What Are School Records?

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A school record can refer to a variety of different pieces of information, but all of it is education-related and involves a student’s merits or personal details. For example, a school record can include an official record of a student’s grades, conduct, and disciplinary history; additionally, it can also be a more general reference to a student’s academic performance and extracurricular participation while in school.

In most places in the United States, official educational and disciplinary records should be closed to the general public to protect student privacy, but students and parents may be able to request access to their (or their child’s) record. An academic transcript is one of the most commonly requested records, particularly for high school students who are applying for college admittance.

When used as a general reference, “school record” can encompass everything from grades to specific classes taken. For example, the College Board, a non-profit college prep organization, groups everything from summer activities to Advanced Placement classes and teacher recommendations for college applicants under the category of “high school record.” So, let’s dive deeper into what types of records are kept at schools as well as how long schools keep their students’ records on hand.

Types of Records Kept at Schools

There are various types of records kept for students, particularly those in elementary, middle, and high school. School records that may be considered “permanent” note the basic identifying information about each student, including their name, address, and telephone number as well as any emergency contacts. Schools typically keep health and immunization records as well to keep track of any health issues or required shots that a student has. Another school record that might be kept is the attendance register, which keeps track of students present in classes each day.

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Other records kept may be records of the personality and interests of each student, as well as aptitude tests. Many schools do keep a record of disciplinary actions as well — though most do not warrant any real concern, despite what we may see on TV or in movies. That is, detentions, referrals, and other small infractions will likely not keep a student out of college.

Of course, the most important records are a student’s grades, courses taken, and achievements in those classes. A school also tracks if a student was promoted to the next grade or if they were held back and/or required to “retake” classes. These records are the ones that colleges look through most thoroughly when it comes to admitting freshmen students.

How Long Do Schools Keep Records of Students?

Record retention is important in case a student transfers to another school. Additionally, records come into play when students apply to college or trade schools, as mentioned above. However, there is no nationwide mandate for how long schools need to keep records of students after they leave or graduate. With this in mind, some states do not specify how long a school should maintain records, particularly for high school, while others do have to keep records on file for a required amount of time.

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For example, states like Arizona, Louisiana, and Maryland require that schools maintain records for at least five years after a student transfers, withdraws, or graduates. Other states mandate that schools keep their records for decades; in Minnesota, for instance, records must be kept for at least 50 years. Think that’s a lot of years? Well, schools in Massachusetts and Illinois must keep records for students for at least 60 years, while Pennsylvania schools maintain their records for a whopping 100 years. In some states, high school records really are permanent — California, Maine, North Carolina, and Oklahoma must keep records of students forever.

How Long Does a College Keep Your Records?

Colleges typically keep transcripts and other records for their students forever. This is the case because both past and present students may need them in order to transfer to another institution or apply for graduate school, doctorate programs or other educational opportunities. In some cases, former students may need to verify their academic performance at their university when they apply for post-graduation jobs. For example, for those in the medical field, schools beyond your undergraduate program will want to see your grades to be sure you can handle an even more rigorous program.

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For this reason, many colleges have begun to keep electronic records rather than physical records. This not only makes it easier for the registrar’s office to pull and review records — for example, it’s easier to send out copies of transcripts this way — but it also saves space. However, if you applied to a university or college, but never actually attended, the institution is not obligated to hold onto any records you submitted.

How to Obtain School Records Online

Wondering the best way to view your transcripts or obtain your school records online? The process can be pretty simple. While it may be possible that official school records are held at a state office, most public school records are typically located at the school a student attended. You may also be able to view your records online through a student account that’s setup by the institution in question.

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Higher education institutions typically require that an official transcript be sent directly from the school’s admissions office. Typically, students can send an email or submit an online form to the office requesting transcripts be sent. However, a fee may be required for each transcript request, particularly if the office has to send transcripts directly to another institution or organization.

While colleges in particular have their own individual procedures, these types of requests are typically filled within a few business days. Generally, the only obstacles that will keep students from getting their school records sent out are outstanding financial obligations — say, you owe the school money — or if the school has since closed down. If neither of those circumstances applies, it should be fairly easy to obtain your school records.