After you’ve spent your time researching and visiting grad schools and have it narrowed down to a few, it’s time to start applying and gathering the information that your top schools will be requesting from you. Here is where it is important to stay organized and make sure that you keep on top of application deadlines. One of the first things you should do when you begin the application process is request your undergrad transcripts. Here are some items to consider:

1. Make sure you are requesting all of your transcripts: You must request transcripts from every school you attended, even if you didn’t graduate from that school. Some may have started at one college and transferred to another. Others may have started their college career at a community college and then transferred to a university to complete their undergraduate. This means that you will need to contact each school and request a transcript.

2. Don’t email, mail or fax copies of your transcripts unless your prospective school specifically requests it: A few schools will accept a faxed or emailed copy of your transcripts for your initial application, but not many. Those that do accept copies will eventually want the originals. It’s best to go ahead and request transcripts for each school for which you plan to apply.

3. Request transcripts Early: Requesting your transcripts is a process that can take up to 3 weeks to process. It’s not a simple matter of going to college and requesting a print out of your transcripts. When you request transcripts, you will be providing your school(s) with information on where they will be sent and why. The school mails out the transcripts for you to the schools for which you are applying. This way, your prospective grad school will know that the transcripts came directly from the offices of your schools and could not have been altered in any way. It is a good idea to order transcripts early when applying to grad schools so that they reach the school before any application deadline.

4. Plan for the expense: Transcripts can be $10 to $20 apiece. If you are applying to multiple schools, or if you attended more than one undergrad school, the expense can add up. Best be prepared for it.

Your transcripts can be one of the most important part of your grad school application. It gives your prospective schools a realistic idea of your academic performance and it is required by all schools. Remember to request transcripts for each school for which you are applying and to request them as soon as possible. Be sure to follow up with your prospective school to make sure they are received by them in a timely manner.