High School Transcripts vs. Diploma: What’s the Difference?

When you graduate from high school you earn your diploma, but you also can request your college transcripts. They are two completely different documents and often used in different ways as you grow older.

While you’ll likely never be asked to show your diploma at a job interview, it’s still an important document to have. High school transcripts aren’t something you keep with you as you grow older. They can be a bulky document and you can always request them from your high school.

We’ll explain to you the differences between a diploma and transcripts and when you might need each throughout your life.

What is a High School Diploma?

When you go through high school completely, earning credits, etc., you can graduate and receive your high school diploma. The diploma is a single piece of paper that states you have passed all the requirements necessary to graduate from high school.

For many people, their high school diploma is framed and placed on their wall or tucked away in a box somewhere. It’s a certificate of achievement and for young people recently graduated it’s perhaps the biggest achievement of their lives.

As you get older and have other achievements, the diploma is superseded college degrees or other certificates of achievements. It’s important to note that a diploma is not the same as a General Equivalency Degree. A GED is for people that did not complete high school and took classes outside of school to achieve a similar education.

What Are High School Transcripts?

High school transcripts are not a single certificate like a diploma. They are a complete record of your high school career. It’s a record of your classes, grades, grade point average, achievements and other statistics to show people how you did in high school.

It’s a lengthy document that stays at the school until you need it. It’s not something you’re given at graduation like a diploma. High schools must keep the record on file and provide it to you when requested.

There is often a fee associated with sending you the transcripts as either a printout, PDF or electronic document.

Which Do You Need for College?

When applying for college, you’re in a competition. Hundreds or even thousands of other students applied for a limited number of seats available for the freshman year. Colleges and universities need a way to judge students on merit outside of just test scores and grades.

Every student that enters college must first graduate from college or complete their GED. You’ll likely not need to provide proof in the form of your diploma, but they may ask for a copy of your transcripts.

They’ll use all the information to decide if you deserve to be a part of the school. They’ll look at the classes you took, the individual grades and any accolades you received and compare it to the other students seeking a seat.

They chose the students that exemplify the goals and achievements of the university. The diploma serves as proof of graduation and the transcripts give them a bird’s eye view of the overall accomplishments of your high school career.

Do I Need Them to Get a Job?

When you graduate from high school, there are two general tracks people follow. They either continue their education at a college, university or trade school or go directly into the job force.

Many may already have a job that they already started in high school or they find employment after they graduate.

Almost all jobs require the applicant to have a high school diploma or GED. Once you’ve been in the world force for a while, experience becomes more important than high school, for at least the initial job-hunting experience you’ll need to prove you’ve graduated from high school.

They may ask you to provide a copy of your diploma as proof. They may also confirm it with the high school. Many applications simply have a checkbox that asks if you graduated from high school and the leave it at that.

It’s rare that a post-high school position requires transcripts, but there may be some. This is especially true for high competition jobs or jobs in the financial, technology or other higher-income positions.

High School Vs. College Transcripts

When you continue onto higher education such as university or community college, you’ll begin a new set of transcripts. College transcripts are like the high school ones except they cover the grades and achievements of your college career.

It’s more likely that a job after college will request college transcripts over your high school ones. Once you graduate from college, it’s less likely you’ll need your high school transcripts or diploma again. Instead, you’ll have your college transcripts and your degree.

If you continue your education beyond and go for a master’s degree or Ph.D., then you’ll be asked from your college transcripts as well.

If you transfer colleges, you may be asked for both high school and college transcripts. They can be used to help determine class placement and if any credits from the old school will carry over to your new school.

High School Diploma and Age

As you get older, there is less of a need to prove you’ve graduated from high school. The fact that you’ve had previous jobs means you’ve already passed the test there’s no need to determine if you’ve graduated.

By this time, the experience you’ve built in your previous jobs outweighs your high transcripts and diploma. Your diploma becomes more of a memento of your achievements and you’ll likely not need to worry about transcripts, but they’re there if you need them.

What if you Lose Your Diploma?

It’s not uncommon for people to lose their diploma and high school transcripts. They pack them away and then move and the box gets lost, etc. When this happens, you can always get a replacement diploma and transcripts.

You can replace lost or damaged items, fool your friends and family if you dropped out, but didn’t tell them. There are many reasons why you’d want a replacement, so explore our site to learn more.