When you’re gathering materials to apply for college or even a job, you’re often asked for a copy of your high school transcript. If you’ve ever wondered what a high school transcript actually is, you’re not alone.


What Is a High School Transcript?

A high school transcript is a record of your academic accomplishments during your time as a high school student. On it you will find every class you have taken in high school, when in your tenure you took each class, and what grade you received in those classes. Everyone who went to high school will have a transcript and if you attended more than one high school, you will have more than one high school transcript.

So when are you going to need a high school transcript?

When You Apply to College

Many colleges require an official copy of your high school transcript when you apply and again when you graduate to prove that you’ve completed your high school curriculum and that you have the academic standing necessary to be accepted. Some colleges will also use your high school transcript or GPA to determine any merit-based financial assistance. It is also used to determine if you’ve fulfilled any pre-requisite work necessary for class registration.

When You Graduate or Transfer High Schools

Your high school transcript is examined to ensure you have fulfilled all the requirements for graduation and don’t need to take any additional classes to meet curriculum standards. If you have to transfer high schools, your transcript is evaluated to determine your class standing and what classes you’re able to take based on the coursework you have already completed.

When You Apply for Certain Jobs

Internships, government positions, and even jobs within a university can require you to submit your high school transcript when applying for employment. In these cases, transcripts are used to determine your work ethic and to fact check any claims you have on your resumé such as GPA or graduating with honors. This also gives employers the opportunity to see how long you’ve been taking any coursework relevant to the position you’re applying for.

Unofficial Transcript vs Official Transcript

Transcripts come in two forms: unofficial and official. What’s the difference between the two and which one should you be handing out?

Both transcripts contain the same information. The official version contains your school’s seal or a tamper-proof mark to guarantee none of the information presented has been manipulated or altered in any way. An unofficial transcript does not have this mark.

Most colleges and universities require you to submit an official copy of your high school transcript. To ensure their authenticity, official high school transcripts are often sent directly from to school to school. Your high school may also give you an official copy of your transcript in a sealed envelope. Do not open this envelope! The moment you do, it is considered unofficial and will not be acceptable to the colleges and universities you’re applying to.

Some jobs will accept an unofficial copy while you’re applying and then request an official copy when you’ve been hired in order to verify the information you’ve provided.

If you’re working with a college consultant or applying for scholarships, an unofficial version of your high school transcript is usually acceptable. And if you just want your high school transcript for your own records of personal use, an unofficial copy is okay.

High School Transcript and College Admissions

I’ve mentioned briefly already why your high school transcript is important for the college application process, but I want to go into a little more detail about how it affects your chances for admission into college.

When an admissions committee receives your complete college application, one of the most important pieces of information you will provide is your high school transcript. This tells the committee a variety of things, including:

  •    how long you’ve been taking a rigorous course load
  •    if you have any “weak” subjects or areas you’re challenged in
  •    your work ethic
  •    how well you balance school work and life
  •    GPA and class standing

That’s a lot of information, right? A lot is riding on your high school transcript.

Make Your Transcript Impressive

Depending on the caliber of schools you’re applying to, it’s important that you take what’s called a “rigorous high school curriculum.” What does that actually mean and why is it important?

Usually taking a rigorous course load means you’re doing four years of English, math, social studies, and the sciences. Pursuing the same foreign language for three years is also strongly encouraged. This doesn’t leave much room for electives, but even those should be tailored to what your intended major is. If you’re undecided, make sure your electives either contribute to one of the areas above, like astronomy or Shakespeare, or broaden your intellectual horizons like psychology or philosophy.

When you’re picking classes for the year or semester, make sure to enroll in as many AP and IB classes as you possibly can. Taking AP and IB courses prepare you mentally for college on an intellectual level by placing you in charge of how much you get out of a particular course. This is very different from how regular high school classes are taught and, if you’re unprepared, can leave you feeling overwhelmed when you’re finally in college.

I always tell my students that working with a tutor is one of the best things they can do for their education, especially when they’re mentally transitioning from normal high school level course work to AP and IB level coursework. You’re not a failure for seeking out a tutor; you’re taking responsibility for your education and being mature enough to admit you need some help.

A high school transcript is one of the most important collection papers for you future. Colleges and universities, high schools you might be transferring to, and even some employment opportunities require a high school transcript in order for you to be considered. Make sure you’re sending the official transcript to them rather than of the unofficial one and that you know the difference between the two. And most importantly, make your high school transcript something you can be proud of.

Do you have any questions about high school transcripts? Does knowing all of this change how you look at your school work? Comment below and let us know your thoughts. We can’t wait to see what you have to share with us!