What is a High School Transcript and How Important is It for College?

Your high school transcript is like a report card, but more thorough and informative. It contains many things that college admissions officers take into account when assessing your application. As a matter of fact, your high school transcript has a lot of things that can have a considerable impact on your chances of getting into college.

The pieces of information in your high school transcript that colleges and universities want to see can vary, depending on the secondary institution you are attending. Usually, they include:

  • The classes you took throughout high school (including AP and IB courses)
  • When you took those classes
  • Your grades in each of those classes
  • Your GPA
  • Your class rank
  • Standardized test scores
  • Honors and awards you received
  • Disciplinary actions

Whether you are applying to an elite school such as the University of Pennsylvania with a 7% acceptance rate or a less selective one such as the University of San Francisco with a 71% acceptance rate, you will have to submit your high school transcript, especially when it’s time to matriculate at your admitting institution.

In this post, I will answer some of the most pressing questions many college-bound teens have about their high school transcripts so that you can have an idea of just how important it is in the college admissions process.

What Do You Do If You Don’t Have Your Transcript Yet?

Students who don’t have their high school transcript yet and are applying to colleges via the Common App may select “No” in response to the question “I have access to my transcript(s)”. This will not put them at a disadvantage in the admissions process and colleges will still obtain their transcripts from their high schools.

Not having access to your high school transcript should not get in the way of your college application.

When applying, you can inform the institution that you are ready to submit your application except for your high school transcript, the official copy of which should be sent to the college by your high school.

Prior to applying to any college, it’s good practice to visit the office of your high school counselor or school administration to ask whether or not you can have access to your unofficial high school transcript — current high school students are not allowed by their institutions to obtain the official copy of their high school transcripts.

How To Ask School to Submit Your Transcript to College?

Your high school transcript will certainly be asked by the colleges and universities to which you are applying.

While some colleges will require getting their hands on your official high school transcript, others will find your unofficial high school transcript fine, too, although the institution you will attend will surely want to obtain the official one.

Because it’s for certain that the admitting college will ask for your official high school transcript, you should be nothing but honest when self-reporting your grades during the college application process — your offer to matriculate may be rescinded if the institution learns that you lied about your grades the moment that it grabs hold of your official high school transcript.

When it comes to requesting your high school to send your transcript to colleges, the general consensus is that you should make the request 2 to 3 weeks in advance before the deadline.

Attending a large high school? It’s a wise move to request your high school transcript earlier.

When Should You Submit It

College applicants should submit their high school transcripts by the deadlines set by the colleges they are applying to. It’s not uncommon for a lot of postsecondary institutions to still accept high school transcripts shortly after the deadline for application, although they usually do not review an application until it’s complete.

All parts of your application that come from you yourself are expected by college admissions officers to arrive by the deadline, including personal statements and supplemental essays as well as self-reported SAT or ACT scores.

Meanwhile, they are more lenient when it comes to components that come from someone else.

In case your high school transcript arrives late at the admissions offices of the colleges that you have applied to, this should not pose a problem to you. As a matter of fact, as mentioned earlier, the late submission of your high school transcript will not necessarily result in you being treated unfavorably during the application review process.

Since your high school transcript is something that will come from your high school counselor or your high school administration, colleges will not take it against you if it arrives past the deadline.

Will Your Grades in the Last Semester of Senior Year Still Matter?

Even if a college applicant’s high school transcript is already being reviewed by the college he or she applied to, his or her grades in the last semester should remain high. Otherwise, any sign of senioritis upon the institution’s receipt of the final report and official high school transcript may result in the rescindment of admission.

You can heave a sigh of relief if the Common App or Coalition App or whatever college application platform you used says that your high school transcript has been sent to the colleges and universities of your choosing.

Such usually heralds the end of the application process, and all that’s left is to wait for decision notifications.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that you can slack off. That’s because your admitting college will still ask your high school counselor to send a final report, which consists of your final grades and transcript. A college’s offer for you to matriculate may be revoked if it notices a drop in your grades, which is the primary indicator of senioritis.

According to the College Board, colleges and universities rescind admissions offers every year due to senioritis. In some instances, admitted students are put on probation or given an altered financial aid package by colleges.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the Difference Between Official and Unofficial High School Transcript?

Official high school transcripts are transcripts sent from school to school — they are sent to colleges straight from high schools. On the other hand, unofficial high school transcripts are transcripts handed by high schools to students for college or job application purposes. Many high schools have portals through which students can obtain printed copies of their transcripts.

Can You Get an Official High School Transcript If You Have Not Graduated?

Yes, you can get a copy of your official high school transcript for whatever purpose even if you have not graduated from high school. Your transcript will include the courses you have completed and exams you have taken as well as academic achievements. Your GPA, meanwhile, will be computed based on the grades you have earned in your uncompleted high school career.

Is It Possible to Apply to College Without a High School Transcript?

Some colleges will require applicants who have no high school transcripts to provide proof of their graduation or an equivalent, such as the General Educational Development certificate or degree. Before reviewing their applications, colleges will inform applicants to submit them. Those who have been admitted may have their offers rescinded in the absence of any proof.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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