All About High School Transcripts: What they Are and How to Get Them

5 min to read
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Whether you are still in high school or a recent graduate, at some point you may be asked for a copy of your high school transcripts. This usually happens when you are applying for college or a job, or you are transferring to a new high school, or when you are preparing to graduate.

What is a High School Transcript?

A high school transcript is a complete record of your academic history in high school. It often includes: 

  • A list of all the classes you took in high school

  • all course attempts, even those that were not completed  

  • The year you took each class

  • The grade you received in each class

  • The number of credits you earned for each class along with the total credits you earned

  • Your overall GPA  

  • Your class rank if your school has rankings

  • Any standardized proficiency test scores, such as the SAT, ACT, or PSAT scores  

There are two types of transcripts: an official version and an unofficial version. Both transcripts contain the same information. The official transcript is typically the one requested by institutions or organizations such as employers or colleges. Official transcripts usually have a seal or stamp that says “official” on it along with other marks that can’t be altered.  

Official transcripts are typically sent directly to the organization that wants them directly from the high school itself or they can be sent directly to you. If they are sent to you, they will come in a sealed envelope to ensure they aren’t altered.  If you receive your transcripts in a sealed envelope, don’t open it! Once opened, they become unofficial transcripts, which are transcripts that can be used for your own purposes. When you request your high school transcript, be sure to indicate whether you need an official transcript or an unofficial one.  

Why are High School Transcripts Needed?

While you know what classes you took in high school, there needs to be an official record to prove it and that you received a passing grade. Examples of why transcripts are needed include: 

Earning Your High School Diploma

Your transcript will show that you took – and passed – all the classes and earned all the credit hours required by your state to earn your high school diploma.

Getting in to College

Colleges look for an official list of the classes you took and the grades you received. They also look at your overall GPA and your standardized test scores. This information is used in their admissions process as a factor in whether they accept your application and invite you to attend their college. It is also used to determine merit-based financial aid and indicates advanced or dual-credit courses that the student may have completed.  

Supporting High School Transfers 

If you are transferring to a new high school, your new school will need to know what classes you have already taken, what your grades were, and your current GPA. This information helps them place you in the proper courses so that you meet the graduation requirements for your state. 

What is the Difference Between a Transcript and a Diploma?

A high school transcript is your official academic record. A high school diploma is a legal document you receive after meeting all your state’s high school graduation requirements. While a transcript is a list of the classes you took and how well you did, a diploma represents the overall achievement you earned by graduating high school.

All students who have been enrolled in courses have a transcript, but only students that have passed all their required classes for graduation can receive a diploma. 

An online school student using a laptop and researching how to get high school transcripts online. 

How to Get High School Transcripts?

Many people don’t even see their high school transcripts until they are requested by someone. But when that happens, they may not know how to get them. 

High school transcripts are created by the school that you last attended. Even if you attended more than one school, the last one you attended should be able to provide your full transcripts.

If you are still enrolled in high school, obtaining your transcript can be fairly simple. While transcript request procedures vary by school, you can typically contact your school counselor, registrar or school office staff to request a transcript. 

If you are out of high school, you can request your transcripts by calling the school office. Many schools also offer the ability to request transcripts online.  

If your school has closed, you have a few options. If it was a public school, contact the school district where you attended high school. They can help you get your transcript. If it was a private school, they are typically required to name a custodian of records to support transcript requests. Your state’s Department of Education can help you track down the custodian of records for the closed school.

High School Transcripts for Online School 

If you are attending or have graduated from online school and need your transcripts, contact the school’s administration office. You can usually find that information on the school’s website. If you still have access to the school’s online portal, you can typically find information to request a transcript there. 

Many online schools also have request forms online to help you easily request your transcript. The Connections Academy online request form, for example, looks like this

If you were homeschooled, your family had to maintain your academic records. If there was a governing institution overseeing your homeschool progress, they likely have a copy of your transcript. You can reach out to them directly to request it. 

If your homeschool was independent, your parents can create a transcript for you. There are several resources online that families can follow to create the homeschool transcript.  

How to Get a Copy of High School Diplomas

High school diplomas are also delivered by the individual school; therefore, students generally follow the same path as acquiring high school transcripts – stop by or call the school and ask for a replacement. If the school is closed, contact the school district or state education authority, who should be able to help you. 

For students looking for their online high school diplomas, they should contact the school they attended. The school should be able to send a replacement copy of the diploma.  

Plan Ahead When Requesting Documentation

It could take a few weeks for schools to complete an official transcript request. While sometimes last-minute requests can’t be avoided, if at all possible, request the transcript as soon as you know that you need it in order to avoid missing deadlines or opportunities. Also, some schools may charge you to prepare an official copy of your transcript. 

It’s also a good idea to keep an unofficial copy of your high school transcript in your personal files just in case you need quick access to the information. 

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