Transcript evaluation is an assessment of academic performance. Preparing this type of an evaluation requires an understanding of the message conveyed by grades. Grading is, in fact, an abstract concept which we attempt to quantify. This is done by isolating the few absolute criteria in any type of assessment system – the highest level of achievement and the lowest level of achievement required to ‘pass’. This information is required regardless of grading scale type, whether letter, number, percentage, description, or any combination thereof. Moving forward, it becomes necessary to identify any perceivable performance categories and matching them with the categories contained in the US A-F scale accordingly. Stratification, or categorization of different levels of performance is frequently included on the credentials themselves, while many resources on international education systems contain this information as well as recommendations for conversion to the US grading scale.
The final step in the basic principles of credential evaluation is converting a grade point average (GPA). A GPA is the mathematical average of all grades received, with consideration for the weighting of each course. Unlike overall grades used in foreign systems, a GPA is purely a mathematical average and does not place any arbitrary weighting on specific subjects or terms of study beyond the weighting indicated by the credit values. This is the standard by which domestic students’ academic performance is compared, necessitating a similar calculation for a consistent assessment of international applicants.
Transferring post-secondary credit from international academic credentials requires the same type of detailed credential evaluation as for an initial admission decision. In US institutions, this process is typically governed by institutional policy set up by registrars. To be effective, it requires the accurate conversion and quantification of foreign academic coursework to the indigenous system used by your institution. At the post-secondary level, transfer credit is typically granted according to institutional policy for coursework completed at the same level at domestic institutions. The challenge, therefore, becomes consistency across campus in converting foreign credential outcomes to credits and making transfer recommendations.
At least three offices may, at any given time, be involved in evaluation of foreign credentials for transfer credit. The admissions office makes initial recommendations as to the evaluation of foreign transcripts. The registrar, academic department, or another entity working with transfer students may be doing the same thing, while a study-abroad office may be evaluating the same course work from US students participating in study abroad programs. This scenario is not uncommon in many US universities, regardless of size. Mentioning it here emphasizes the need for consistency, made possible by a campus wide evaluation policy or a centralized credential evaluation process. International transfer credit is further complicated by the fact that levels of education are not linear and overlap with different levels in the US system. The most common issue which arises is the dilemma of post-secondary-level credit for secondary-level coursework. It is not uncommon for institutions to grant university-level credit for coursework completed beyond the 12th year of full time study, even if it was completed at a level of education designated as secondary by the home institution.
There is no universal recommendation on transfer credit for such programs. Rather, institutional autonomy provides academic institutions in the United States with the ability to make independent decisions, minding the best interests of their students and their academic programs. As such, determining transferability of credit across academic levels becomes an exercise of coursework analysis beyond credential evaluation, requiring the consultation of subject matter experts, those faculty members who will be teaching these prospective applicants. Of course, the US education system is not excepted from complex transfer credit issues. One needs to look no further than pre-established policies on Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate programs, which most institutions already have in place, for an example of transfer credit across academic levels.
In summary, transferring credit is a complex process. It begins with consistently thorough and accurate credential evaluation, but affects many stakeholders beyond the admissions office including registrars, academic faculty, study-abroad offices, prospective applicants, and current students themselves. As such, one of the most important aspects in the process becomes consistency: consistency in the application of evaluation policies on campus, consistency with transferring credit across university offices, and consistency with peer institutions.
Scholaro provides transcript evaluation services for foreign graduates from almost 200 counties and can evaluate credentials from high school to university level.