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What Are Academic Transcripts? A Guide

academic transcripts

An academic transcript is a crucial piece of document that elaborates on your previous education history. It contains identification details, data about your institute and an extensive summary of your grades. While applying for higher education, maximum colleges or universities state academic transcripts as a prerequisite since it helps the Admissions Team to evaluate the candidate’s academic performance accurately. Acquiring an academic transcript is an extensive yet pivotal process while applying to any university. Understanding its contents, impact, and uses are just some key aspects. Continue reading our guide to comprehend ‘what are academic transcripts’ and how they affect your career!

academic transcripts

Purpose Of Academic Transcripts

Academic transcripts, also called mark sheets, report cards, records of achievement or cumulative record files, are often acquired for educational or professional purposes. When exploring institutes abroad, it is an absolute must to be submitted with other documents with the application because universities perceive it as an important tool to assess the candidate’s educational background. As they contain the details of your grades in each subject, they are valid proof of your distinction to the university.

Why doesn’t an official degree suffice? A degree, certificate or diploma proves that the student completed the undertaken course and passed with the minimum required marks. However, beyond that, no further details are mentioned on a degree. On the contrary, each subject, its respective grades, additional achievements and any awards are listed on an academic transcript. It facilitates the Admissions Team to check on the relevant subjects and electives necessary for whichever course you apply for, especially since certain degrees require minimum grades in specific subjects. Hence, an academic transcript becomes a more useful and critical document during enrolment.

Contents Of An Academic Transcript

The first step to understanding ‘What are academic transcripts’ is to evaluate their contents. As aforementioned, since its purpose is to elaborate on the candidate’s educational background, a transcript contains in-depth details like each subject, minor or elective chosen, respective grades, and duration. Its contents can be broadly classified as follows –

  • Letterhead – The official seal, stamp or letterhead of the transcript is the utmost crucial part since it stands as proof of the document’s authenticity. Also, most times, as the university demands that the official transcript be sent by the counsellors or advisors directly, it must be strictly on the previous institute’s letterhead.
  • Identification – Next, basic identification details of the student are mentioned, for instance, their name, names of their parents or guardians, date of birth, enrolment number and year of graduation. The candidate’s details on the transcript must match those on other official documents.
  • Dates – Along with the year of graduation, the duration of each course, elective and subject is mentioned on the transcript. It is often used to review whether the credits completed match the baseline requirement.
  • Course – Course details are the most significant section of an academic transcript. The department’s name, respective courses, semesters and the achieved grades are printed in depth on the mark sheet. Even the courses that the student might have dropped are usually mentioned. Universities refer to this section to verify the applicant’s minimum score requirements in relevant subjects.
  • Results – Although not mentioned in each transcript, the ‘distinction’, ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ result is sometimes added along with the grades of individual subjects. It may be beneficial to portray the student’s proficiency in a specific area of study.
  • GPA – All universities or colleges have a minimum GPA requirement as their basic criteria. Although the applicant is usually required to fill out their acquired GPA in the application itself, transcripts are how the university verifies it.
  • Transfer Credits – If the student transfers from one university to another halfway through the term, some credits completed in the former will still apply. The transcript also mentions these transferrable credits to make the process easier and faster.
  • Average Grades – If the previous college uses a percentile system, they may mention the average grade, strength of the class or highest score to make the scale comparison more feasible. However, these details are optional and may not be present on every transcript.

The next step to comprehending ‘what are academic transcripts’ is to decode the terminology. Some basic terms used on a transcript are elaborated in the table below.

Sr. No.TerminologyMeaning
1.Student IDA unique alphanumeric code that is associated with each student for identification
2.Course CodeA unique alphanumeric code that is associated with each course for identification
3.Course NameTitle of the elective, major or minor selected by the student
4.Credit HoursThe number of hours attended/required to complete the respective course.
5.GradeThe Evaluative result of the student in the particular course on a scale
6.GPA/CGPA(Cumulative) Grade Point Average – Average of all grades acquired in individual subjects throughout the academic year
7.SGPA/TGPASemester/Term Grade Point Average – Average of all grades acquired in individual subjects throughout the semester or term
8.Transcript Key/LegendA reference given to explain the grading system or scale used by the college
9.P/F ResultPass or Fail Indication

How To Obtain An Academic Transcript?

