High School Transcripts Explained

There are lots of exciting changes just waiting for you over the next four years of high school. One of those changes will be how your academic accomplishments are recorded. Yes, you will still receive report cards, as always, but your grades and classes will also be listed in a permanent document called your transcript.

What’s on My Transcript?

The information recorded on high school transcripts varies somewhat by school, but they all start with the basics: your classes, your grades, and often your grade point average (GPA) for each term (e.g., semester, quarter, trimester, etc.— whatever system your school uses). Your high school will use your transcript to keep track of all the classes you’ve taken and help you stay on track with graduation requirements. This document will also show the difficulty level of your courses (e.g., on-level, Advanced, Honors, Accelerated, AP, etc.) and, as you progress from year to year, the overall arc of your high school experience. The recorded information may also include special programs such as IB or Project Lead the Way. Additionally, at some schools, a transcript may also document behavioral information, such as the number of absences from school or the occurrence of a disciplinary action.

Official vs. Unofficial Transcripts

A little bit further down the road, you will want to take note of the fact that there are two kinds of transcripts: official transcripts and unofficial transcripts. Both transcripts reveal the exact same information with the only difference being that an official transcript has the school seal stamped on the document and is enclosed in a sealed envelope by a school administrator. The stamp and seal are there to ensure that the transcript has not been altered by anyone before reaching its destination. An unofficial document is not stamped or sealed and is available for students to download on your high school portal or by requesting a copy from your school counselor.

When Will I Need My Transcript?

When it comes time to apply for colleges, you’ll need to submit official transcripts to the schools where you apply. You many also need your transcript when applying for a job, internship, or summer program, so, when you are asked to provide one, check to see what type of transcript you need, official or unofficial. Your transcript is also very important if you transfer high schools because it helps teachers and counselors understand who you are as a student and how to help you plan for graduation at your new school.

Ultimately, it’s good to know what’s in your transcript and how you will use it, but for now, just be in the moment and enjoy an exciting start to high school. Good luck in building a strong story for yourself, one that you can share through the coursework, extracurricular activities, and summer experiences that make up your high school journey.