Archive for transcripts

A word about official documents

We are getting ready to release our 2015 application and some of the wording came into question… What do we mean “don’t mail transcripts to our office” when you are submitting an application?  This does not mean we don’t want to see them or that they are not reviewed by the Admissions Committee.  Actually, contrary to what we say about not sending your transcripts, we actually do need to receive official transcripts. eventually.  If you are admitted and decide to enroll at SIPA, official documents must be mailed and received by us before you may register for classes.

However, as an applicant, you may scan and upload unofficial transcripts to your application.  Your application will be reviewed with your unofficial records.  And you may be admitted with these records.  However, in order to enroll, we will need to verify your documents.  So please have your university or college send us official copies of your academic records (after you have been admitted).  This also applies to GRE, GMAT, TOEFL and IELTS scores.  These can all be entered by you into the application for review but again, they will need to be checked and verified with official records from ETS, GMAC, and the Cambridge Assessment Organization if you decide to enroll at SIPA.  Allowing you to upload and enter information into your application, allows us to process your application without unnecessary delays, then we can send them off to the Admissions Committee for review… so the fun may begin.

We offer enrolling students a few months to request and send in their official documents so no need to panic… Unless you’re a procrastinator and wait until a few weeks before Orientation (when course registration occurs).  Our Office of Student Affairs will put a hold on your account if we do not have a record of your official documents so you will not be able to register for classes… and isn’t one of the main reasons for coming here to take classes?

Key point:  Scan and upload unofficial documents for application review but don’t delay in having official documents sent to the Office of Admissions if you are admitted and plan to enroll.


Rehash an oldie but goodie… what’s my status?

We get several inquiries from applicants each year asking about the status of their application…  I would wonder too if I had to wait weeks (sometimes months – depending on when you submitted your application) for an admission decision that could change my future plans… hopefully for the better.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, we bring back to you an old post that’s definitely still applicable to this year that provides some tips on tracking your application.

Tracking your application … after it’s been submitted.

Please note that you cannot change any information on your application after it has been submitted.  Also, the date the application is recorded complete in our system has no impact on the admission decision.   What does matter is that all required application information is submitted by the deadline.

Do not panic if you log in after you have submitted your application and see that it is not marked as complete.  It is normal for us NOT to have all applications completed for up to three weeks past the deadline.  We manually review each application for completion and this takes time.

The application deadline is not the start and end date of when files are reviewed.  Applications are not all read at the same time – it’s just physically not possible.  The Committee reviews and discusses files until the end of our cycle.  So don’t worry if your application status does not indicate “COMPLETE” on February 5th.  If there is an issue with your application that needs to be addressed we will contact you.

Now on to the visuals . . .

Scenario 1:  You Are Working on Your Application but Have Not Submitted It

Let us start with what you see when you log in to the application system while your application is in progress and has not been submitted.

Below is what you will see when you log in.  Note that next to Submission Status it says “Not Submitted” (at the end of the red arrow).  In this example, the applicant has also entered the names of the three recommenders and they are displayed, along with the status.



Scenario 2:  You Have Submitted Your Application

When you log into your application after it has been submitted, the main page will show the message “Submission Status: Submitted” (see arrow #1).

You will also notice in this example that one letter of recommendation has been submitted (see arrow #2).


At this point no documents will show up.  Do not worry; this is because we have not printed your application yet.

Scenario 3:  We Print Your Application – This Does Not Typically Happen the Same Day You Submit

The next step that will occur is that we will print (yes, PRINT) your application for review.  It can take up to 15 days for us to print your application after it has been submitted.  Please do not panic if your application has not been printed. The important thing is that your application is submitted by the deadline.

If you look at this next picture you will notice two changes from the picture above.

First, the status has changed to “Application Printed – Manual Review of All Information Submitted In Progress” (see the red arrow #1).



Second, arrow #2 shows that we have not marked your application as complete because we have not finished our manual review.  We need to make sure we can read your transcripts for example.

Third, you will notice that transcripts, test scores, and other supporting documents now appear (see red arrow #3).  Please note that the default status for the following documents, if you uploaded a document, at the time your application is printed is “Received – Official” –

  • Academic Resume
  • International Fellows Program Essay
  • Personal Statement
  • Standard/CV Resume

We find that the vast majority of our applicants submit documents that are legible and complete so the default status is “Received – Official.” Do note that in some cases there are issues with these documents and if so, we will contact you.

 Special Note: the IFP, Lemann, and Harriman statements are not mandatory so if you did not submit a statement, your status may show: Not Applicable, Not Received, or Waived.

Above the “Other Supporting Documents” section you will see test scores and transcripts.  Please note that the default status for the test scores and transcript(s) when your application is printed is “Not Received” – even if you self-reported/entered your scores.  This is the same for transcripts.  We will perform a manual check to make sure we have all of the information we need and track any missing items.  If there is an issue we will contact you.

Please note we do not verify official test reports until after admission offers are made –WE ONLY USE SELF-REPORTED SCORES to make admission decisions so please do not contact us now to see if we have your official scores on file.

In the above example the native language of the applicant is English so TOEFL is marked “Not Applicable.”  If English is your second language this will read “Not Received”.

The last comment for this example is, please ignore the message on the bottom near arrow #4 that says “Submission Status: Not Submitted.”  It references a part of the application we no longer use but it is hard coded into the system and cannot be changed – it means nothing.

