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Updated 9:00 AM October 13, 2004




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Policy limits number of honors to be listed on transcripts

A new policy limiting the honors listed on the University transcript to University-wide academic honors and two highly prestigious national honorary awards goes into effect beginning this fall term. The new policy, announced by the Office of the Provost, applies to entering students, currently enrolled students and students enrolled in the future.

The honors that will remain on the official transcript include: Angell Scholars, University Honors, Branstrom Prize, college or school Dean's List, college or school degree honors (e.g., Latin Honors), Phi Beta Kappa, and Tau Beta Pi. Levels of distinction, as defined by schools and colleges, such as Magna Cum Laude, Highest Honors and with Highest Distinction, also will be retained on the transcript.

The Provost's Council on Student Honors will establish a process and criteria for considering requests from the schools and colleges to include other national honor societies on the official transcript.

"A student's official transcript at the University of Michigan is an academic document primarily intended to communicate the student's grades," says Paul N. Courant, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. "Over the years, hundreds of items have been added to the transcript, many of which are not directly related to a student's academic achievement at the University."

In 1985, the list of approved notations had grown to more than 40. By the 2003-04 academic year the list included more than 300 awards, prizes, scholarships, fellowships, honorary society and student organization memberships in a very broad range of fields.

The new policy is the result of a review of current practices conducted in spring 2004, which Courant initiated when students expressed concern about the inclusion of the non-academic honors.

Under this policy, information on honors and memberships entered on transcripts prior to the Fall 2004 term will not be changed, says Paul Robinson, University registrar. "It would not be feasible to do so given the number of University of Michigan records that exist in both paper and electronic form," Robinson says.

He notes that if a student received a non-university honor last year and earns a similar accolade this year, only last year's award will appear on the transcript.

The revised policy is consistent with practices at peer institutions and the standards set by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, Robinson says. He also notes that the traditional additional listings provide no description or context, making them difficult to interpret.

Students seeking jobs or further education will not be disadvantaged by the change, because employers and other educational institutions rely on other documentation to learn about a student's activities, honors and awards not related to grades, says Simone Himbeault Taylor, associate vice president for student affairs and director of the Career Center.

"In fact, a recent informal survey of employers and graduate and professional schools that recruit at U-M showed that most employers examine transcripts for courses taken and overall GPA and rely on resumes or CVs for honors and awards," she says. Graduate and professional schools also rely on transcripts for similar information, with honors, awards and co-curricular achievements captured in their applications, Taylor says.

The initial survey results indicated the importance of developing a strong resume, Taylor says. "With that in mind, this fall term, the Career Center will offer daily advising hours, evening resume review and eight resume writing workshops to complement what is already available through printed and online materials," she says. (See for Career Center resources.)

Additionally, extensive pre-professional services in the Career Center can help students to develop an effective application package for medical, law, business and the array of other professional and graduate degree programs, Taylor says.

To explore alternative documentation options for students, the University will examine the potential of an e-portfolio concept for capturing a wide array of student achievement information beyond grades. Substantial efforts already are underway to introduce an e-portfolio for tracking achievement of key learning outcomes.

Says Royster Harper, vice president for student affairs, "We want to see if the e-portfolio might also be a meaningful way to capture and record a wide array of educational experiences and recognitions. These might include Hopwood Awards, student government involvement, or a service award from the Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning, to name a few."

Taylor says, "There is great potential in building on existing efforts to leverage even more value from such a versatile tool."

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