I am currently applying to PhD programs in the US and got my undergraduate degree from a German university. My university issues English transcripts of records, yet for special (graduate) lectures, the description is often still in German. Instead, a generic english name is used for the name of the lecture. For example, a generic entry might look as follows:

Course Name: Mathematics V
Description: Statistische Inferenz für Netzwerke
Grade: ...

Of course, I would much rather the transcript said "Statistical Inference for Networks". What is the etiquette in such cases? Do I take my German transcript and receive a certified translation, even though technically my institution issues "English" transcripts?

Some universities have an additional upload section, where I can describe the most important courses in more detail (including their content). In such cases, it would not be a problem. Yet, other universities only ask for a pdf of the transcript. Would it be OK to include my own descriptions at the end of the transcript pdf file, so that the committee can take these into account? Or would this rather upset the admissions committee?

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    This isn't a big deal. Almost certainly someone (or everyone) on the graduate admissions committee will know enough German (which doesn't need to be much) to figure out what your courses are. A much bigger concern is that people might not understand what your grades mean if those are not translated properly. Nov 26, 2015 at 10:18
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    To my knowledge, applicants often translate themselves and it is accepted (along with the original). The same we do with receipts from international trips. Nov 26, 2015 at 12:10
  • @phys_chem_prof thanks. Should I then submit the official German transcripts (which are completely in German) plus my own translation, or these "pseudo"-translated official transcripts plus my own translation (of any German descriptions)? I guess the latter might make it a bit easier for the admissions committee but they might also make them cringe (at least that is the effect on me when I read through these transcripts).
    – air
    Nov 26, 2015 at 12:20

2 Answers 2


It sounds like this is for only a couple of courses in your transcript? I'd submit the official English transcript issued by your institution and append in the same PDF a short note with the translations. I think I'd be grateful if I were to review your application.

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    Thank you. Based on your reply, I simply made a small pdf with a table with three columns: course code, German course name/description, English course name/description (only for the 5 courses which needed such a translation). I also just went to the academic coordinator of my program with my transcripts and this table and after reviewing it, she put an official stamp on it, so that I also have my institution's approval now.
    – air
    Nov 27, 2015 at 9:34

Many university departments have officers for the internationalization of the department. Talk to this person. If she/he is willing to sign a letter stating what these course names translate to and she/he puts an official stamp on it, this should be a good solution. You would add this official letter as an addition to your application.

Suggest to this person that you will prepare the letter. If your offer is accepted, this saves a lot of work for this person, and she/he is more likely to accept. If the internationalization officer wants to rather perform the translation herself/himself, then....well, less work for you!

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    Everything about this answer is good, but one thing needs to be added. If you can't get the university to approve your translation for free, you can always get one done privately. The translator doesn't need to have credentials in a situation like this, but it can be helpful for the translator to get his or her signature notarized. You can prepare the draft, and ask a friend with strong English to sign it in front of a notary public. Sorry, I'm not sure what the equivalent of a notary public would be in Germany. Nov 26, 2015 at 17:24

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