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It's easy to get caught up in the graduate admissions process. Applicants to graduate school are often (and rightly) overwhelmed by the most challenging parts of the process, like approaching faculty for recommendation letters and composing admissions essays. However, the little things like college transcripts also matter in your graduate school application. No admissions committee will accept an incomplete graduate application. A late or missing transcript may seem like a dumb reason to receive a rejection letter, but it happens.
Unfortunately, students with stellar credentials aren't even considered by admission committees at their dream graduate programs because of a forgotten transcript or one that is lost in snail mail.
Request All Transcripts
Your application is not complete until the institution receives your official transcript from all of your undergraduate institutions. That means that you must send a transcript from every institution that you have attended, even if you did not earn a degree.
Official Transcripts Are Sent by Colleges
Don't even think about sending an unofficial transcript or a print out of your school record in place of a transcript. An official transcript is sent directly from your undergraduate college or university to the school(s) to which you're applying and bears the college seal. If you attended more than one institution, you will need to request an official transcript from each institution you attended. Yes, this can get pricey.
What Do Admissions Committees Look for in Transcripts?
In examining your transcript, admissions committees will consider the following:
- Your overall GPA and verification of your actual GPA compared to what you reported on your admissions documents
- Quality of the undergraduate institution
- Breadth of coursework
- Coursework in your major: Your grades in your major subject area and especially in the upper division courses and within the past two years
- Patterns of performance and improvement if you did not have a strong start
Request Transcripts Early
Prevent mishaps by planning ahead. Request your transcripts from the registrar's office early because most offices take a few days, a week, and sometimes even more time to process your request. Also, understand that if you wait until the end of the Fall semester to request transcripts they may be delayed as most offices close for the holidays (sometimes taking an extended break).
Save yourself grief and request transcripts early. Also, include a copy of your unofficial transcript with your application and a note that the official transcript has been requested so that admissions committees have something to review until the official copy arrives. Only some admissions committees may review an unofficial transcript and wait for the official version (this is especially unlikely in competitive graduate programs), but it's worth a shot.