Competency-based transcripts: do they affect college admissions?

The short answer: no. In fact, some colleges prefer them over traditional transcripts.

New Hampshire’s schools are moving towards competency-based education, where students “show what they know” before moving on to the next learning unit or grade. In many districts, this has meant a transition away from the traditional report card with letter grades and new report cards–sometimes with the numbers 1 through 4, sometimes with terms like “proficient” or “exemplary.”

But in a competitive college admissions environment, where the new report cards may include more information like a detailed student profile, does it put students at a disadvantage?

According to iNACOL, a nationwide nonprofit dedicated to high-quality learning for all students, colleges and universities have come out in support of competency-based transcripts:

Why? Competency-based transcripts offer more transparency in college admissions. What really matters is seeing a transcript with a detailed student profile, offering a report of their achievement and progress, based on demonstrated mastery of skills and knowledge, often accompanied by a portfolio of work.

We were recently asked whether college admissions offices “like” competency-based transcripts compared with traditional transcripts. Of greatest concern is whether proficiency-based learning and grading will disadvantage students in the college application and evaluation process. The short answer is competency-based transcripts are just fine and often preferred. Colleges and universities receive a variety of transcripts from alternative education programs, as well as from schools around the world, and they are accustomed to evaluating them when making admissions decisions. Competency-based transcripts provide more information on student mastery of knowledge and skills than the traditional A-F grading scale, so they can provide college admissions officers with clarity on applicants’ college readiness. Still, most competency-based high school transcripts will offer a conversion so they contain the same basic reporting, which includes course names, final course grades and credits earned, making it comparable. There are many ways to convert competency-based transcripts back to traditional GPA and credits, however, what matters is the improved insight into what a student has learned in K-12…

Great Schools Partnership and the New England Secondary School Consortium collected statements from 75 private and public institutions of higher education across New England (including Harvard, Dartmouth, MIT, Tufts and Bowdoin) in support of competency-based education. These institutions unequivocally state that students from competency-based systems are not disadvantaged in the admissions process: 75 New England Institutions of Higher Education State that Proficiency-Based Diplomas Do Not Disadvantage Applicants. Furthermore, the New England Board of Higher Education published this article in support: How Selective Colleges and Universities Evaluate Proficiency-Based High School Transcripts: Insights for Students and Schools.

Robert McGann, the director of admissions at the University of New Hampshire, said his office routinely sees competency-based transcripts from both in- and out-of-state applicants. He said that those kinds of transcripts are “not a pro or con in the admissions process.”

“The context of it is we see transcripts from around the country and around the world. And there are countless variations on transcripts,” he said.

View a sample competency report card and transcript here, and learn more about competency and grading in New Hampshire:

Source: What’s Happening with Competency-Based Transcripts and Rethinking College Admissions in the United States | iNacol