G.L. of Melville, NY writes: I've recently applied to Binghamton University (State University of New York). In acknowledging receipt of my applications, Admissions wrote, "Submit your electronic transcript at www.selfreportedtranscript.com." What is this self reported transcript, and do I have to complete and submit my grades separate and apart from my high school transcript, which has been sent to Binghamton by my Guidance Counselor via Naviance, and unofficial test scores, already part of the Common App, as submitted?

The College Whisperer Replies: Ahh. Self reported grades, scores, lives. The bane of every high school student!

Yes, colleges love redundancy, especially when they've been sold a program -- or, as we like to say, a bill of goods -- that purports to aid both school and student. Alas, such services typically only benefit the provider, which has made a ton of moolah selling its program to unsuspecting colleges.

In this instance, fate (and your application to Binghamton) has caused you to stumble upon STARS, Self-Reported Testing and Academic Record System. In essence, you fill out and record your high school coursework, grades, test scores, etc. online at STARS, which self-reported (as the name indicates) information is electronically forwarded to the college.

You say your transcript has all of this, and more? And, what's that? The transcript has already been sent to the college, electronically, via Naviance? Now they want what? For you to manually enter your courses, grades and test scores for all of high school, and to send this anew to admissions?

Which part of "you already have this. Why are you driving us bananas?" don't these colleges understand?

There are only four -- count 'em, 4 -- colleges (out of nearly 4000 in the U.S.) that currently utilize STARS. Binghamton, Rutgers, Northern Illinois University and Stony Brook. Perhaps it just hasn't caught on yet. Or maybe the sales reps aren't quite proficient in selling this silly little service. Could be that the folks at STARS never got the memo, to wit: Naviance already sends the high school transcripts directly to the colleges electronically, and College Board/ACT Inc. do likewise with their test scores!

Now, there is a plus side. Binghamton Admissions, for instance, will allow you to submit test scores (SAT/ACT) via STARS for purposes of fulfilling the application process, thus obviating the need to PAY College Board and/or ACT Inc. to transmit your test scores. If you are accepted and enroll, however, the official (as in, "cough up the $$$") test scores must still be sent.

So, to answer the question, "Do I have to?" Binghamton doesn't say this step is "required." In fact, they specifically advise that students who apply are "encouraged" to "Obtain a copy of your unofficial high school transcript from your school counselor. Then create your student record online through STARS (Self-Reported Testing and Academic Record)."

In other words, the STARS submission is recommended, but NOT required. Furthermore, as stated on the Binghamton website, "If your high school counselor already submitted your official paper or electronic transcript, the submission will fulfill the 'STARS Transcript/Official High School Transcript' requirement noted when you check the status of your application."

Who knows. Maybe someone, somewhere gets something of value for each STARS sent to and received by the school. Just saying...

Seems trivial, if not entirely unnecessary, particularly where you can otherwise be assured that both transcript and test scores are safely in the hands (or on the servers) of your friendly neighborhood admissions officers.

Another project to add to your growing list of college "TO DOs?" You bet! If you are at all uncertain that your official transcript and test scores will find their way to Binghamton, to quote the folks at Nike, Just Do It! :-)

Best of luck on your college apps, to Binghamton, and wherever else you may apply!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer, the authors of referenced articles and websites, and such guest bloggers as may appear.
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