In almost every line of work, most of us will do anything we can to avoid it. But sending school transcripts to multiple international universities is a lot of paperwork.
If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you’ll know that we cover a lot of international university systems. Each university system has its own bespoke requirements for submitting important documents.
For school counselors and advisers overseeing international applications, keeping track of these competing requirements is one of the hardest parts of the job, and something we get asked about a lot here at BridgeU.
Let’s take a quick look at what most counselors can expect to find in their in-tray when application season comes around.
- Collating relevant documents and school reports and administering their delivery.
- Ensuring they meet each university’s relevant deadlines and milestones
- Liaising with students and parents who are anxious about their transcripts and documents reaching a university or college safely.
Many university systems have automated the document sending process, with organisations such as UCAS, the Common Application and Parchment making it easier to submit academic transcripts and certificates online.
This doesn’t change the fact that submitting school transcripts and other application documents is often a lot of complex work.
But the good news is that, when you strip away the jargon and terminology used in different countries, most universities are looking for broadly similar information from the documents schools are required to send.
Broadly speaking, these include:
- Letters of recommendation/school references
- A students’ test scores and academic grades (a.k.a the school transcripts)
- Contextual information on the student’s school & the curriculum they have been working towards (i.e. a school profile).
So if you’re currently administering your students’ university applications and feeling stressed about the sheer volume of documents and supporting materials you need to send, worry not!
We’ve put everything you need to know about submitting school transcripts and document sending in one place.
So let’s dive in and break down some of the most popular university systems in more detail.
Compared to some countries, the UK is very straightforward. Because many university applications are administered through UCAS, the most important documents for UK university applications will be sent through a centralised system.
Filling out basic information through UCAS
When students create a UCAS account, they are required to fill out information about themselves. This includes:
- Basic info like name, address, gender, email address and telephone number.
- Their residential category and nationality.
- Relevant student finance/student support information.
- Any disabilities or special needs they may have.
- Any English language tests they have registered for (this is especially relevant for international students!)
- The qualifications they are studying towards (e.g. International Baccalaureate) and their predicted grades
The UCAS Reference
The most crucial supporting document that most UK universities require is the UCAS reference. The UCAS reference is one document sent by the student’s school.
The main challenge the UCAS reference poses for counselors and is that they must collate individual teachers’ reports into one document. This means that counselors must ensure that teachers’ comments are clear, concise and backed up by clear anecdotal evidence.
Extra requirements for international students
Whilst it’s true that most school transcripts and supporting documents for UK universities can be sent through UCAS, it’s worth being aware of additional requirements that international students may face.
- Some UK universities won’t accept an international student’s academic results or transcripts through UCAS (this will usually apply to non-EU/EEA students. In these cases, it will be necessary to send these directly to universities
- Students from non-EU countries will require a valid student visa to study in the UK. They will need the offer of a place before they can start applying for a student visa.
- Students wishing to apply for a UK student visa will need to prove that they have sufficient funds to cover the first year of tuition fees and living expenses.
The United States
The United States is the most complex system in terms of sending school transcripts & supporting school documents.
US universities will require a number of documents to be sent throughout the year. Below is a brief overview of the most important ones.
The School Profile
US universities want to know more about the secondary/high school that an applying student came from. It helps to put the students’ grades and achievements in a wider context. The School Profile will need to include information such as:
- Basic info about your school (e.g. school name, address, phone number, website URL and contact details for relevant staff, such as the principal & counselors)
- Information about the student and parent body (e.g. the socio-economic and ethnic mix), membership of any relevant organisations (e.g. are you an IBO school?) and the school’s mission and values.
- Extracurricular activities at your school – e.g. what sports, clubs and societies can your students participate in?
- The curricula and academic programmes taught at your school.
- Info on previous students’ university/college attendance.
- How your school ranks and grades its students
- How students have historically performed in standardised tests (e.g. SAT/ACTS) if relevant.
High School Transcripts
A student’s school transcript is a summary of their academic performance. It summarises the classes and courses students took, when they took them and their grades and cumulative GPA.
