contact the school directly. This might be the case if you are applying to college as an adult learner or are applying to college after having attended multiple schools.

Contact your high school guidance counselor directly. You will likely need to complete the same paperwork and follow the same steps that we detailed above. You can also search for your school via the Department of Education if you suspect that the school has closed. Your information will be stored there and can be sent for you upon request.

Even if it’s not time for you to start thinking about your high school transcripts quite yet, it’s important that you dedicate some attention to them starting as early as ninth grade.

Your transcripts contain extremely valuable information about who you are as a person and as a student. While they don’t paint the full picture, they are crucial for your continued success after high school.

Conclusion: High School Transcript

Your high school transcript is an important document for college admissions, and record-keeping.

Be sure to keep track of it and know how to obtain it when you’re applying to college.

Most of all, be mindful of the info that goes into it. A good transcript is one full of info and data that you worked for in high school. Let us know if you have any questions!

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