Top 10 Application Tips #6 – Transcripts

This is the sixth entry in our “Top 10″ list to assist you with understanding the process of submitting your admission application to SIPA.  This entry is focused on advice regarding the submission of transcripts.  I have tried to break the entry into categories based on our process/requirements and common questions we receive.

Official vs. Unofficial

At SIPA we will accept unofficial transcripts for application review.  If an applicant is admitted to our program and chooses to attend, we will require official transcripts at a later time.  We feel that the submission of unofficial transcripts makes the process easier for applicants and allows us to process applications more quickly.  Therefore we prefer that you upload transcripts to our application site (by definition these will be unofficial because they will be coming directly from you and not directly from the school).

No matter what, we do need the grading legend included.  The grading legend shows information about the grading system used and often includes other information related to abbreviations that are used on transcripts.

You can find an example of what I mean by a grading legend by clicking here.  Most universities will include this automatically when you request a transcript, however please make sure to ask for it.

What Transcripts Are Needed?

Our general response is – we need transcripts for all coursework completed since graduation from high school.  We do not need high school transcripts.  For those that received college credit for coursework completed in high school, this information is typically listed on the college/university transcript.  If there are no grades but only credits for your high school coursework, this is acceptable.

Let’s say for example that an applicant attended UCLA for two years and then transferred to Michigan and completed his/her degree.  We would need a transcript from both UCLA and Michigan – not a single transcript from Michigan showing the courses that were transferred in. In this example, both schools have their own grading systems and codes, and we need to see the codes for each individual school.

Grades, Grades, Grades

The general rule regarding whether multiple transcripts completed toward a single degree are required is – we need grades for all courses completed.  However, we do not need the grades translated or converted to “American” grades.  What is very important is that a grading legend or key be included when you submit your transcript(s).

If your school used a 1-20 scale, that is fine, you do not need to convert into a 4.0 scale.  On a 20 point scale, Is 1 good?  Is 20 good?  We will not know unless the transcript legend is included.  Each year we receive transcripts from over 1,000 different colleges/universities and we want to look no further than your file for what we need.  Related to this . . . .

Question: I completed a study abroad program while in college, do I need to request a separate transcript for the classes I completed abroad?

The answer is, “it depends.”  Ultimately we need the grades received for all coursework completed.  So, if the grading system used at the study abroad school was different and there are no grades on your home school transcript, then the answer is “Yes, we need the study abroad transcript.”

In this example, if we simply saw the title of the class and a number of credits on your home school transcript but no grade, it is not acceptable – we would need a transcript from the study abroad school with the grades and legend explaining the grades.

However, if you took classes abroad and the grades for these courses are reported on your home school transcript according the grading scale used by your home school, we would not need a separate transcript.

Question:  Help!  I cannot get my transcript to upload, what should I do!?

First, there are four places available on the site for uploading transcripts.  They are labeled as follows:

  • Primary Bachelor Degree
  • Additional Degree
  • Further Degree
  • Non-Degree Coursework/Continuing Education

Each section will accept a file up to 1000kb(1mb) in size.  If you try to upload a file larger than 1mb to an individual section you will receive an error message.

Referring back to the example above, let us say that you attended both UCLA and Michigan.  If you try to combine the two transcript files and they exceed 1mb, it is fine to upload two separate files.  If you received your degree from Michigan, upload that in the Primary Bachelor degree section and then upload the UCLA transcript under Additional Degree and put “UCLA Coursework” in the description box.

If your primary degree file is from one school but exceeds 1mb in size, you can break it into two files and when you upload the second part in the Additional Degree section put “Second Part of Transcript” in the description box.

In an extreme example, if one transcript is a total of 3mb you can break it into three files and upload in the first three categories (Primary, Additional, Further).

As far as the scanning process is concerned, we offer advice on the application web site and I think it is well written so I will just repost it here.  If you are having trouble with file size, please consider the following:

  • Scan a copy at the lowest dpi that still results in a legible document (we recommend to use under 200 dpi whenever possible).
  • Scan in “gray scale” or black and white.
  • Try making a photocopy first (experiment with different settings until you find one that results in the smallest file size) then scan the photocopy.

Question:  I completed a few classes on my own since graduating from college, do I need to submit transcripts for these courses?

Answer:  Yes, we need transcripts for all coursework completed since graduating from high school.  Let’s say you took two classes at two different schools after graduating for college – it would be fine to combine these transcripts into one file and upload the file to the Non-Degree Coursework/Continuing Education section.  Even if you took these classes Pass/Fail we still need the transcript.

Advice – Print and Review Before Submitting

We will be printing the transcripts you upload and if you cannot read them when printed, we will not be able to read them either.  We highly recommend printing a copy of what you are uploading to the site before submitting your application.  If we print your application and cannot read your transcripts, there will be significant delays in processing your application.

GPA Reporting

We understand that not all grades are reported on a 4.0 scale.  If you were not graded on a 4.0 scale, in the Previous Education Section of the application, simply put 0.0 for your GPA.  This alerts us that your grades were not reported on a 4.0 scale.

Question:  What if I am still in school and I have not completed my degree?  My coursework is in progress so what should I do?

It is fine for applicants that are still in college to apply.  Simply request a transcript that reflects your most up-to-date grades.  If this means you do not have grades for the fall semester you are currently enrolled in, that is fine.   If we need more information, we will let you know.

For example, if we do not see fall grades reported on your transcript, we may contact you and ask for the results.  We also may not feel the need to contact you.  There is no need for you to submit additional grade information after our deadline passes unless we specifically ask for it.

Question:  What if I completed my degree and am taking a continuing education class but the grade will not be available until after the admissions deadline?

First, please upload a  file showing your registration in the course in the “Non-Degree Coursework/Continuing Education Section.”  We do not need to see a grading legend, a simple screen shot from a course registration web site would suffice (many schools offer this however if not, ask the registrar to print a copy for you).

We would also like to see this information in the second résumé.  You can enter the name of the class, where you are taking it, post the class description, and list it as “In Progress.”

Question:  What if I plan on taking a class but it does not start until after the admission deadline passes?

Please report such information in the second résumé.  For example, if you plan on taking a microeconomics class that starts in February, you can list the class and school you plan on taking the course at in your second résumé.  If there is a description for the class available on the web or via a catalog, please list the description as well. For details on the second résumé, see this entry.