When evaluating an American diploma, the diploma alone is never sufficient. The related list of grades, which is known as an official transcript or academic record, is also required.
This official list of grades:
- indicates the level of both secondary and higher education;
- provides information on the content of the study programme, grades, credits and the date of graduation;
- must have been issued by the institution where the study took place.
Dutch educational institutions receive this official transcript in a sealed envelope or through a secure, electronic delivery service, so it is clear that the document is reliable. The College Board must also send the results of Advanced Placement examinations (high school), as well as the official transcript, directly to the Dutch institution.
In principle, having the official transcripts sent by the US institutions themselves ensures that the educational documentation is authentic. However, it is important to note that degree mills or diploma mills issue official transcripts that are not legitimate.
Diploma mills are businesses posing as education institutions, which sell certificates from high school to PhD level without any (serious) education having been completed. The format and content of these documents often give the impression that the transcripts have been issued by recognised US institutions, which is not actually the case. It is a simple matter to check whether an institution exists and/or has been accredited via the CHEA website.
When in doubt, always contact us. In the Netherlands, we have created the Coordination Centre for Information (in Dutch) on Diploma Mills (Coördinatiepunt Informatieverstrekking Diploma Mills) together with the Education Executive Agency (Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs, DUO) to provide information on diploma mills.