Transcripts: A student’s first asset and a formal record of achievements

I was surprised when I recently ran across an article from 2015 titled “What is a high school transcript? How do you use yours?” that targets students prepping for college. It challenges them to understand what that document really means for them as they head to college.

The article made me think about my own daughter, who is in high school. She views her grades one quiz, one test and one class at a time. She looks at the results of each semester – but I don’t believe she thinks about her transcript as a whole as it builds across all four years of high school. And while I always look at her grades through my higher-ed lens, wondering what an admissions counselor would think, I keep that to myself and repeat the refrain of parents everywhere – just do your best.

“As long as I know you are doing your best, that’s what matters,” I say.

I don’t need to add to her anxiety. And I’m lucky – all three of my kids have always been focused on learning and doing their best.

Transcripts are a student’s first official asset

In financial terms, an asset is something you own that is of value. Over the years, my kids will work hard to accumulate some assets to their names. For my daughter and her friends today, there might be a cute top, sweater or shoes that go into that ‘valuable asset’ category. And when she gets her driver’s license, she will perceive that to be her first asset and will ascribe far more value to it than her high school transcript that is still a work in progress.

But think about it. Her high school transcript is her first real asset – the first thing she owns with true value. The thing that no one can take away from her. Her AP classes are worth college credit and those possible College Credit Plus courses are of real value when they fulfill a requirement within a degree audit she doesn’t even know exists. That transcript holds evidence of what she is capable of and what she achieves in the most challenging classes the school offers.

Actually, there are stories in that transcript. Was one semester different from all the others?

I think back to my high school freshman year. My aunt died just before spring finals. I did poorly on a couple of those finals, as I just couldn’t concentrate. Luckily, my grades were good enough that I didn’t have to tell that story to an admissions counselor. But more and more, our culture of advising is changing to find those stories and understand them so we guide students on the best individualized path.

That becomes especially true when you introduce college transcripts.

Transcripts are the credentials you bring to the job of degree completion

Higher ed institutions must be prepared to handle these assets with the greatest of care. They should treat them like a ring bearer at a wedding holding the wedding rings. This is serious stuff.

That’s why students shouldn’t have to send them more than once. And why schools must process them quickly, accurately and consistently. And why students should be automatically notified when transcripts are received and when processing is complete.

Today, more than one third of students transfer schools during their college career and more than 45 percent of those students transfer more than once, increasing the urgency to process these assets and align credentials towards a degree. The urgency to support advisors with a complete view of what the student brings with them is essential. There is no time to waste because there are no courses to waste and no debt to waste.

And let’s remember what a complete view looks like. It means our SIS knows the program they are interested in or enrolled in and the degree audit knows what courses a student has taken, how transfer courses are mapped to existing requirements and what courses are left to complete. It means we have a sense of how much financial aid students have been awarded and how much more debt is ‘safe’ for them to accumulate. These things must be known every time a student is in front of us with the desire to change a major, drop a class or stopout for a personal reason.

Advisors have to help them make the best choices – because without intensive advising expertise, they might just see a pile of paper and a heap of courses that don’t add up to a degree. In the end, that defeats what we all set out to do when we received the high school diploma – take that deliberate next step towards our careers.

These assets demand technology

Don’t kid yourself. This process is too important. There is too much at stake and you are holding in your file cabinets or imaging folders the most important asset students own – their transcripts.

You owe it to students to capture their data with the most powerful tool on the market that eliminates data entry and allows you to turn that document into data and preserve the story that advisors can and will use when they sit face to face or voice to voice.

How do you use your transcripts? If your answer is to complete a degree faster and change a student’s life for the better, then I say mission accomplished.

Laurel Stiller brings her passion for helping institutions strategically maximize their efficiency to Hyland as its marketing portfolio manager for Higher Education. A graduate of Miami University, Ohio, with more than 20 years of experience working to map proven solutions to higher education challenges, Laurel implemented ERP solutions at Dickinson College and University of Oregon Foundation before joining the sales and marketing team at Datatel, now Ellucian, Inc. Laurel offers a deep understanding of higher education, dedication to transparency and a fondness for candid conversations about the solutions Hyland develops and delivers to the market. You may reach her at Laurel.Stiller at

Laurel Stiller

Laurel Stiller brings her passion for helping institutions strategically maximize their efficiency to Hyland as its marketing portfolio manager for Higher Education. A graduate of Miami University, Ohio, with more... read more about: Laurel Stiller