School Documents

Posted on 14th September 2021

School documents form a crucial part of the application process at most US colleges. Their purpose is to contextualise students’ attainment level within their curriculum and peer group. Yet at many schools they are overlooked in importance or misunderstood. The three main school documents that provide context for students’ achievements are as follows:

  • School Transcript
  • School Profile
  • Letters of Recommendation

The teacher in charge of university applications at your school should be responsible for coordinating these documents. Letters of Recommendation were covered extensively in the last blog post on School References . In this blog post we will be focusing on the transcript and school profile.

School Transcripts

Put simply, the transcript is a record of a student’s academic achievements while in the last four years of high school (Grades 9-12, or Years 10-13 in the UK system). What it should not be is a comprehensive record of every grade or test score you ever received at school. This is too much information for admissions officers to review, and it will often require deciphering a complex internal grading system that is likely to be more confusing than illuminating. The most helpful thing for your transcript to include is simply the following:

  • Your name and date of birth
  • Your GCSE results, exam boards, and grading system (9-1 or A*-G) in each case
  • Your A Level or IB predicted grades, exam boards, and grading system
  • Details of the key contact at your school (usually the university guidance counselor)
  • A school stamp, signature, and date

As mentioned above, this document needs to be put together by the person at your school responsible for university applications. If you are taking other internal courses or different exams such as Pre-U, it might be useful for the transcript to explain the grading system and, if appropriate, to link to an external web page that compares more unusual grading systems with the more common ones. It’s also very helpful for admissions officers to review not just what your predicted grades are, but how the school arrives at those predictions and when they were determined. This is because the practice of determining predicted grades varies a lot from school to school, and a brief statement about the process at your school helps admissions officers to understand more about your context.

School Profile

The School Profile is the unsung hero of the school applications process. It often ends up as a dull repository of information, when what it should be is an opportunity for your school to put its best foot forward and showcase its values, its results, and the kind of education it provides. Our research shows that two pages is the optimal length for a profile, and that the kind of information it should include is as follows:

  • An overview of the school’s history and school type (state/independent, day/boarding, co-educational/single sex)
  • The academic programme in Grades 9-12/Years 10-13
  • Distribution of GCSE and A Level/IB grade
  • Leavers’ destinations
  • Information on extracurricular opportunities
  • Key contacts (usually the university guidance counselor and Head of Sixth Form, etc.

A good School Profile can be cross-referenced with your transcript to see where your grades and achievements sit within the context of your peers. It also shows admissions officers the opportunities that are available to you inside and outside of the classroom and supports the information in the rest of your application.

Teachers reading this blog should consider asking their school’s marketing department to get the School Profile professionally designed. If a graphic designer can also produce an editable template, it means that the cost can be spread out over several years.

Some public colleges (such as those within the University of California system) do not ask for school references or a transcript at the time of application but ask students to supply grades themselves. However, they will often have somewhere online where teachers can enter information about their school and upload the school profile. The University of California’s High School Profile page, for instance, can be found here .

Summary

School documents provide vital context for students’ applications, but it’s also important that they include the right kind and amount of information. Providing too much information – or information that is not relevant - can dilute applications; providing too little information can mean that the admissions office has to resort to guesswork. When a school presents its documents to a high standard and with the most relevant and helpful information it strengthens students’ applications and reinforces the school’s brand and reputation with colleges.

For teachers : we are running an online Teacher Training Day next Monday 20 th September where we will look at the whole US applications process from the school’s perspective, including school documents, in more depth. For more information, and to register your place on this course, please click the link here .

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