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Recently I came across a job posting for a (mathematics) tenure-track position that asks for both graduate and undergraduate transcripts to be submitted. While this is the first time I've had anyone ask to see my undergraduate transcript for such a position, from a previous question here, it appears to not quite be unheard of.

What I haven't seen addressed is the question of why, generally, would a hiring committee ask for undergraduate transcripts? Are they really going to judge my application based on an errant C in a course unrelated to my field, or do they simply want proof that I have the degree from University X that I claim to have obtained?

The reason for my question is that I am hoping to gain insight into any issues that might appear in my own transcript in order to address them in the cover letter.

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    I suspect they care more about which courses you took than about what your grades were (assuming they were generally passing) – Sparr Sep 17 '14 at 15:41
  • Some universities reserve the right to retract awarded degrees (for example for academic misconduct discovered after the degree has been awarded). – emory Sep 18 '14 at 0:06
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I had to submit undergraduate and graduate transcripts to several schools each time I applied for jobs in mathematics. I believe the main reason is simply to allow the school to verify that you really have the credentials you claim.

There have been examples where faculty and administrators were caught claiming credentials that they did not possess, so schools are more cautious about such things now. The same is true for background checks - many schools now run a background check before they make an official job offer.

At my institution, when we have a mathematics job search we don't really look at the grades on the transcripts. The cover letter, reference letters, teaching statement, and research statement are scrutinized, but the transcripts just get a cursory glance to make sure the person has the right coursework (e.g. if we want to hire someone in a specific subfield, we might check that they have coursework in that subfield).

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    Even if you trust faculty credentials (since, for example, a letter from one's Ph.D. advisor is already pretty good verification), there's also the issue of staff. The administration may be more worried about staff candidates lying about their degrees, but believe that it would insult the staff if all their degrees were carefully verified while faculty candidates were simply trusted. – Anonymous Mathematician Sep 17 '14 at 14:11
  • A letter from one's "Ph.D. advisor" can be forged. But so can a transcript. – emory Sep 18 '14 at 0:11
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I think they ask for two main reasons:

  1. Course requirements vary from university to university, and this will give them a good understanding of how well your formal education background aligns with what their own program offers. i.e. did your core requirements match their own? Will you have vastly different expectations of the students in their program from when you went to college?
    It will also give them a good idea of what your GPA in your transcript really means. For example, if you took all advanced classes, and even dabbled in some upper-level courses in other subjects which were not required, your GPA may not be as high as someone who took all the easiest courses and very few advanced ones. Also, some people have GPA's which are deceiving, i.e. they took many 'easy' classes in yoga and theater to even out C's in their major. This makes their over-all GPA seem acceptable, but their GPA in their major is low. This could be a red flag, for the hiring team, (not only is the candidate ill suited in this field, they are cunning)! This leads to point #2:

  2. You may be expected to teach some of those courses/subjects you took in undergrad/grad school. They need to know that you have taken similar courses before and that you received acceptable grades in them. Usually a department already has a general idea of what courses they want the person in this position to teach. They need to know if that will be a problem, i.e. if you got a C in every Calculus class you ever took, and they are specifically looking for someone to teach that, you may not fit the bill in that regards. But, if they really like your other skills, they might just end up having you teach a different subject, such as complex analysis, etc. I do not think it would immediately disqualify you as a candidate.

However, I would not be discouraged by a few low marks in your transcripts, if overall you have good ones that outweigh those. Everyone has been through a time in their studies when they had a professor who they just could not learn from, or get a handle on their testing style... or had a semester when something personal interfered with their studies. The most important point is to provide correct transcripts, and please know that the people reading them are human, are educators, and have seen it all already! Personally, I do not think a person's transcripts will be the main factor in the decision making process. But it is additional information that allows the job search committee to understand the candidate's educational background better.

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