Once you’ve successfully figured out ‘what is a transcript from a university’, the question of how to obtain it may arise. Every university has its procedure for acquiring a transcript in physical or digital form. Often, transcripts are given to the graduating students with their degrees and other documents at graduation. Or, at times, they may even send it directly to the university you are applying to. However, if students don’t receive one in time, they may have to apply for it. Its basic procedure remains similar for each institution. A step-by-step guide of how to execute the process is given here –

  • Inquire about the regulations and policies of the concerned institution regarding academic transcripts.
  • Students may need to submit a request letter or fill out an application form to acquire the transcripts.
  • The application form might require documents like a copy of the fee receipt, identification, and degree certificate.
  • The university may demand a minimal fee to process the submitted application.
  • If the student has been enrolled in multiple institutions for education, they must submit the application at each of them to acquire the respective transcripts.
  • Follow up with the institute to receive the transcripts within time. The application usually takes about 1 – 4 weeks to be processed.
  • Inquire about the procedure for submitting these transcripts to the respective universities. 

Understanding The Grading System

The grading system is one crucial aspect of understanding ‘what is a degree transcript’. Each educational institute has different grading systems which they use to denote the final marks of the student. However, since these systems are usually not universal, decoding the universal equivalent of the achieved grade is necessary to determine whether the prerequisites are fulfilled. An overview of the different grading systems and their explanation is given below.

  1. Percentage Grading – On a scale of 0 to 100, with a passing percentage typically around 40-50.
  1. Letter Grading – Using the alphabets A to F, A being the highest score. Some schools also divide each grade into +/-, for instance, A+, A-, B+, B-, and so on.
  1. P/F – Pass or Fail. It is used to denote whether a student successfully passed or not. Institutes may use further divisions under ‘Pass’, like first or second distinction.
  1. Numeric Grades – The marks achieved by the student are directly denoted on a scale of 0 – 100. They can be converted to scales 0 – 10 or 0 – 50.
  1. GPA – Grade Point Average. The average marks attained are calculated on a scale of 0 – 4.0. Some institutions use scales of 0 – 5.0 and 0 – 10.
  1. Credits – The number of credits achieved in comparison to the required credits for passing is mentioned.
  1. Written Comments – A written summary of the student’s performance in the respective subject is mentioned. Several times, institutes use this complementary to other grading systems.

Interpreting Academic Transcripts

Merely understanding ‘what are academic transcripts’ is seldom enough. Students also need to learn how to interpret the data and details mentioned in it to facilitate an easier admission process. First and foremost, check whether the details of the educational institute – their name, logo, contact and address – are up-to-date and appropriate. Next, personal details regarding the student’s identification must be cross-checked. The details on the transcript must match those on other official documents. Refer to the course details next – course name, duration, and year of graduation. 

While reading the details of each course, move horizontally from left to right. This way, the details of each elective or subject can be read at a glance, beginning from its course code and title to the grades or credit obtained in that subject. Alongside the credits, credit hours are usually mentioned as well. Universities often require minimum scores in certain relevant subjects according to the degree. The academic transcript is an excellent tool to verify whether these requirements are met. If any transfer credits are applicable, verifying if all necessary credits are mentioned under the respective subjects is advisable. Lastly, the total GPA, percentage or average must be ensured.

Uses Of Academic Transcripts

transcripts/certificates

Applying To Universities Or Colleges For Higher Education

While completing the application process for admission at a new educational institute, several official documents must be submitted as part of the formalities. Academic transcripts are one of them. It is usually mandatory to submit the academic transcripts since the Admissions Team uses these records to evaluate the student’s academic performance in individual subjects and electives chosen. In case the college hasn’t mentioned it as a compulsory prerequisite, attaching the transcript can prove to be an advantage since it provides added insight to the university about the educational background. Moreover, it is a quick and easy way to verify the GPA requirements, subject-wise minimum required scores, and authenticity of term-wise grades.

