If you're applying to a college or university, especially if you've been out of school for awhile, it's important to know how to get high school transcripts. Most institutions will require transcripts as part of the admission process, and in some cases, courses taken in high school may be evaluated to determine any potential transfer credits. It's also important to be aware of timelines and significant due dates and request transcripts well in advance, as it may take some time for an admissions department to receive them.
Below is a breakdown of the transcript-request process, some different options for getting your transcripts, and other important considerations to keep in mind as you apply to schools.
Ways to Get Your Transcripts
One common way to get transcripts is to request them directly from your high school. You can typically do this in person or over the phone, and you'll need to be prepared to provide relevant identification information as well as the year you graduated. Depending on whether you need an official sealed transcript (see section below), your high school's records office will either provide a copy directly to you or will send a sealed copy to the university to which you're applying.1,2
Another option is to request your transcripts electronically through a trusted online service. To order high school transcripts online, you'll need to supply the relevant information for both your high school (including years attended and graduation year, as well as any other necessary identification information) and the college or university where your records need to be sent. The service will then get your transcripts, prepare them to be mailed or sent electronically in an approved file format, and confirm receipt by the destination college or university.1,3
Some common services that let you request high school transcripts online include:
When using either of the above methods, make sure you know in advance exactly where transcripts need to be sent (including an address and any relevant "attention" information). Typically colleges will request that you have them mailed to their admissions department, but you should check on the university website and/or application forms first just to make sure.
How Long Will it Take to Get Your Transcripts?
Sometimes the question isn't just how to get high school transcripts, but how far in advance of your application deadlines you need to request them. A good general rule is that you should plan to have transcripts to any schools to which you're applying well in advance of the final application due date.
That said, the length of time it takes for a college or university to receive your transcripts often depends on how they're requested. If you have your high school send them by mail, you'll need to account for the usual length of time for something to be delivered by the postal service, as well as an extra day or two for the school to process your request. One of the benefits of requesting transcripts online through a service such as the ones listed above is that often electronic requests are faster than waiting for paper copies to be sent through the mail—some services may even make transcripts available to other institutions immediately.3
Official vs. Unofficial Transcripts: Which Do You Need?
It's also important to double check on the kind of transcripts a college's admissions office requires. Many schools will provide you with an unofficial copy of your transcripts (sometimes for a small processing fee), which typically provide a basic overview of your academic records, including courses taken and GPA. If you just need information to include on an application, an unofficial transcript will usually provide it. However, these do not bear a school's official seal and may not satisfy admissions requirements.
An official transcript is one that has been validated by the issuing school or institution, confirming its authenticity. While it usually includes the same basic information available in an unofficial transcript, it is considered acceptable as proof of one's previous academic record.4
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1. Parchment, "Send Transcripts," on the Internet at http://www.parchment.com/features/send-transcripts/ (visited March 2, 2016).
2. NeedMyTranscript, "How it Works," on the Internet at https://needmytranscript.com/ (visited March 2, 2016).
3. National Student Clearinghouse, "Electronic Transcript Exchange," on the Internet at http://www.studentclearinghouse.org/high_schools/electronic_transcript_exchange/ (visited March 2, 2016).
4. Fordham University, "Difference between Official and Unofficial Transcripts," on the Internet at http://fordham.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/21/~/difference-between-official-and-unofficial-transcripts (visited March 2, 2016).