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I took courses named A, B, and C during my master. They are all strongly related to the field I want to apply in, and I got top grades in them.

Due to administrative reasons, my transcript shows course names D, E, and F instead. They are all either slightly or not at all related to my field.

Names D, E, F are the names of courses that were replaced by A, B, C that year. I don't really understand why they were not changed in the official transcript, and I may not be able to get a transcript with the correct names.

How can I make sure that this does not hurt my chances when I apply to PhD programs in the field of A, B, C?

I am thinking of sending a version with the correct names, and attaching the official one, with a note that explains the issue. But I don't know how that will be seen by admission committees (they may wonder why I didn't just get a fixed version from my school).

Edit: I want to apply to machine learning programs. The A, B, C courses are about machine learning, deep learning and artificial intelligence. D, E, F are “3D engineering”, “image processing” and “image analysis”, which seem irrelevant in comparison. This seems to me like a blow to my applications.

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    Would a person knowledgeable about universities like yours in your country consider this kind of administrative error common? Dec 24, 2020 at 18:27
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    @AlexanderWoo I don't think so. The program's administration was unusually incompetent during my whole degree. I will be applying abroad, which may make the situation even more confusing.
    – user39012
    Dec 24, 2020 at 18:29
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    Can you contact the university and obtain a corrected transcript? Or at least a note from the "registrar" with a complete explanation?
    – Buffy
    Dec 24, 2020 at 18:40
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    @AlexanderWoo, I doubt that tis true, especially if the reader doesn't read the language of the transcript.
    – Buffy
    Dec 24, 2020 at 21:29
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    @Hey, if this is Germany and the system is LSF, this is completely normal. Just write a short note explaining it. And image processing, by the way, is pretty much just machine learning anymore :) Dec 24, 2020 at 23:08

3 Answers 3

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If at all possible you should get the issuing university to correct your transcript. Failing that, you should get a letter, signed by an authority, that explains the situation. The letter should come from some official. In the US, the person would normally be called the Registrar, but I doubt that is universal. Whoever is responsible for transcripts.

The answer of Nicole Hamilton is correct in that you shouldn't try to alter any official document.

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  • Hi, thanks for your answer. Do you think the "letter signed by authority" situation would lower my chances, by e.g. making the transcript less clear? It seems that this is as much as I'll be able to get.
    – user39012
    Feb 25, 2021 at 19:16
  • I can't promise it will help, but don't see how it could hurt, actually.
    – Buffy
    Feb 25, 2021 at 19:17
  • Sorry I wasn't clear, I meant "will it be worse than a transcript with no error", not "will it be worse than not getting the letter?" (I guess you answered that by "can't promise it will help.")
    – user39012
    Feb 25, 2021 at 19:19
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    Getting an official correct transcript is the best, but don't try to alter an official document yourself.
    – Buffy
    Feb 25, 2021 at 19:29
  • I wasn't planning to :) Thank you.
    – user39012
    Feb 25, 2021 at 19:35
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Do not alter a document issued by anyone else.

You haven't provided enough information for anyone to judge whether A, B and C will seem all that different from D, E and F to anyone reading your transcript. Either way, there's simply no possible good reason nor any possible good outcome associated with telling anyone other than your registrar that you think there's an error on your transcript. Until and unless you can get it changed, it is what it is.

What you might do if you think it's that important, is sneak a clarification into one of your essays, explaining that not only did you do well in these courses, but that the content was even more relevant than the course names would suggest.

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    Either way, there's simply no possible good reason nor any possible good outcome associated with telling anyone other than your registrar that you think there's an error on your transcript. I cannot imagine what you mean by that. Talking to the profs who taught the classes would make sense. Talking to the Program Coordinator would make sense. Talking to the Department Head would make sense. Even talking to a prospective supervisor could make sense. Dec 26, 2020 at 9:57
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    +1 for the crucial first line here, although like @MartinArgerami I don’t agree with the middle paragraph.
    – PLL
    Dec 26, 2020 at 14:47
  • When you're introducing yourself to others, I don't think it's helpful to bring up that you're involved in conflicts. It invites speculation that you might be hard to manage or that if others have conflicts with you, maybe we will, too. Revealing that you're arguing with your registrar about what your transcript should say invites negative speculation: who gets into these kinds of fights? Dec 26, 2020 at 15:49
  • @NicoleHamilton I wonder if there is a difference between the administration and the admission committee in that case? I imagine that applications are usually pre-processed by administrative staff, before professors meet to choose candidates. Would it be reasonable to contact the administration to e.g. provide the real course names, along with an explanation signed by my program coordinator, so that they amend the transcript before professors see it?
    – user39012
    Dec 26, 2020 at 18:20
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    One option to "sneak it in" is to mention the book used for the course. If there for example is a classic textbook on machine learning that the course used, any person reading your statement will know it's a serious machine learning course if they recognise the book. For example, if I saw a personal statement in my field, math, say "I was 2nd out of 38 students in my 'introduction to proofs' course, taught out of Rudin's principles of mathematical analysis." I'd think oh, this student really knows their real analysis, even if they didn't have real analysis in their transcript. Dec 27, 2020 at 0:05
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Have your letters of recommendation address the issue.

You are getting a letter from the professor who taught one of these courses, right? In their letter of recommendation, they'll write "I first met Hey when he was a student in Course A, which I taught. Note this was mislabeled in his transcript as D."

You can also mention it in your statement of purpose when you write about your experience.

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    I am not asking any of my school’s professors for letters. I got research experience with academics from other organizations, and I didn’t have many opportunities to do interesting work at my school. But I will try in the statement if I can’t get the transcript fixed, thank you for your advice.
    – user39012
    Dec 24, 2020 at 21:37

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