 Scenario 4:  Complete – All Documents Tracked But Not Sent to Committee

This next picture shows that we have everything we need.  All the letters are submitted.   Your unofficial transcripts and self-reported test scores are in the system and used for admission review.  However the status shows “Incomplete” and above that you will notice is still says “Manual Review of All Information Submitted in Progress.” Once a final sign off is given then the file is sent to the Committee.  This example is awaiting the sign off.

Scenario 5:  Complete . . . But with a Question

This next shot shows you the message “Documents still pending – Application is Under Review” with the Application Status below that reads “Complete.”

This is a case when we have everything we need, however there may be an issue we feel we need to resolve before the file is sent to the Committee.  This may be an internal application processing flag.  There is no need for you to contact us if this is your status.  If we have a concern, we will contact you directly.

 Scenario 6:  Complete – Sent to Committee!

This final shot is when you know your application has been sent to Committee.  You will also receive an email from us when your file is complete in case you do not want to compulsively log into the system to keep checking the status!

You can see on the top that it states “Application Complete – No additional documents.”  As a reminder, please ignore the submission status at the bottom.  It has nothing to do with your application, so ignore it.



Thank you for your patience as we work to process several thousand files in a short period of time.  If documents were submitted by mail it will likely take us longer to complete your file.

Just one final reminder if you missed last week’s post… The fall 2013 application deadline has been extended to February 5th – so if you need more time to pull together your application, you got it.  However, if you wish to be considered for one of coveted first year fellowships, please make sure you complete and submit your application by January 5th.  Applicants, who submit after the January 5th deadline, may submit a separate scholarship application for one of the 13 SIPA Named Scholarships offered.

Good luck!  We’re looking forward to reviewing your application.


Top 10 Tips for 2012 Application – #6 Transcripts

This is the sixth entry in our “Top 10″ list to assist you with understanding the process of submitting your 2012 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 can receive transcripts from close to 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 transcript(s) 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.

Top 10 Communication Tips 2011 – #6

This is the sixth entry in our “Top 10″ list for you to consider when communicating with our office and applying.

Number 6 – If you must mail something to our office use a private mail courier and request receipt confirmation.

Columbia is a huge university with one central mail room.  All “standard” mail is funneled to the main mail room and it can take a week or more for mail to be sorted and sent on to us.  This spells D-E-L-A-Y.

By utilizing a private mail carrier the parcel will be sent directly to our office, avoiding delays.  Also, we highly recommend getting a tracking number or receipt confirmation whenever something is mailed to our office.  This way the moment we sign for the package the courier will log delivery and you will be notified if you have signed up for email notification.

Even better, 100% of your documents needed for admission consideration may be submitted on our application site so you may want to consider uploading your information rather than sending anything by mail.  We want to make the process of applying as simple as possible so we accept self reported test scores and unofficial transcripts uploaded our application site.

It may sound funny to applicants but I cannot tell you how excited I get when we print an application and everything comes out in order.  When applicants upload all of the necessary documents and recommenders upload their letters as well, everything prints in one batch.  This means we can forward your application to the committee quickly.

If documents are mailed, after we print the application and review it we then have to go on a perilous search for missing documents.  The natural question you might ask is, “What is so perilous about searching for documents in an office?”  Well, I can tell you from lots of experience that paper and staples possess the unique capacity to slice human skin.  During the application season band-aids and hand lotion are a must and often times my hands look as if I got into fight with a cat.

Official Document Receipt

As all admitted applicants that will be joining us in the fall are aware, we need official transcripts and test scores to complete admission files so that we may forward all of the files to the Office of Student Affairs.  Your file will become part of your permanent academic record.

Josh Dennee is the person in our office responsible for managing this process and I asked him to write a blog entry on the topic to provide direction and put people at ease.  Take it away Josh . . .

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

In our continuing effort to provide complete transparency about the admissions process to avoid causing too many heart-attacks during a period fraught with anxiety and excitement, I am going to provide some insight into Official Documents processing. I understand that many of you newly admitted students are somewhat concerned about the status of your official transcripts and test scores with the impending June 15th deadline. Assuming that your scores and grades are consistent with your application, there is no reason to worry. Let me explain how the process works.

If you requested to have your GRE, GMAT, or TOEFL scores sent to SIPA, they will be entered in the information system within the coming weeks. Every few days I receive an electronic file from the ETS containing either GRE or TOEFL scores. These scores are then compiled and uploaded in a rather time-consuming process. Currently, I am still uploading scores received as early as last year, so even if you had your scores sent in months ago, they may not yet be in the system. And, although it is not our preferred method, we also have the ability to verbally confirm scores with the ETS if for some reason there was a problem with the electronic file. Meanwhile, GMAT scores are downloaded directly from GMAC and uploaded in a similar fashion.

Official transcripts are mailed to our office, recorded in Apply Yourself (the system through which applications were submitted) as official, and then filed alphabetically with other similar documents. This process is obviously subject to a certain degree of human error, thus the transcripts are carefully double-checked before we begin notifying students that they are missing.

I highly suggest that, if you have not yet requested your schools to send us official transcripts, you do so as soon as possible as some schools take a substantial amount of time to accommodate such requests. Over the course of the next month you may receive an email from us requesting an official transcript. If you have already previously requested an official copy to be sent to us, please do not fret, there is a strong chance that it is somewhere in our office. Once we have received everything we need, you will be sent an email exclaiming “Your SIPA File is Complete” and you can rest easy.

Lastly, I would like to note that, although June 15th is our preferred deadline, we are perfectly willing to accommodate late materials if delays are encountered. I hope that this helps assuage any anxieties that you have about the status of your documents. I look forward to seeing you all in the fall.

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

Boiler Image