When students graduate from high school or college, they usually receive copies of their transcripts upon graduating. This is because transcripts are necessary for high school students who want to apply to college, and college students who either want to further their education or apply for a job after graduation that asks for transcripts.

That being said, there are many cases in which students will need a copy of their transcripts many years after they have graduated from high school or college, and this can be a bit difficult if you've already been out of school for quite some time. But as long as you know where to go, getting your transcripts when you need them just takes a few moments of your time.

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To get your transcripts years after graduating from high school or college, you can call your school and request them, order them online from your school's website or use a third-party website to have unofficial or official transcripts sent to you or sent to the institution of your choice.

What Is a Transcript?

A transcript is essentially a list of the courses you took while you were in high school or college, and the grades you've received in each of those courses, along with your total GPA. High school transcripts and college transcripts are a little bit different. For instance, high school transcripts will, in most cases, also show which standardized state tests you've taken, and the score you got on those tests. It also may have comments from individual teachers about your performance in those classes.

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College transcripts, on the other hand, will list your major and minor (if you have one), the courses you've taken, your grades in those courses, and the credit hours you have earned. If you've taken a class for a pass/fail grade, it will list a "P" or an "F" next to that class.

The Differences Between a Transcript and Diploma or Degree

Transcripts are very different from a diploma or degree. While a transcript lays out all the courses you have taken in either high school or college along with your grades, your high school diploma or your college degree is what you earn after taking all the courses. Whereas a transcript is several computer-printed pieces of paper together, a diploma or degree is crafted beautifully on special paper. People may frame and hang up their degree or diploma on the wall, but they probably won't do that with their transcripts.

You can get your transcripts without yet having your diploma or degree, but you cannot necessarily get your diploma or degree just from having transcripts that show the classes you've taken unless you've completed all the requirements necessary.

Why Would I Need My Transcripts After Graduation?

There are many reasons as to why a person would want or need their transcripts months or years after graduating from high school or college. For those who have graduated high school but didn't pursue higher education immediately after, transcripts can come in handy if you ever decide to go back to school and apply for college somewhere down the road. They can also be useful if you entered the workforce immediately after high school, but now it's a few years later and you want to change your job or career path.

As far as college transcripts go, some people will need to get their transcripts years after graduation, too. This could be because you perhaps decided that you want to go back to school and continue on to a master's or Ph.D. program, and you'll need your transcripts as part of your application. Maybe you even want to apply for another bachelor's degree in a different area of study. Or perhaps you're interested in applying for your studies abroad, and transcripts from the amount of schooling you've done so far are required.

There are several other reasons why you may you need your transcripts well after you graduate. For instance, if you're interested in teaching English abroad after college, volunteering in the Peace Corps, working with an NGO, or you're looking to do another similar type of job in another country, the hiring team may sometimes require transcripts as part of the application process. Once you get accepted, certain governments may also request your transcripts as part of your visa documentation.

Why Would I Need My Transcripts Before Graduation?

Some students may need their transcripts before they graduate, which isn't quite as challenging as getting them years after graduation. There are many reasons why someone would need a copy of their transcripts while they're still attending high school, but one of the biggest reasons could be because your family is moving to a new town or a different state, and you'll need to ultimately transfer schools. The new school the students will be attending must get an idea of how many credits the students have already accumulated and how many standardized tests they've taken and whether or not they're equivalent to what their new home state requires.

High school students may also simply request their transcripts because they want to see how they're doing, and what they need to improve on so that they can apply to the college of their choice. Of course, high school students will also need to get their transcripts early, in general, so that they can add it to their college application.

College students may request their transcripts before graduation for similar reasons. If a college student is thinking of transferring schools, they'll need to get their transcripts in order to apply. College students may also request their transcripts early if they want to go onto their master's program immediately after graduating with their bachelor's and need it for their applications.

