All About Credential Evaluations
What is a Credential?
For the purposes of a credential evaluation, your credentials – also known as your transcripts, mark sheets, grade sheets, score sheets, and the associated diploma or degree (if applicable) – are the official documents that contain the complete record of your academic history. Your educational credentials are generated by your current or former educational institution.
What is a Credential Evaluation?
When seeking admission to an educational institution such as a high school, college or university, employment or an immigration application/visa where a specific educational level is required, the prospective institutions, employer or USCIS will want to review your prior academic credentials. If your education was earned in a country other than the United States or Canada, a detailed credential evaluation is required – this compares your prior academic records to the equivalent U.S. or Canadian standards, and certifies them to the equivalent level.
Why Do You Need a Credential Evaluation?
There are almost 200 countries in the world with their own regulations and requirements related to applying for, and graduating from, a particular course of study. Each country may have tens of thousands of schools, colleges and universities, and each educational jurisdiction may have its own set of prerequisite admission requirements, course studies, credits earned and scoring (among many other factors).
When you leave a country with a particular educational achievement, it may or may not equate to the same educational level in a different country. The credential evaluation process ‘standardizes’ your prior studies and provides a certification of equivalency for those studies you earned from the source country as compared to the target country. For continuing education in particular, a full credential evaluation is needed to ensure that your prior credits and courses are utilized by the institution for your future studies, ensuring that you don’t duplicate prior studies or courses (this can save you considerable time and money), or miss needed courses important for the completion and success in your continuing education.
Types of Credential Evaluations
There are two types of credential evaluations:
Course by Course (CBC) Evaluations
For both continuing education or immigration purposes, you will invariably need to complete a CBC evaluation. A CBC evaluation is the ‘gold standard’ evaluation, and assesses your graduation certificates, each course of study completed, credits earned for each course and your overall studies, and grades achieved in each course and for your overall studies (Grade Point Average, or GPA). A CBC evaluation enables the evaluation agency to certify the equivalent degree based on the complete set of equivalent courses, grades and credits within the target country’s education system.
Most evaluation agencies’ CBC evaluations are 3-4 pages long, but our course by course evaluations are the most complete in the industry, at about ten pages long. This is because we not only include the foregoing information, but also information about the school you attended, the educational system in the country attended, our evaluation methodology, citations from our educational evaluation library, and the resume of the evaluator.
Being the gold standard and most complete analysis available, our course by course evaluations have guaranteed acceptance for work, immigration and continuing education purposes.
A general evaluation (also known as ‘document by document’) evaluates only your graduation certificate, so is a less extensive analysis than a CBC evaluation. Our agency will issue a statement of equivalency as to your degree within the target country. Since there are no courses assessed, the general equivalency evaluation does not include any course information, grades or credit calculations.
While other evaluation agencies’ general evaluations are typically only 1-2 pages long, our general evaluations are about 5 pages long since we also include information about school you attended, the educational system in the country attended, our evaluation methodology, citations from our educational evaluation library, and the resume of the evaluator.
Since a general evaluation is quite limited in scope, it is only used to certify a particular diploma or degree level (e.g. high school diploma), and is primarily required by vocational schools, and to determine eligibility for financial aid. While most employers prefer course by course evaluations, certain employers may specify that a general evaluation is sufficient.
The Credential Evaluation Process
There are two methods of credential evaluation, the main difference being how your educations documents are delivered to the evaluating agency. As shown below, clients who send their credentials directly to the agency for evaluation enjoy many advantages over those who do not…
Client-to-Agency Credential Evaluation:
For this method, you simply email a picture or scan of your credentials to the evaluating agency, which reviews the documents and emails a quote back. An invoice is generated that be paid securely online or over the phone. Your order can be activated in minutes, and from there, the agency will follow their normal evaluation process.
Advantages: Speed; convenience; no application forms; significantly lower cost; guaranteed acceptance; translation services; no expiration
- Speed. Since the credentials to be evaluated are delivered in minutes instead of weeks or months, your evaluation can be started right away, and with rush services can be completed the same day.