Admission Test Scores
Some US universities will ask for students to send copies of their test scores (such as the SAT/ACT) Many universities will only accept copies from the testing organisations themselves, so it’s useful heading over to their websites for more information.
Letters of Recommendation (LoR)
There are normally two types of letter of recommendation that a US university would want to see – the teacher’s letter of recommendation and the counselor’s letter of recommendation.
- The teacher’s LoR is more focussed on the student’s academic achievements and intellectual promise. They are primarily a record of the teacher’s experiences of teaching the student, but if the teacher knows the student in another capacity that’s fine too!
- The counselor’s letter of recommendation is more of a general overview of the student’s contribution to school life, their extracurricular activities, and how they cope with challenges/adversity.
Additional Resources: Learn more about the key differences between a counselor’s letter of recommendation and a teacher’s letter of recommendation here.
US universities will ask for Mid-Year reports after the first semester/halfway point of a student’s final year at school. The mid-year report is often accompanied by a mid-year transcript.
Final Transcripts/Academic Reports
At the end of the academic year, US universities will ask for the final school transcripts from a student who is deciding to enrol. This demonstrates that the student kept their grades up during the final year of school/has met their predicted grades from earlier in the year.
Note: Counselors of IB and A-level students should submit their final reports in the August after the A-level/IB exams are complete.
The Student’s Application Essays
As well as the documents listed above, students will send their application essays through their own Common App account.
Note: Students will have to pay a small fee to apply to universities in the US. However, eligible students can apply for what is known as a Fee Waiver.
The Common App
Common App allows counselors to send documents to US universities through its online platform. The document requirements for Common App universities & colleges in the USA are broadly the same as above. In the case of the Common App, counselors can expect to submit the following:
- The counselor’s personal information
- The School Profile (see above)
- The School Report (which encompasses the student’s GPA, the curriculum they have chosen to study, disciplinary history, and their academic transcripts).
- The Mid-Year Report.
- The Final Year Report.
- Letters of Recommendation
- Early Decision Agreement (if applicable)
In addition to the Letters of Recommendation, Common App will ask counselors to fill in what is known as a Counselor Recommendation Form. This is a supplementary form that asks counselors to describe how long they have taught the student, in what capacity they know them, and a brief assessment of their academic & personal characteristics.
The Coalition Application
Like the Common App, Coalition allows counselors to upload key documents like School Reports & Letters of Recommendation through its online platform. The Coalition platform has a slightly different format to the Common App, but many of the requirements are the same.
Additional Resources: The Coalition have put together a handy manual for sending documents through the platform. Click here for more info
The University of California
It’s worth briefly exploring the UC system. Because the University of California is a statewide organisation that encompasses the nine universities, it has its own application system, with its own requirements. The UC system will ask international students to submit the following.
- Academic courses and grades from Grade 9 upwards.
- Application test scores – e.g any ACT/SAT test scores, IB/A-level grades, TOEFL and IELTs language qualifications.
- Proof of current citizenship status, inc information on the type of visa a student holds, or plans to hold.
- Household income (optional).
It’s important to note that counselors shouldn’t submit Letters of Recommendation to a UC university unless a specific university requests it.
Finally, remember that the UC system has different application deadlines to other US universities and platforms, with applications due by November 30th 2019.
Additional Resources: For more information on the UC criteria for international applicants, the University of California website has a host of resources, including individual requirements for the nine UC universities. Click here for more info
Documents for entry to a Canadian university will vary depending on what region/province the university is in. The academic requirements for international students will also vary depending on which course/degree the student is applying for.
If you have students interested in Canada as a destination you/they will need to check the document sending requirements of their university carefully.
Broadly speaking, universities in Canada will require students to provide a minimum of the following:
Official High School Transcript/Academic Profile
Canadian universities generally require strong academic grades in either a national or international high school diploma. In some cases, high grades in a qualification towards the IB can actually count towards university grades.
For students of the IB and English National curricula, students will need to submit their final grades in the summer after their IB/A-level exams.
Proof of Standardised Tests
Canadian universities don’t tend to rely on standardised tests like universities in the US do. However, some universities in Canada will have them as a requirement – for example, The University of Toronto.
