How Do I Get My High School Transcript?

April 9, 2023

high school transcript

If you’re a high school student researching colleges, you may have noticed that most colleges require you to submit a high school transcript with your application. But what information is on your high school transcript, and how do you obtain one? In this guide, we’ll cover all your transcript-related questions, from “How do I get my high school transcript?” to “What’s the difference between an official and unofficial transcript?”

Let’s begin!

What is a High School Transcript?

A high school transcript is a comprehensive record of your academic performance. This document spans every year of your high school enrollment—which, for many students, means 9th through 12th grade. The transcript includes what classes you took, what grades you earned in those classes, and the number of credits you earned per course. Other information that may appear on your transcript includes your class rank, GPA, student ID number, and honors achieved.

Why Does My High School Transcript Matter?

When you apply to college, most schools will ask for an official copy of your high school transcript. (More on official vs. unofficial transcripts, and how to get your high school transcript, below!) The transcript is one of the most important documents you submit with your college application. This document tells admissions officers critical information about you as a student, such as the rigor of your coursework and your overall performance in these courses. In consulting your transcript, colleges hope to develop a more comprehensive impression of who you are as an applicant, and what you’ll bring to their campus. In what subjects did you push yourself? Did you take APs or IBs? What electives did you take, and what do these electives reveal about your broader academic interests? All this, believe it or not, can be deduced by glancing at your transcript.

Additionally, your transcript may come into play when it comes to financial aid. Many colleges award merit aid and scholarships based on academic performance. To evaluate whether you qualify for this aid, the colleges will refer to your transcript as a record of your academic achievement.

When I Get My High School Transcript, What Will It Look Like?

Before you get your high school transcript, you may wonder what the document looks like. Typically, a high school transcript is printed on official letterhead paper. This paper includes the name of your high school, your school logo, and the signature of your school’s registrar. Most official transcripts are stamped with a raised seal as a further point of authentication.

Below the school’s information, you will find your personal information. This includes your name, date of birth, and other identifiers.

High school transcripts are divided by year, and within that, by semester, trimester, or quarter. Each of your courses is listed, along with the grade you earned in these courses and the number of credits received. (I.e., Fall 2023; AP English Lit; 3.00 Credits; B+.)

At the transcript’s bottom is usually a section entitled “additional information.” This section may include pertinent information such as whether you’ve graduated, and if so, the date you received your diploma. It may also show your cumulative GPA and the total number of credits you’ve taken.

What Information Isn’t on My High School Transcript?

So, we’ve already covered that your high school transcript is a comprehensive record of your academic performance in high school. Now you may be wondering what, if anything, isn’t included in this pivotal document.

When you get your high school transcript, you might be surprised that activities like extracurriculars are not included. Fear not, however! There are plenty of other places on your college application to list your activities. Also omitted from this document are your attendance record, minor disciplinary actions (though expulsions and suspensions are included), teacher recommendations, and personal information such as race, ethnicity, or religion.

Official vs. Unofficial Transcript—What the Heck is the Difference?

You may have seen that colleges require an official transcript with your application. An official transcript is one that your high school has authenticated. You must go through the appropriate school channels to get your official high school transcript. (We’ll cover how to do that below!) Official transcripts are typically signed and sealed by the school registrar. They are specially requested by you and sent by your school.

An unofficial transcript is a photocopy of your transcript that you upload yourself. These do not have the same tamper-proof features as your official transcript and may be used only in informal cases, such as when applying for scholarships or summer programs.

When to Use an Official Transcript

Make sure to get your high school transcript authenticated in the following circumstances:

  1. College applications
  2. Financial aid applications
  3. Graduate school applications
  4. When applying for jobs
  5. When applying for visas or other documents that ask you to verify your identity
  6. Transferring schools (more on this below)

When to Use an Unofficial Transcript

When in doubt, we recommend you get an official copy of your high school transcript, but in the following circumstances, an unofficial copy may suffice:

  1. When applying to summer camps or after-school programs
  2. As a reference document when preparing for interviews
  3. Grant applications that specifically state unofficial transcripts are OK
  4. To show guidance counselors or other academic advisors

Sometimes, colleges permit you to upload an unofficial transcript with your application. Note, however, that these schools will require an official copy of your transcript once you’re accepted.

How Do I Get My High School Transcript?

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get your high school transcript:

  1. First, contact the appropriate office. This may be the registrar or guidance counselor’s office. Many high schools maintain online portals specifically for transcript requests. (Yay, 21st Century!)
  2. Whether you’re filling out your request in person or online, the form will ask whether you want an official or unofficial copy of your transcript.
  3. Next, fill out your personal information. This may include your first name, last name, date of birth, student ID number, social security number, and email address.
  4. After that, select the recipient of your transcript. State whether the recipient is a college/university, an educational organization other than the school, a business or individual other than yourself, or you. Fill out all the appropriate information for the recipient delivery. If you’re sending your transcript to a college, note the school’s name, state, and how the transcript should be delivered (i.e., by mail, electronic PDF, or email).
  5. Review your order and pay the fees. Some high schools may charge per transcript. This charge can range from $1 to $15. Other schools may grant free transcripts to current students. When in doubt, do your research and see what your particular school requires.
  6. Finally, let the request process. Processing time can vary from a few hours to several weeks, so leave yourself plenty of time to submit your transcript. Note that processing time also depends on the selected delivery method. Electronic transcripts are delivered quicker than hardcopy ones.

*Note for parents: if your child is over 18, the Department of Education will only grant transcript requests to the student to whom they pertain. However, students may give written permission for others to access their records.

What if I’m Not a Current Student at the High School?

If you no longer go to a high school but still need to obtain a transcript from that school, you will need to contact the school via the same channels listed above. The school will require you to fill out a student records request form that asks when you were a student at the school and your name while in attendance.

Once you’ve gotten your high school transcript from your previous school, you can request that it be combined with your current transcript. Note, however, that many schools will automatically combine your two transcripts when you switch schools.

Do I Need My High School Transcript to Transfer Colleges?

We get it: transferring colleges is confusing and stressful! Often, first-year college students don’t have the same established relationships with their guidance counselors that they had in high school and don’t know where to turn for application advice. That’s why we at College Transitions have made it our mission to provide a comprehensive guide to navigating the transfer process. Check out this easy-to-navigate guide, which will show you the transfer deadlines at hundreds of the nation’s most selective schools.

In addition, our College Transitions team has compiled a transfer checklist for prospective applicants, detailing the specific requirements of each school. As you’ll see, most colleges require applicants to submit a high school transcript, particularly if the applicant has taken less than a certain number of college credits (usually 24 or 30).

To obtain a copy of your high school transcript if you’re already in college, follow the same step-by-step guide we recommended above. And note that all colleges will also want a transcript from your current institution, showing your recent coursework and credits earned.

In Conclusion: How Do I Get My High School Transcript?

The high school transcript is crucial for both high school and college students. This document acts as a record of your academic performance and includes essential information about your grades, coursework, and diploma status. To get your high school transcript, contact your guidance counselor or registrar and complete the necessary documentation to request a copy. Make sure you do this early, as those deadlines can creep up fast! And if you’re still in high school, remember to take your classes seriously—even when that dreaded senioritis kicks in. You never know when you’ll need your transcript down the line!