Transferring To Another Institute

Under certain circumstances, if the student must transfer to another educational institute halfway through the term or in the middle of the degree, some fulfilled credits may be transferred to the new university. The details of these credits, credit hours and their respective subjects are mentioned on the academic transcripts, which makes them a highly-valuable document for transferring students.

Scholarships

For international students, scholarships, grants, bursaries, or aid are typically granted based on educational qualifications or financial background. Universities verify whether the candidate satisfies the requirements and has the needed minimum grades. Not only does it demonstrate the applicant’s academic achievements, but it also provides the necessary edge over other applicants. Consistent academic merit portrayed by the official transcript of the university can do wonders for any candidate’s application. It is an impressive way of adding credibility to the student’s application. Along with recommendation letters, personal essays and extracurriculars, an academic transcript completes a well-rounded application.

Placements & Job Interviews

Several companies require candidates to bring their educational records during the interview. At such times, having in-depth knowledge of ‘what are academic transcripts’ becomes crucial. Interviewers refer to academic transcripts to evaluate their consistency, dedication and overall performance throughout the course. Additionally, any positive written comments or high grades in relevant subjects may provide a helping hand to bag the job.

Tips for Improving Your Academic Transcript

Once you comprehend ‘what are academic transcripts’, it is equally essential to understand how you can improve them. Building an exceptional academic transcript is a crucial step towards a successful future, and there are two distinct paths to achieve it: displaying unwavering consistency with high grades in each subject or embarking on a journey of improvement and growth with an ever-increasing trajectory of development. Here are some smart tips for improving your transcripts –

Consistency with High Grades:

Displaying consistently high grades in each subject is a straightforward way to develop a well-rounded transcript.

Importance of Improvement:

If initial marks are lower, showing improvement and a rising development graph can be impressive during admission. Achieving improvement requires planning ahead and considering options and possibilities from the beginning of the course.

Taking Rigorous Electives and Minors:

Choosing more challenging electives or minors alongside core subjects demonstrates dedication, effort, and hard work towards acquiring the degree.

Verifying Grades and Class Rank:

Near the end of the course, request an unofficial transcript to verify grades, absences, class rank, or any issues that may negatively affect the official transcript. Inquire with the institute on rectifying problems and maintaining an impressive academic record.

Seeking Help and Guidance:

Don’t hesitate to ask for help or guidance from college authorities or professors. Early intervention from them can significantly improve the academic transcript.

Promptly Addressing Issues:

Addressing any academic issues as soon as possible is essential to maintain a high standard in the transcript.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. What is a transcript in university?

Ans: An academic transcript is a crucial document that contains detailed information about the student’s identification details, data about the institute and an extensive summary of acquired grades in each subject.

Q2. How do I get my academic transcripts?

Ans: Students can get their academic transcripts by contacting the previous institute’s registrar or office and submitting an application to acquire a copy.

Q3. What’s the difference between a transcript and a degree certificate?

Ans: A degree certificate indicates the completion of an academic program, while a transcript of the same degree is a proof or medium of verification of the complete information regarding the degree, including subjects studied, exams taken, grades and institution.

Conclusion

As our guide elaborates thoroughly on ‘what are academic transcripts’, we emphasise their importance and necessity during a student’s educational journey. Since they contain in-depth information about the student’s education history, universities or colleges prefer academic transcripts for verifying the authenticity and the candidate’s merit. It has details of the institute, course duration, year of graduation, GPA, course code, each subject taken by the student and the grades obtained in those subjects. 

Obtaining academic transcripts is a simple process that can be completed by contacting the registrar. However, accurately interpreting the transcript is crucial. Since it is essential while applying to any university, scholarships, grants or job interviews, improving the transcript throughout the degree is equally important. Students must use it to portray their consistency, improvement and dedication. Lastly, feel free to ask for help and develop your records.

Thank you for reading our guide to ‘What Are Academic Transcripts And Why Are They Important?’ Let us know your queries or doubts in the comments section below.

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What Are Academic Transcripts? A Guide