For some students, the co-curricular transcript system is a good way to demonstrate learning done outside of the classroom. (Photo Credit: Paul Bugden)

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Co-curricular Transcripts: Good or bad?

Local universities are adopting the co-curricular transcript system

For the majority of students the phrase "university life" is not limited to academics - it includes an active participation in the university community.

Participating in student clubs, student politics, and other student activities are all experiences that contribute to an individual's learning and personal growth.   And it's this kind of learning that is highlighted by a co-curricular transcript system.  

Simply stated, a co-curricular transcript system is an official record of the activities a student has participated in that are over and above academic requirements.  These transcripts officially document the education a student gains outside of the classroom from participating in various organizations.  They focus on experiential education - what a student learns from real world experiences that are delivered in the context of education and learning.

Chasing the trend

Co-curricular transcripts are actually a pretty smart idea.  These transcripts officially acknowledge that we, as human beings, don't limit our learning to the classroom.  And they are gaining in popularity.

Dalhousie just launched its co-curricular transcript system on Feb. 1. Saint Mary's University is in talks with faculty and students about adopting a similar program beginning in the 2012-13 school year.  Acadia University has had a co-curricular transcript in place since March 2010 - being the third university in Canada to adopt the system.  The University of Guelph and Carleton University are also using the system.

But as I sit here reading through all the information about how co-curricular transcripts are good for me as a student, I find myself wondering one specific question:  How is this any different than what I add to my resume?  I understand that a co-curricular transcript would serve me well if I am applying to graduate school - but I'm not, so what's the point?

Apparently, the point is in the language found within the transcript.

Learning how to sell experiential education

Educational and academic professionals have long since recognized that there is a lot of value in learning through experience. Many current university programs now have an experiential learning component as a result. Learning happens in the real world while doing real world things.  But when I am done, and I have maximized my learning opportunities, how do I tell a future employer exactly what I learned without sounding foolish?

As Shannon Thibodeau, Leadership Education & Development Advisor at the University of Guelph, highlights a co-curricular transcript provides students and recent graduates with the "tools to properly articulate what they have learned" in a real-world context.  The reality is that a future employer is not going to ask to see the transcript, but the language around learning outcomes and learning objectives can better prepare me to describe my experiences during a job interview.  

Yes, but are they worth it?

The co-curricular transcripts are limited to activities within the university community only.  So if you sit on the board at your local SPCA, or volunteer with a local charitable organization, you are still going to have to add these activities to your resume.  Which would seem to cancel the validity of a co-curricular transcript.

But as Michelle Johnson, Career Development Specialist & Co-curricular Transcript Coordinator at Acadia University points out, 500 students from a population of 3000 have registered in the program.  This would indicate that a decent number of students feel this is a valuable service.

And the more I think about it, the more I am tempted to ask this:  Why not?

Most institutions offer a fairly simple and online registration for the transcript.  And, perhaps most importantly, if we are talking about maximizing learning opportunities while attending university, learning how to talk about those opportunities in an accurate and effective way is vital.  Especially when I am looking for work in a market that requires that I stand out from the rest.  

So while co-curricular transcripts may seem a little redundant when compared to writing a resume, there is still value in getting one.  

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