What is a Transcript?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A transcript is a record of a student's performance and history at a particular academic institution. Transcripts are utilized for a variety of purposes, and they most frequently come up when students apply for advanced educational opportunities and the admissions committee requests transcripts. To obtain a copy of a transcript, a student can file a transcript request with the registrar of his or her school.

Woman posing
Woman posing

At a minimum, the transcript includes the student's name at the time of attendance, along with the dates of attendance, all of the classes the student took, the grades he or she received, degree granted, and the student's cumulative grade point average (GPA). Transcripts may also indicate any academic honors received, class ranking, and other notes which may be of interest to people reviewing the transcript.

When a student withdraws from a class or receives an incomplete, this will be reflected on the transcript. If a student is placed on academic probation or is otherwise disciplined, this may also be included in transcript records. Transcripts can also include notes to indicate that the student filed for academic renewal to erase poor grades from the record.

In the case of schools which provide narrative evaluations from instructors, a transcript can get very long and involved. In schools where this is not an option, the document is much more brief. Narrative evaluations are a topic of controversy in some schools, with some people arguing that they provide a more complete picture of a student than a list of grades, while others suggest that reading through narrative evaluations is time consuming, and that students may suffer as a result when admissions communities glance over these evaluations rather than taking the time to review them.

Students can receive official or unofficial transcripts. Unofficial transcripts are simply printouts of the student's record, without a school seal, and they are usually used for personal reference. Official transcripts are stamped by the registrar to indicate that they are complete, and they may also be provided in sealed form. If the seal is broken, the transcripts are no longer valid. Official transcripts are usually requested by admissions committees and employers so that students are not tempted to doctor their academic records.

Some schools may provide transcripts for free, occasionally with a lifetime limit on free transcripts. Others charge a small fee for generating the documents and mailing them out. When students file a transcript request, they should include their names at the time of attendance, their dates of attendance, their student identification numbers, the address to which the transcript should be mailed, and whether or not it needs to be official. The request must also be signed by the student.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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