What’s a High School Transcript and Why Is It So Important?
Your high school transcript is a defining part of your college application, scholarship applications, and even your search for a summer internship. It’s something that will be scrutinized by people who are making big decisions about your college future. In this post, we’ll break down the high school transcript, including what exactly it includes, and we’ll discuss why it’s so important.
What’s a High School Transcript?
A high school transcript is an academic record of your high school years. It includes the classes you took, when you took them, how you did in them, and often any awards or recognition you received in them. Every student enrolled in high school, no matter how advanced or behind they fall, will have a high school transcript. Even homeschoolers often have high school transcripts, in that case created in coordination with a parent or other homeschooling teacher.
High school transcripts come in two forms: official transcripts and unofficial transcripts. You can usually print out an unofficial transcript yourself at home. These are a cumulative report card and can sometimes be accessed through your high school’s online portal. Unofficial transcripts might be enough for applying to a summer job or enrolling in summer courses.
Official transcripts are those that are sent directly from your high school to the recipient. They are often sent electronically or are sent in an envelope with an official seal to prevent tampering. These transcripts are the ones requested for college or scholarship applications.
What’s On a High School Transcript?
Because your high school transcript is a record of your high school career, it includes all the basic information needed to determine how challenging your coursework has been and how successful you have been in pursuing it.
Most high school transcripts include the following:
- A complete, dated list of all courses taken
- Credits received for each course taken
- Grade received in each course
- Cumulative GPA
Some high school transcripts also include:
- Disciplinary records
- Awards or honors received
- Standardized test scores
Because every school’s format and exact standards for what is included on the transcript are a little different, you should request a copy of your transcript from your high school so that you know exactly what it does and doesn’t include.
For example, some transcripts include AP scores while others do not. If your transcript doesn’t include your AP scores and you want them to be considered during the college application process, you’ll need to be certain that you send an AP score report or self-report your AP scores on your application.
You can request a copy of your transcript from your school’s main office or counseling office. For your own purposes, you’ll just need an unofficial copy, which can often be printed out right then. If not, it usually only takes a couple of days to print out and receive one. Some schools might charge a small fee to cover the costs of materials and printing when you request a transcript, but these are minimal and are a small price to pay for knowing exactly what information colleges are receiving on your transcript.
What Do I Need a High School Transcript For?
Many students don’t realize just how important a high school transcript is until late in their high school careers. This is because it’s both uncommon to encounter situations in which it’s needed until your junior and senior year, and it doesn’t include much information until that point either. In any case, there are several important uses for a high school transcript.
1. You need a high school transcript to apply to college.
This is the most obvious and important use of a high school transcript. The Common App, Coalition App, and most any individual college application all require an official high school transcript. This means that you’ll need to request a transcript sent or electronically delivered to each college you apply to.
Your guidance counselor or college counselor will be familiar with this process. In most cases, including the Common App, it’s your counselor who will be required to upload an official transcript and send it to each school you apply to.
2. You need a high school transcript for many scholarship applications, jobs, or competitive internship programs.
Scholarships, jobs, and competitive internships are another instance in which you will often be asked to send a high school transcript. In these cases, you’ll probably need to send an official transcript, but not always. Be sure to check in advance so that you know what is required for each application or program.
If the program or application requires an official transcript, you’ll need to request one from your school office or online portal, usually filling out a form that includes the address and program to which it should be sent. If an unofficial transcript is enough, you can simply make and include a copy of your transcript.
3. You need a high school transcript to transfer high schools.
Because a transcript is your official academic record, anytime you transfer from one high school to another, you’ll need a copy of your transcript. This is how your new high school will determine what course track is most appropriate for you given your academic history. Sometimes it will also determine whether or not you’re accepted to a magnet or charter school.
What Are Colleges and Other Programs Looking For On Your High School Transcript?
What each college or program looks for specifically on your high school transcript will have to do with their specific priorities, but in general you can assume that they are checking the following factors:
- Rigor of Your High School Coursework: How challenging have your classes been?
- Performance on Your High School Coursework: How well have you done in these classes?
- Prerequisites or Required Credits: Have you taken all of the courses required for success in the program or field you’re pursuing?
- Disciplinary Records: Have you been a positive contributing member of the community?
Your high school transcript is an important piece of your college application, but it’s one that you control throughout your high school career. For more help fine-tuning your course selection, honing your study techniques and time management, and juggling extracurriculars, consider the benefits of the CollegeVine Near Peer Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from college admissions to career aspirations, all from successful college students.
Want more tips on improving your academic profile?
We'll send valuable information to help you strengthen your profile and get ready for college admissions.