What is a Foreign Academic Evaluation?

A foreign academic evaluation is also known as a transcript evaluation or credential evaluation (among other terms). Your transcripts are the official documents that record your academic marks and credits (along with any graduation documentation) as generated by your current or former educational institution. Depending on the country, transcripts can be known as mark sheets, grade sheets or score sheets.

If you’re applying for a new job or for a promotion at your existing job, for admission to a school/college/university, or for a US visa, you will need to provide a record of your prior academic achievements, which includes your transcripts and graduation certificates (if applicable). If your prior education was outside the United States, then you will also require a certification of those foreign academic achievements to the equivalent US standard. This certification process is called a foreign academic evaluation. While it sounds like a complex and drawn-out process, it’s actually very easy and can be completed as quickly as same-day.

Why Do You Need to Get Your Foreign Education Evaluated?

There are over 190 countries, and each one has its own set of regulations and requirements related to a both applying for, and graduating from, a particular course of study. Consider that each country has thousands of schools, colleges and universities, and its own set of prerequisite admission requirements, course studies, credits earned and scoring (among many other factors). When you leave a country with a particular degree, that may or may not equate to the same degree in a different country. The transcript evaluation process ‘normalizes’ your studies and provides a certification of equivalency for the studies you have earned from the source country as compared to the target country. For continuing education in particular, transcript evaluation is necessary to ensure that your prior credits and courses can be applied by the institution for your future studies, thereby ensuring that you don’t duplicate existing studies (potentially saving you money), or miss courses that are important to complete for success in your continuing education.

Types of Transcript Evaluations

There are two main types of transcript evaluations:

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Course by Course (CBC) Evaluations

For any type of continuing education you will almost always require a course by course evaluation. A course by course evaluation assesses your graduation certificates plus each course of study you completed, how long you studied each course for, and what grade you achieved in that course. This enables the evaluation agency to issue a complete set of equivalent courses, grades and credits within the US education system, along with a certification of the equivalent degree or diploma.

A typical evaluation agency’s CBC documents are 3-5 pages long, however our CBC is 9-11 pages long as we not only include foregoing information, but also information about the school you attended, the country’s education system, our evaluation methodology, the evaluator’s resume, and citations of reference documents used for evaluations.

Being the most complete type of analysis, a course by course evaluation can be used for both continuing education and work purposes. For immigration purposes, however, we recommend a specialized course by course for immigration. This will contain all the standard course by course evaluation analysis, and also the ‘education narrative’ section as required by USCIS for visa applications. This is an in-depth explanation of how the your evaluator arrived at the conclusion made regarding your foreign academic equivalence. Since the education narrative is required by USCIS, this evaluation is purpose-built for visa applications. A course by course for immigration is the gold standard of evaluations, and is therefore guaranteed for all purposes – visa, continuing education and work.

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General Evaluation

Also known as a ‘document by document’ evaluation, a general evaluation is a less extensive analysis than a CBC as it evaluates your graduation certificate only. The evaluating agency will then issue a statement of equivalency as to that degree in the target country. Since there are no courses assessed, the general equivalency evaluation necessarily excludes any course information, GPA or credit calculations.

A typical evaluation agency’s general evaluation documents are 1-2 pages long, however our general evaluation is about 5 pages long as we also include information about the school you attended, the education system, and our evaluation methodology.

A general evaluation is most often used for work purposes when you are required to demonstrate at least a high school graduation, although some potential employers may still require a course by course evaluation.

The Transcript Evaluation Process:

There are two methods of transcript evaluation, the main difference being how the transcripts are provided to the evaluating agency. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages as noted below.

School-to-Agency Transcripts

For this method, you will complete an application form and pay the evaluation agency their fees. Once paid, your order is in-process and you will then request that you prior school send your transcripts directly from that school to the evaluation agency. From there, the agency will follow their normal evaluation process.

Advantages: Document authentication

  1. Since the documents are mailed directly by the school, the end-user of the academic evaluation is assured that the transcripts being evaluated were issued directly by the school.