Official Transcripts vs. Unofficial Transcripts

Before you order any transcripts for yourself or have transcripts sent to your prospective college or job, you must know the difference between official transcripts and unofficial transcripts. Official transcripts are those that are certified by the institution (whether it be a high school or a college) with a seal or stamp of some kind and enclosed in a sealed envelope. This is to ensure that the transcript can't be altered or duplicated and that the person that needs to check your transcript, like an admissions counselor, is the only person that will set eyes on it after it's mailed from its original location. If the seal is broken by the time this person gets it, then it means that the transcript has likely been tampered with.

Unofficial transcripts, on the other hand, are those which are more or less just printed out from a computer and given to you. They're there for your own personal possession if you want to look at your grades, and cannot usually be used as part of a college or job application.

How Do I Order My High School Transcript Online?

If you need to get your high school transcript online for free, years after graduation, there are several websites you can visit to do this. But keep in mind that the best way to get your high school transcripts is by getting in touch with your actual high school. If you still live nearby to where you grew up, then you can simply pay a visit to the main office and ask what you need to do in order to get your transcripts. You can also call your high school beforehand and ask them what the process is before paying a visit. This is because most high schools have very strict security, and won't let anyone walk through the door without a pass or an appointment.

If you're not able to get to your old high school, or you need your transcripts promptly, then you can get your transcripts easily from the comfort of your home (or smartphone). First and foremost, you should check and see if your prior school district has a way to order your transcripts online. If you call, they may advise that you do it this way. Otherwise, visit Needmytranscript.com or Parchment.com, where you'll fill out some answers to questions and choose what kind of transcript you want to order. If you do it this way, you'll have to pay for both official or unofficial transcripts, depending on which one you want. Keep in mind that not all high schools are registered on these websites. If that's the case, then you have no choice but to call your high school.

How to Get Your High School Transcript Sent to College

Ordering your transcripts for yourself is a little bit different than having them sent to a college. When applying for colleges straight out of high school, your guidance counselor will typically take care of this part, by sending official, sealed transcripts directly to the colleges you're applying to. If your guidance counselor cannot do this for whatever reason, or if you're applying to college well after you're out of high school, then you have to call and request that your transcripts can be sent directly to the college of your choice. This can be done online via Needmytranscript.com and Parchment.com too, or you can request copies of your official transcript to be sent to your home, and send them yourself to the college. Make sure you read the instructions that the college provides in terms of mailing in transcripts, so you're sure you're doing it correctly.

How Do I Order My College Transcripts?

Ordering your college transcripts is somewhat similar to ordering your high school transcripts, and it can also be done years after graduation. You may be able to get your college transcripts online for free. Typically, you can do this through your university's online portal, at the office of the registrar's page. You'll have to follow the instructions and fill out some information, for instance, whether you want an unofficial or official transcript, how many and where you want them sent. Some universities offer this service for free and allow you to order a certain number of transcripts before exceeding the limit. If you've been out of college for quite some time, you can also try the website Parchment.com to get your transcripts. Of course, if you're still attending your university, then you can simply visit the registrar's office, and order your transcripts in person.

What Does a Hold Mean in College?

Sometimes, ordering your transcripts years after graduation can be difficult if you still have a hold on your account. So what does a hold mean in college? A hold is when you have unpaid charges at your university, and the college, therefore, cannot release your transcripts until you have paid or come up with a payment agreement with the school. A hold can be put on your account for many reasons, like having a damage charge in your dorm room or failure to pay a parking ticket. Sometimes, these holds can be implemented after graduation, if a system on campus is backed up and it doesn't register until later that you have an unpaid charge. If this is the case, you'll need to work something out financially if you want to get your transcripts.

About the Author

Hana LaRock is a freelance content writer from New York, currently living in Mexico. Before becoming a writer, Hana worked as a teacher for several years in the U.S. and around the world. She has her teaching certification in Elementary Education and Special Education, as well as a TESOL certification. Please visit her website, www.hanalarockwriting.com, to learn more.