In honor of your return to school and the start of “application season,” the smiling staff of Bendetson Hall has teamed up for “Application Advice Month.” We’re dissecting the required credentials piece by piece, and I've come to shed light on the transcript. Enjoy!
I simply cannot emphasize enough the importance of your high school transcript in an admissions process. As an academic institution, our greatest concern is: can this student do the work at Tufts? Nowhere (including your SAT/ACT score report) will we find better evidence to formulate a response to that question than in your transcript.
Here are the things I care about when reviewing your high school transcript:
The classes you took.
- Every school has different curricular offerings so I’m seeing if, within that context, you have opted to challenge yourself. We hope to see that if you were given a choice, you chose to learn as much as possible. Sometimes rigor is consistent, sometimes it’s uneven (think the math/science person vs. the English/social studies person) and sometimes it develops. No single path is correct, but we’re looking at the story your course selection tells.
The grades you received.
- What grades look like can vary depending on where you’re coming from. We’re looking at individual grades, trends over time, strengths and weaknesses, etc. All four years count, though your recent performance will be most accurate in predicting your abilities on our campus (not everyone hit high school out of the park in year one – and that’s ok). We watch for serious blips (if they exist) and then do the required research to see if they happened for a non-academic reason (sickness, teacher who grades aggressively, late move into a school).
As a senior applying to college, there is admittedly not much you can do to really change your transcript in a meaningful way. Largely, what’s done is done (Juniors: savor your chance to create positive change!). But here are some action items to consider before it comes to us:
Check It: Ask to take a look at your transcript, and check it for accuracy. Make sure your grades and classes are all correct. If a mistake is found later in the process it can be rectified, but that becomes much more complicated.
Consider Context: Ask to see your “school profile” (if one exists). This is the main document we use to understand your transcript, and in it you’ll find things like classes available, grade distributions, socioeconomic data on the population, etc. If your school is home to a few quirky nuances (they all are) we’ll likely read about it there. But watch for things that the profile might not tell us. For example, my high school has an EXCEPTIONAL agriculture program. “Ag” was one of the toughest classes I took, but to the unknowing eye of a stranger, it might look like a less academic elective (hence the need to do some explaining). Other context worth pointing out in the “Additional Information” section of the Common App are things like extended absences from school, illness, and personal transitions (think divorce, death of a family member, etc.). If you believe something in life had a significant impact on the classes you took or grades you received, tell us. We’re not mind readers, and a quick paragraph should suffice.
Keep Up the Hustle: One of the saddest moments for an admissions officer is when we read a file, love the applicant, and then are sent a disappointing midyear (or first quarter/trimester) transcript. If a student throws in the academic towel in 12th after years of hard work, it can be a real deal breaker. So work hard this year, all the way to graduation. It matters.
As always, questions are welcome. You’re getting there, friends!