- Convenience. Simply use your phone to take a picture of your documents and send them via email or text. Your credentials can be assessed immediately for evaluation.
- No Application Forms Needed. Only your basic contact information is required (name, phone number and email address) to start your credential evaluation.
- Lower Cost. Because the entire process is faster, these agencies are able to keep their costs lower, which is reflected in significantly lower credential evaluation costs.
- Guaranteed Acceptance. Many agencies using this credential evaluation method offer acceptance guarantees for their work.
- Translation Services Available. The most sophisticated credential evaluation agencies integrate translation into their entire document management processes, making it easy to provide you with certified translation translations as part of your overall credential evaluation process.
- No Evaluation Expiration. Many of these agencies do no expire your credential evaluation, which means you only have to pay once to complete this process.
Disadvantages: No document authentication (by agency)
- While your prior school can certainly send the documents directly to the agency for authentication purposes, they typically do not, so these agencies don’t generally authenticate your documents . However, the end-user of the credential evaluation (usually the school or employer) can do so, and they can also readily assess whether they will accept the original credentials you provide to them.
School-to-Agency Credential Evaluation:
For this method, you will complete an application form and pay the evaluation agency their fees. Once paid, your order is in-process and the agency will request your educational credentials be mailed directly from your prior school to the evaluation agency. Once the agency received your educational credentials, the agency will follow their normal evaluation process.
Disadvantages: Length of time to complete; ability to complete; high cost; no refunds; long application process; no translation services; documents expire
- It Takes a Lot Longer. Sometimes this process can take many weeks or months. Although these agencies may advertise that their credential evaluation will only take 1-4 weeks, they actually mean it will take 1-4 weeks after they received your educational credentials in the mail from your prior school. Some schools are efficient and deliver the documentation within a few weeks, however, in many parts of the world the document retention and retrieval process is not as efficient, and it may take many weeks or months before the evaluation agency can even start your project.
- Can’t Start Your Project. Many schools no longer exist or do not forward your transcripts. In these cases, many months may pass before you find out that that the agency is unable to proceed with your credential evaluation.
- More Expensive. Due to the inefficiency of this credential evaluation method, agencies will charge significantly higher fees in order to compensate for all the manual steps that must occur. In some cases, agency fees can be double or triple other agencies!
- No Refunds. Read the fine print! Virtually all credential evaluation agencies that require documents to be mailed to them have strict ‘no refund’ policies. Once you pay, you won’t receive your money back, even if they can’t complete the evaluation.
- Lengthy Application Process. Since these agencies request original documents in the mail on your behalf, you’re required to complete lengthy (and often confusing) application forms.
- No Translation Services. Most agencies requesting document be mailed to them directly do not provide translation services, forcing you to first have your documents translated by a third-party affiliate (who often charge two to four times as much as competitive translation agencies). They can do this because they control your documents.
- Your Evaluation Expires. Many of these agencies will place a 5 year expiration on your credential evaluation, which means you may have to go through the entire process and expense again.
Advantages: Document authentication
- By receiving the documents in the mail from your prior school, the agency is considered to have authenticated them.
Translations – if translation services are offered, ensure the credential evaluation agency is an American Translators Association member, and that certified, notarized translations are provided along with your credential evaluation.
Refund Policy – ask your agency if they offer guaranteed acceptance of your credential evaluation at all schools, colleges, universities, employers and for immigration . They should refund you if your credential evaluation is not accepted.
Accredited Evaluation Agency– steer clear of agencies that aren’t Better Business Bureau accredited.
No Alterations – do not doctor your credentials. Reputable credential evaluation agencies will not only refuse to evaluate documents that they suspect are fraudulent, but they will share your name with other agencies to ensure industry integrity.
Complete Credential Documentation – for efficiency, try to provide all your foreign credentials to the evaluation agency together, as most agencies will charge additional fees to modify a completed credential evaluation.