Student’s concerned over SFU official transcript conversion

Transcript use of letter grade rather than percentage presents potential difficulty in applying for other schools


Brandon Gill didn’t expect to have trouble converting his grades from his transcript after graduating from SFU in 2016. “I feel like going to SFU puts me at a disadvantage when I try to apply to these grad schools because we are so different in how we grade and how our transcripts look,” he said.

If you have never ordered an official transcript before, you may not know that SFU’s transcripts do not display a final percentage in a course, only a letter grade.

Gill explained that this can become problematic when other post-secondary schools begin to examine your transcript when applying for graduate schools, as each of these post-secondary schools use different percentage-to-grade equivalencies. “For me, I am going to be, at minimum, losing five to eight percent in every single one of my classes,” depending on which grading scale is used to convert his letter grade.

While Gill has questioned why only his letter grade could be displayed on his transcript, SFU registrar and executive director, Rummana Khan Hemani, explained that only official letter grades can be displayed on an official transcript.  

In a statement to The Peak, Hemani stated that, “while percentages may be used to determine a final grade, they are not part of the official grading system. This means that only letter grades, and not percentages, can be assigned as final grades. As such, only letter grades and their equivalent grade point values appear on the transcript.”

Gill is not the only student who has questioned why his percentages in each course cannot be displayed on his transcript. SFU student Mandie Dhesi added, “I’ll be applying to law schools within the next year and one of the issues that goes against me as an SFU student is SFU’s grading scale. When you’re applying to law schools, not just within British Columbia, but in the whole of Canada, SFU’s grading scale doesn’t convert equally.”

She also stressed that in contacting law schools across Canada, many have explained to her that they will take the “lowest percentage in that letter grade” range in order to calculate a percentage.

“It’s instances such as these where letter grades are too ambiguous. And as a student, I’m working to obtain a certain percentage in a letter grade; it should be shown,” said Dhesi.

Gill added that, because SFU’s grading scale is different from many universities across Canada, which may require a B or B+ average to apply for graduate school, not providing a percentage attached to a letter grade “creates a vagueness. If I get any letter grade, whether it’s an A or a B, it’s vague as to determine how [I] actually did.” Dhesi agreed with the statement.

Hemani also stated that “the reverse side of the official transcript explains how the SFU grading system works to prospective post-secondary institutions students may be applying to.”

The Peak contacted the University of Victoria’s law admissions officer, Janet Person, and in a statement she explained that “for the purposes of evaluating law school applicants from SFU, we take the letter grades as reported on the transcripts and convert to the 4.33 grade point system exactly the same way that SFU does.”

However, the University of British Columbia minimum admissions requirements require “a minimum overall average in the B+ range (76% at UBC) in third- and fourth-year courses.” According to their website, however, it is not specified whether SFU’s B+ (80-85%) will be converted to such a range, or based on a 4.33 grade point system like SFU’s.

While students are frustrated that their work may not be adequately represented on their transcripts, Hemani also stated that “in July 2016, in consultation with the University Senate, which includes student representatives, SFU redesigned the official transcript in order to more clearly reflect a student’s academic career and achievements at SFU.”

“Some of the changes were to ensure SFU students fare well with students from other post-secondary institutions for further studies and external competitions. For example, the new transcript indicates the class average for each course a student has completed. This change was designed to partially address the concern of conversion from one scale to another and to provide more detail about a student’s academic performance,” she added.

While changes may have been made to SFU transcripts as of July 2016, Dhesi’s and Gill’s problems reflect similar concerns as students on SFU’s Reddit thread in 2014, which expressed further problems in applying to law school at UBC, “[…]in an email with a UBC Law admissions officer they said themselves that their admissions process converts SFU GPA to a percentage which is then used to calculate admissions. Their FAQ page even indicates a percentage (and not letter grades) as the thing to strive for precisely because the relation between percentage and letter grade is subjective.” [sic]