How Do I Obtain My College Transcripts — And Why Would I Need Them?

transfer student looking at transcript

Transferring from one college to another or applying to graduate school? Or maybe you’re going back to school to finish a bachelor’s degree after years of working. In any of these situations, transferring credits can make a significant dent in the number or type of classes you’ll need to take moving forward, and therefore can help decrease the cost of your new degree.

The key to applying those prior credits to your new degree path is your college transcript. Your transcripts provide proof of past academic work and achievements, which can come in very handy when transferring. While requesting your transcripts is a simple process, there are a few important things to know before you begin.

What is a college transcript?

Your college transcript is your “permanent record” when it comes to your college career. Each school you attend will keep a detailed record of which classes you took, the grades you earned, dates attended, majors and minors, and your overall grade point average. Your transcript could also include any transfer credits you received from previous schools, awards received, academic probation, or honor code violations.

Official vs. unofficial transcripts

One important thing to know is the difference between an unofficial and an official transcript. 

You can likely view your unofficial transcript on your college’s website, or request it from the registrar at your school. This document will include the same information as an official transcript, but it won’t be marked with an official signature or seal, and therefore won’t be accepted by another college for admission. But it can provide you with useful information as you determine whether you meet certain prerequisites or if you need to share your GPA as you begin the application process.

An official transcript is what any accredited institution will need to receive. It carries an official college seal and is signed by the institution’s registrar. So that they can’t be forged, official transcripts are not sent to the student; rather, they are sent directly to the college, university, or employer that the student names.

How to request your official transcripts

Most colleges allow you to order copies of transcripts online, by mail, or in person via the office of admissions or registrar’s office. You’ll complete a transcript request form, pay a small fee, and may have to provide proof of identification. 

Sound simple? It is! However, there are two reasons you should plan ahead. 

First, the process of requesting an official transcript can actually take days or even weeks to move through the system. So if you’re up against an application deadline, beware! Second, you must be in good financial and academic standing with your past college or university before they will release your transcript. So make sure there aren’t any holds on your student account before you begin the process.

Tips for transferring credits

If your goal is to transfer credits from one college or university to another, follow these tips to ensure you get the most out of your transcripts.

  1. Order an official transcript from every college you’ve attended. Perhaps you worry that bad grades at past institutions will hurt your chances with the new school, or that too much time has passed since you last earned college credits. In reality, even those old or not-so-great credits can be worth more than you think. So make a list of each school you’ve attended previously and request transcripts from them all.
  2. Follow up to confirm receipt. Since official transcripts will not be sent to you directly, you’ll have no way of knowing whether they’ve been sent to your new school without following up. So check with the school you’re applying to to make sure they received each one.
  3. Work with an advisor to figure out which credits will transfer. The school you’re applying to should assign you to an academic advisor or transfer counselor who can help you understand which credits will transfer, which will not, and why. If some of your credits are denied, keep in mind that you can appeal that decision. And also remember that some schools may offer more in transfer credit than others, so be sure to shop around.

At ODUGlobal, we offer free unofficial transcript evaluations, which can help you determine your path ahead. During this process, you share all of your unofficial transcripts with your enrollment coordinator, who will review each credit and discuss with you how it will transfer. This gives you information on which programs would be the best to transfer into, or if it’s best to take a few more classes from a community college before applying. If you are not ready to apply to ODU, our team will stay with you for a semester — or even years — to help you select the right courses at the community college to get ready to start with ODUGlobal.

This coaching process helps you save money on applying to ODU or paying for official transcripts if it turns out that you need to take some more classes at a community college to get ready. 

Have some past credits and curious whether they will transfer? Reach out today to schedule your free unofficial transcript evaluation before you apply.

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