If your previous degree, diploma, or transcript is in a language other than English and you are applying to a US university, you will need to provide a translation of your academic credentials. Here are some things to consider as you prepare your translation.
Do I Need A Certified translation?
Your school’s admissions office will typically list the requirements for the transcript translations. One of the more confusing requirements may be that for a certified translation. Remember that in most US states, notaries public cannot certify the accuracy of a translation. Sometimes I get requests for translations “certified by the American Translators Association (ATA).” ATA is a professional association that does not produce or certify individual translations. It does, however, certify translators who have passed a graded exam in a specific language pair. Such a translator is called ATA-certified.
A statement by the translator, confirming the accuracy of the attached translation, will usually suffice for the purposes of certification in the US. As an added layer, the translator may get their signature certified by a notary public in their county. Again, most states’ notaries public cannot vouch for the accuracy of the translation, so they would only notarize the translator’s signature. Ultimately, the educational institution can tell you what translations it accepts.
What About Degree Equivalence?
Differences in educational systems mean that a transcript from your home country may look different from an American one. Should the translation explain that your 5-year degree is really closed to a master’s degree than a bachelor’s? Should it calculate your grade point average (GPA) if no such information was listed in the original?
Once again, this is something you will need to follow your school’s guidance on. Some universities may require a foreign credential evaluation. Sometimes they recommend some agencies that provide this type of service. In that case, you’ll want to reach out to a credit evaluation agency, which will convert your transcript to something an American institution is familiar with, with your credit hours and GPA listed.
However, this may not be necessary in every case. If all your school requires is a translation, you don’t need to spend extra money on credential evaluation. The translation will reflect the information listed in your document, regardless of whether it typically appears on American transcripts. In all likelihood, you are not the first applicant from your country, so the US university will know that your transcript will look different. If you school does want to see an explanation of the grading scale or your GPA, you may want to go the credential evaluation route.
Can I Get the Transcripts Sent Directly in a Sealed Envelope?
Some US universities request official transcripts to be send directly by the issuing school, which is commonly done in the US. However, universities overseas may not provide that service or are even aware of it. This is something you may need to bring up to the American school.
One option is to include a cover letter with your transcript, explaining that degrees and transcripts in your home country are physical documents granted to the graduate and cannot be sent directly by the issuing institution. Another possibility is to get a credential evaluation and have that evaluation sent by the issuing agency directly to the US university. I have found, both in my experience as a college applicant with international credentials and as a translator of educational documents, that American colleges tend to be flexible with international applicants and reasonable in accommodating foreign academic documents.