In the world of academic innovation, grades are not all that matter. A new importance is being place on the life lessons students learn at college through an experiences transcript.
Elon University in North Carolina first implemented their version, the Elon experiences Transcript, in 1994. It measures participation in five program areas, including leadership, community service, study abroad, internships and undergraduate research. Now, the idea that schools should be putting more than classes on the official record is gaining momentum.
In an online Q&A presentation on Elon’s distributor’s (Parchment Exchange) website, Elon registrar Rodney Parks said this version of the transcript “paints students in a different light.”
“Registrars have been pressured for years to try to add more details to the academic transcript,” Parks said.
The Elon experiences transcript is optional, and separate from the academic transcript, though requests for both go through the registrar’s office. Parks said, in response to surveys he sent out to recipients of the experiences transcripts, most employers viewed the experiences transcript favorably.
Parks acknowledged, “…if students don’t build robust co-curricular transcripts, [the transcripts] could be seen unfavorably by [recipients].”
The increased focus on experiential diversity, Parks said, is taking “advising to a whole new level,” with advisers giving life advice as well as academic advice. What goes onto an experiences transcript, Parks said, is determined individually by universities and their campus culture and values.
Ohio Wesleyan Registrar Shelly McMahon said the office listened to the presentation and discussed potential merits, but has no plans to implement the transcript at this time. McMahon said in an email that an OWU experiences transcript might include internships and volunteer work, but, ultimately, validation for content would be up to other departments.
McMahon also said she wouldn’t see an experiences transcript as adding pressure on OWU students to take on more; an experiences transcript might be a way “to document what is already happening.”
“Our students are already involved in multiple activities and many want things on their transcript that are non-academic,” McMahon said. “We don’t have a way to do that now.”
Junior Elizabeth Raphael said the idea of an experience-based transcript seems unnecessary.
“If one of the organizations that I am a part of did something so incredible that it made the actual transcript (and I played some part in it), maybe I would send it to grad schools,” Raphael said. “But even then it’s kind of questionable. All clubs and organizations are doing things on campus, but they don’t need to be acknowledged constantly – that’s just not how the world works.”
Junior Joe Wagner said he also believes an additional transcript is unnecessary.
“Transcripts are just supposed to focus on school,” Wagner said. “If something is that important, why not just put it in your resume?”
Only a few other schools currently offer co-curricular transcripts, including Georgia College and State University and University of North Florida. Parks said co-curricular transcripts make up about 22 percent of Elon’s transcript orders.
Whether the co-curricular transcript catches on remains to be seen, as it remains a fairly new concept.