English Language Qualifications (TOEFL, IELTS)
International students applying to Canada may have to prove their proficiency in English or French (depending on which language their degree is taught in). There is no standardised test for French language universities, but these universities will assess international students on a case-by-case basis.
Additional Resources: Because every Canadian university is so different, students will have to check their chosen university’s requirements carefully. However, some Canadian provinces do have centralised application platforms, with resources to help you and your students understand the requirements of individual universities.
British Columbia https://www.educationplannerbc.ca/plan/apply/how
Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC) https://www.ouac.on.ca/ouac-105/
Some universities will require students to apply to the university directly, while other universities will accept application through a centralised system called Uni-Assist.
Uni-Assist is currently used by over 180 German universities to process student applications. Again, document sending requirements for German universities will vary depending on the country you’re applying to. However, the following documents will generally be required.
- Proof of school certificates, including courses taken and grades.
- A CV that covers a student’s prior education and work history.
- A letter of motivation explaining why your student is interested in the chosen course/university.
- A letter of recommendation/reference where appropriate.
- Any additional portfolio of work required by the university.
- Certified copies/translations of relevant documents.
- Proof of having passed an aptitude test/entrance exam, where appropriate.
You can also use Uni-Assist to check the documents required for different international curricula. Head to https://www.uni-assist.de/en/tools/info-country-by-country/ for more info.
Additional Resources: Read more about the documents and school transcripts required for German university application here.
Again, some documents will need to be sent to Dutch institutions directly, whilst others can be sent through the centralised Dutch university application system, Studielink.
Generally speaking, Dutch universities will require the following documents from counselors and students.
- School transcripts and proof of qualifications (e.g. IB/A-level/high school diploma)
- An IELTS/TOEFL if you’re applying for an English language degree in the Netherlands.
- Students applying through Studielink will be required to submit their school transcripts, personal statement/letter of motivation and CV through the platform.
Additional Resources: Read more about the necessary documents for studying at university in the Netherlands here
Like Canada, Australia has no centralised application system, but some individual Australian states will process university applications through what is known as a Tertiary Admissions Centre (TAC). Students should check to see whether their chosen university requires them to submit a direct application, or an application through a TAC.
In terms of application documents, the Australian system does not require counselors and students to submit as much material as some other countries. Broadly speaking, students applying to the Australian system will need to submit the following.
Secondary school qualifications/transcripts
An Australian university will typically require students to submit proof of a secondary school qualification, whether that’s a high school diploma, AS/A-levels or an IB diploma. Because Australia has two application cycles (winter and summer), students could expect to apply with either their predicted grades or their actual results.
If students are applying directly to a university, they will need to check the entry requirements of that institution carefully.
Additional documents that some universities will ask for include:
- A statement of purpose/personal statement to highlight why a student is a good fit for certain programs.
- Evidence of a TOEFL/IELTS qualification to prove a student’s English language proficiency.
- Evidence of financial capability (loans, parents’ financial history and bank accounts are some examples)
- A student visa (for which students can apply when they have their offer of a place)
- Letters of recommendation (again, students will need to check universities’ individual requirements here)
Additional resources: Read more about Australian universities and the necessary documents/transcripts for application here
Again, universities in Hong Kong have their own specific entry requirements. But the most common documents and supporting materials required by HK universities may include:
- Academic/secondary school transcripts.
- English language proficiency test results (TOEFL, IELTS) for students applying for an English taught course where it’s not their first language.
- The Personal Statement (see Chapter 4 for more info on this)
- Some HK universities will ask students for SAT scores.
The Referees Report
If your students are applying to Hong Kong, the Referees Report must be written by someone who knows the student well, whether it’s a teacher, counselor or high school principal. The Referees Report must focus on the students’ academic achievements and overall personal qualities.
If you and your students are in the midst of application preparation, then it’s important to check the requirements for each of the above university systems carefully. Each university will have their own bespoke entry criteria. It’s also vital to be mindful of any and all deadlines as 2019 draws to a close.
For more insights into managing every aspect of your school’s international university applications, download your free ebook below.