Disadvantages: Length of time to complete; ability to complete; cost

  1. Longer Times. Unfortunately, this can be many weeks and months longer. While an agency may advertise an evaluation processing time of 1-4 weeks, in the small print you will see that this means 1-4 weeks AFTER they’ve received the transcripts directly from the school. While some schools can be very efficient and deliver the documentation within a few weeks, in many parts of the world the document retention and retrieval is not as efficient and it may take many weeks or months before the evaluation agency can even start.
  2. Inability to Complete. For schools that no longer exist or that do not forward your transcripts, many months may pass before you find out that you simply cannot proceed with your transcript evaluation.
  3. Higher Costs. Because this method is time consuming, agencies are forced to charge higher fees to compensate for all the manual steps that occur. In many cases, the fees can be at least double or triple their competitors.
  4. No Refunds. To add insult to injury, the transcript evaluation agencies who adhere to this method often have strict ‘no refund’ policies. Once you pay, it’s highly unlikely you will ever receive your money back, even if they can’t complete the evaluation.
  5. Lengthy Application Forms. Since these agencies need to prove they’re requesting documents on your behalf, you will be required to complete lengthy application forms.
  6. Inability to Translate. Most agencies that adhere to this transcript delivery method do not provide translation services, forcing the client to first have their documents translated by third-party affiliates who often charge two to four times as much as normal translation rates. They can do this because they control your documents.

Client-to-Agency Transcripts:

For this method, the client emails a picture or scan of their transcripts to the evaluating agency, which reviews the documents and emails a quote back within a few minutes. An invoice is generated which is usually paid online. From there, the agency will follow their normal evaluation process.

Advantages: Speed; convenience; no application forms; significantly lower cost; guaranteed acceptance

  1. Rapid Speed. Since the documents are delivered online or via email, the process is incredibly fast. It literally takes minutes instead of weeks or months.
  2. Convenience. Clients can use their cell phones to take pictures of their documents, and send them via email or even via text message. As long as the images are clear, the transcripts can generally be evaluated.
  3. No Application Forms. Since these agencies don’t need to prove who they are to your schools, there is no need for lengthy and time consuming application forms. These agencies only require your contact information so they can deliver your order.
  4. Lower Cost. Because the entire process is faster, these agencies are able to keep their costs lower, which is reflected in transcript evaluation costs that can be as much as 70% lower.
  5. Guaranteed Acceptance. Most agencies using this transcript delivery method offer acceptance guarantees.
  6. Translation Services. Most agencies also provide translation services at very competitive rates. The advanced evaluation agencies integrate translation into their entire document management process, making it a single and simple step to complete certified translations as part of the evaluation process.

Disadvantages: Document authentication

  1. Since the agency does not require the school to mail the transcripts directly to them, the do not authenticate the academic records directly with the school. However, the end-user of the academic evaluation (i.e. the school or employer) can certainly authentic the documents directly if it’s required.

While there are advantages and disadvantages to both methods, it’s clear that the clients who are able to send their transcripts directly to the agency enjoy many advantages over those who cannot.

Other Considerations

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Translations

make sure your evaluation agency is an American Translators Association member and that they include certified, notarized translations when they send your transcript evaluation documents.

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Guaranteed Acceptance

make sure the evaluation agency you use offers 100% guaranteed acceptance for all schools, colleges, universities or employers. There should be absolutely no risk to you that their transcript evaluation work will not be accepted. If in any doubt, simply check with the intended recipient prior to ordering from any agency.

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Accredited Evaluation Agency

make sure the evaluation agency is accredited by the Better Business Bureau. This protects you, so that if there’s any dispute that can’t be resolved between you and the agency, the BBB will step in to assist you.

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No Alterations

do not attempt to alter your transcripts. Reputable evaluation agencies will refuse to evaluate documents that appear to have been doctored or that they suspect are fraudulent.

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Complete Documentation

always provide all your transcripts and graduation certificate to the evaluation agency at the same time. If the agency is required to include transcripts at a later date, they will often charge additional fees (although usually not the entire fee is charged for a modification).