All Your Transcript Questions, Answered

Ordering transcripts is a key part of the college application process, but one that you might forget in the rush to get your application done. Whether undergraduate, graduate, certificate or doctoral,  most programs require official transcripts be submitted with your application, so we’ve collected the most frequently asked questions about transcripts to help you through this step. 

Why do I need to order a transcript?

In ordered to be considered for enrollment at most colleges and universities, they need to know if you qualify. Along with your application, your past performance will play a part in a school’s admissions decision. 

For example, if you are an aspiring dentist, your prospective dental school will want to know that you are able to handle the coursework. If you repeatedly get As in the required science classes, it is a good indicator that you will excel in their program. If, however, you repeatedly failed their required prerequisite classes, you should consider a different health care career.

How do I order a transcript?

Your first step is to check with your registrar’s office, because your school may have a variety of ways to order a transcript. You may need to fill out a form, pay a fee and then have to wait a stretch of time before it can be released. Each institution will have their own process, so you will want to contact the registrar of each school that you’ve attended.

How long will it take for an institution to receive my transcript?

It depends how far your school is from your prospective institution and how they are able to receive it. If the school accepts electronic transcripts, it may take 24 to 48 hours. If a hard copy is required, it can take a few days to be received. If the schools are on each coast, it could take over a week. 

Students should also consider how long it may take your program to confirm receipt of your transcript. Schools can receive hundreds of transcripts each day. No matter how they receive it, they may not be able to confirm receipt for almost a month. Consider getting tracking if it is offered.

What is the difference between an unofficial and official transcript?

An official transcript includes a seal and signature of the registrar as well as all of your coursework and degree information. Schools tend to charge for these transcripts to be processed. 

The term “unofficial” in this case usually means that your transcript is an online version with just a list of credits and grades. There is no signature, seal or information on your full degree.

Your prospective health care program may accept either type of transcript or only one type, so be sure to confirm the details with each of your schools of interest. 

What can keep me from getting my transcript?

There are a few roadblocks you could face when ordering your transcript for the following reasons:

  • You owe money to your school. If you have missed any payments, universities can hold your official transcript. Consider these creative options to get your education back on track. 
  • Your school has been closed down. If your previous school has shut down, your transcript still exists! Whenever a university or college closes, the state collects any and all transcript information from students to be stored. If the time for them to locate and send your transcript is taking longer than expected, you can always work out a plan with your program director.

Why does my school make me pay for a transcript?

This may not be the case for every school, but a majority of schools do charge students for ordering their transcript. It sounds unfair, until you factor in the staff who have to process and mail your transcript to the document to the correct place. Administration fees differ from school to school, so make sure to research the cost before ordering too many copies.

What does it mean when my school says I have a narrative transcript?

Instead of just inputting a course code, course title, credits and grades for each course, narrative transcripts offer deeper insight into your performance. Professors or advisors assess a student’s performance with tasks and projects for their specific class. Grades and credits are sometimes not even included. All universities should be able to accept both general transcripts and narrative transcripts.

Can you send a digital copy of your transcript?

This depends on the individual school requirements and whether or not your application will accept it. While Liaison’s Centralized Application Services (CAS™) can take electronic transcripts via services like Parchment and Credential Solutions, some applications will only take hard copies mailed to their offices.

What are my options as an international student?

If you are an international student, consider sending a digital copy if your program will accept it.

Your school may want more documentation from you, though. Many health care programs require that applicants obtain and provide a foreign evaluation.  SOPHAS (Schools of Public Health Application Service), for example, requires that students with international education backgrounds provide a foreign evaluation for their public health programs.

A foreign evaluation is when an accredited service translates and standardize an international transcript into one that best matches what it would be comparable to in the United States. WES (World Education Services) and ECE (Educational Credential Evaluators) are two popular services who can confirm an applicant’s credentials and determine if their official transcript is legitimate.

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