How To Get Transcripts

By Abby McCain
Oct. 30, 2022

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When you’re working your way through high school and college, the chances are good that you’ll hear the phrase, “That will look good on your transcript,” at one point or another.

But once you’ve put all those classes, grades, and extracurriculars on your transcript, what do you do with it now? Well, keep reading to find out why you need a transcript and how to get a copy of it.

Key Takeaways:

  • Getting your transcript depends on the type of school you went to and whether or not you are currently enrolled.

  • Official transcripts are used for licensing and higher education. They sent straight from the school to the recipient or given in a sealed envelope.

  • Normally you need to pay for an official transcript.

  • Even if your school has closed, it is still possible to receive your transcript.

How To Get Transcripts

What Is A Transcript?

An academic transcript is a record of your history at an educational history institution. It will provide information about the classes you took, the grades you received, and the credits you earned.

Academic transcripts act as proof of education and can be used for a variety of needs. High schools, colleges, universities, and internships all provide transcripts.

When you request a copy of your transcript you are usually given the choice between an official and an unofficial copy, depending on your needs.

How to Get Your Transcript

When it comes to asking for your transcript, the way you go about it will change based on whether you’re currently a student at the school or not.

  • If you are currently a student. If you are a student, you can usually visit the registrar’s office, school counselor, or school office to ask for a copy. Even if they can’t give it to you right then, they’ll be able to tell you what to do next.

  • If you are no longer a student. If you aren’t a student at the school anymore, the process will look a little different, as you’ll need to call or send an email. Leave a generous amount of time for this process since there’s a good chance you might have to talk with and wait on multiple very busy people. Some schools have online portals that allow you to request a transcript remotely, so look into that too.

  • Dual credit/concurrent enrollment. If you took any dual credit or concurrent enrollment classes for credit in high school, you would likely have to get separate transcripts for those in addition to your regular transcript.

    To do this, usually, you’ll contact the college, university, or technical school that gave you the credit, even if you only took one class with them. If you aren’t sure how to get in touch, your high school should be able to tell you what you need to do.

  • Internship/study abroad. The same goes for any college credit you got from internships or study abroad opportunities outside your university. When you request your main transcript, ask how you should go about getting these documents as well.

  • Using a third-party. If you’re in a bind and can’t get in contact with your school, don’t know where to look, or just don’t have time to do all of the detective work yourself, there are online third-party services that will track down your transcripts for you.

    You’ll likely have to pay a fee to use this service, but the time and energy you save might just be worth the money, especially if you need to find more than one.

Unofficial vs. Official Transcripts

Before you start hunting down your transcript, it’s important to note whether you need an official or unofficial copy.

While both contain the same information, an official transcript will be sent straight from the school to the recipient or given to you in a sealed envelope. Some even include tamper-proof marks to prove that they haven’t been altered by you or anyone else.

An unofficial transcript, on the other hand, is the same document but without the security measures. This version is great for your personal use or for organizations who just want a reference point for your education instead of proof of completion.

Testing or licensing centers, colleges, and universities will often want an official copy of your transcript, while other organizations may not prefer. If it isn’t specified, call and ask which one they require, or err on the side of caution and just send an official copy.

When you ask for your transcript, make sure you explain which type you want so that you aren’t assuming you’re getting one thing while the person sending it assumes something different.

Paying to Get a Copy of Your Transcript

It’s important to note that you’ll often have to pay a fee to get a copy of your transcript from the school, especially if you need an official copy.

This fee is usually just enough to cover shipping, but sometimes you’ll need to pay a service fee as well.

These fees change from school to school, as some institutions will provide free unofficial copies but charge for official copies, some will give you a limited number of copies before charging you, and some charge for everything.

These fees usually aren’t very large, but it’s important to be aware of and ask about when you’re requesting your transcript. This is also one reason why you should always ask if you need to submit an official copy or not: Being able to provide an unofficial copy could save you some cash.

