It’s surprising how few students and parents ask to see their high school “profile.” This is the document that should be attached to every single transcript mailed as part of a complete “secondary school report” submitted to colleges on behalf of applicants.
In a nutshell, the high school profile officially translates your transcript into terms college admissions offices can use to compare your record to those submitted by other college hopefuls across the country. It also helps application readers evaluate your performance relative to other students in your school.
The variation among profiles, even in a single school district, can be startling. Some are glossy and detailed; others are simple xeroxed sheets. Some are clearly marketing pieces; others are more generic.
Even knowing how important these documents are in the college admissions process, it sometimes appears that school administrators put minimal effort into the preparation and presentation of statistical information that could be critical in deciding the admissibility of any given student. Input from those most affected—college-bound students and their families—is seldom sought.
On their websites, the University of Michigan and Northwestern University post a series of helpful hints for information admission offices would like to see covered in high school profiles. This includes specifics on high school demographics, curriculum, grade point averages, class ranking methodologies, and testing results.
The College Board agrees with these suggestions and also advises that high schools should limit their documents to be one page—front and back—on regular (not glossy) 8.5” x 11” paper, using ink dark enough for colleges to scan the information into computer systems.
And most important, high schools must update their profiles annually. They need to highlight changes in ranking and/or grading policies. And schools should document any alterations to the curriculum.
For example, Fairfax County, in northern Virginia, adopted a new grading scale two years ago. Every high school profile in the county should be making note of the change and explaining how this year’s seniors have GPA’s reflecting a hybrid of two different systems. Similarly, a number of local high schools have made significant adjustments to the roster of classes available to students. These also should appear on a school’s profile.
In addition to requesting a copy of the high school profile that will be accompanying your transcript, you may also want to see profiles from neighboring or competing schools to judge how yours compares. Note that some profiles are posted on the web, but some are only available directly through school counseling offices.
If you think your school is not fairly or accurately represented by the profile, ask questions and get involved. How you and your school stack up against the competition will definitely affect your admissions prospects.