Why You Need a Transcript

You may encounter requests for your high school or college transcripts at surprising times, but here are a few of the most common scenarios:

  1. When you’re filling out college applications. Colleges and universities want to see how you performed in high school and make sure that you meet all of their admission requirements, so you’re going to have to submit your high school transcript with your applications.

  2. When you’re applying for a master’s or doctorate program. Similar to undergraduate programs, graduate and doctorate programs want to know which classes you took and how you performed during your time in college. This is especially true if you’re applying for a program at an institution besides your alma mater.

    Your transcript also often serves as proof that you got the undergraduate degree that you said you did and that the date it was conferred matches the date you put on your resume.

  3. When you’re transferring schools. Whether you’re in high school or college, any time you move from one school to another, you’re likely going to have to provide a transcript to the new school.

    This is to not only help the new institution ensure you’ve met its academic requirements, but it also gives school administrators a better idea of what kind of a student you are and where you are in relation to their curricula or degree plans. This way, they can help you catch up if need be.

  4. When you’re applying for a professional license or certification test. Testing and licensing centers often want more than just your diploma to prove that you qualify for their tests. Because of this, you often need to submit your transcript even to register to take the test for a professional license.

  5. When you’re applying for some jobs or internships. This is especially true if you’re a recent graduate with little work experience or if you’re a current student.

    Companies are taking a risk by hiring an untested candidate like you, so they’ll want to see a record of which classes you’ve taken and how you performed in them to get a better idea of the type of employee you’ll be.

  6. When you’re applying for a vocational or technical training program. Like colleges and universities, vocational training programs want to see where you’re at in your studies and what kind of a student you are.

    Whether or not these programs put much weight on your GPA, they still want to see that you’ll work hard and be successful in their program. If they offer concurrent enrollment opportunities, they’ll also want to work with your school to fill gaps in your transcript so that you don’t have to take extra classes.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, as it’s commonly called, is intended to protect your right to access your educational records while protecting your privacy.

Because of this, you might need to jump through some hoops to prove that it’s you when you’re requesting a transcript. Private schools don’t need to adhere to FERPA laws quite as strictly because they aren’t federally funded, but public schools will be working hard to make sure they uphold them.

In addition, FERPA gives institutions rights as well, such as allowing them 45 days to produce the records after you ask for them and protecting them from having to compile a record that doesn’t exist just because you asked for it.

While your normal transcript request shouldn’t cause a problem, it’s important to be aware of these laws so that you can leave enough time for the school to conduct its due diligence in making sure it isn’t giving out your information to someone besides you.

It’s also important to be aware of this law if you’re over the age of 18 and you asked your parents to help you collect your transcripts because they might not be able to get access to them.

What to Do If Your School Has Closed

Sometimes, if you go to request a transcript a long time after you graduate, you’ll find out that your school has closed. Don’t panic, though. There are still ways to get your transcript.

  • For public school. If your school was a public school, your first step is to contact the school district. They should either have your records and be able to send them to you or point you in the right direction of whoever else you should talk to.

    If that doesn’t work, you can also call your state’s Department of Education and explain what’s going on. Again, they’ll either be able to give you your transcript or tell you where the records are now.

  • For private school. If your high school was privately run, the school district is still a great place to start. For religiously based institutions, you can also contact the church or even the school’s denomination. If all else fails, you can reach out to the National Center for Education Statistics for help.

  • For college and universities. Occasionally, colleges and universities may close their doors as well. In that case, do your research to make sure your alma mater didn’t simply move locations, shut down the campus, or merge with another institution.

    If it truly did shut its doors, for state universities, contact the Department of Education for the state where the school was located. For private institutions, reach out to the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE).

The most important thing to remember if you need a transcript from a closed school is that unless something crazy happened, your records are somewhere. You just need to find the person who knows where they are.

This is another case where it might also be worth using a third-party transcription service site to do the legwork for you, especially if you keep running into dead ends or don’t have time to keep up such an intense search.

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Abby McCain

Abby is a writer who is passionate about the power of story. Whether it’s communicating complicated topics in a clear way or helping readers connect with another person or place from the comfort of their couch. Abby attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she earned a degree in writing with concentrations in journalism and business.

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