The United States remains one of the top destinations for international students and scholars. If you have a degree obtained outside of the U.S. and want to be recognized for your hard work when you apply to colleges and universities in the U.S., it’s likely you will need an educational credential evaluation.
What is that? A credential evaluation report compares academic and professional degrees earned in one country to academic and professional degrees earned in another. Colleges, universities, employers, and governments use credential evaluations to evaluate foreign education as part of the admission or hiring process.
There are many providers that do this work. How do you choose the best one for you? Here’s how!
Before you start to compare credential evaluators, there are two things you need to do first.
1) Check with your college, university, employer, etc., to find out which credential evaluation providers they accept.
Some will accept a report from any credential evaluator, some will give you a choice, and others will accept reports from only one provider. Make sure you know what is accepted. You don’t want to spend money on a report and then find out that your university will not accept it. If the accepted providers are not listed on their website, call or email them to ask.
2) Find out which type of report they require.
There are different types of reports, so you’ll want to know what your chosen institution requires. The most common is a course by course, but if they only require a general-style report, you don’t want to pay extra for a higher level report. Again, if you can’t find the information on the institution’s website, ask.
Now you know which providers your institution will accept and what type of report they require. It’s time to compare and choose which credential evaluation service you want to work with.
Follow this 7-step guide to find the best credential evaluation service.
Step 1: Are they a member of NACES?
The U.S. Department of Education does not endorse or recommend any individual credential evaluation service or any individual association of credential evaluation services. There is no federal regulation of credential evaluation services. However, we recommend choosing a National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) member for your credential evaluation needs.
NACES is an association of U.S.-based, independent, nongovernmental organizations that provide credential evaluation services for individuals who have completed education outside the United States. NACES members are established organizations with knowledgeable staff and many years of professional service in the field of applied comparative education evaluation. Institutions across the country trust NACES and consider agencies that are members as a sign of quality, professionalism, and dedication to the highest standards. ECE has been a charter member of NACES since 1987.
Step 2: What do others say about their experience with the credential evaluator?
There are a few different ways to get the opinions of others who have used the services.
- Ask your family and friends. Do they have any first-hand experience with the providers that you’re considering? Do they know anyone who might?
- Read online reviews. Check out Google Reviews, Facebook, Quora, and others. Keep in mind that often people will only post reviews when they are angry or dissatisfied, so you may find several negative reviews, even for the most reputable providers. Be wary if you only find positive reviews. That is very unlikely, and they may contain inauthentic or paid reviews. Consider if the provider responded to reviews and tried to help the reviewer and address their concerns.
- Check out their Better Business Bureau standing. Are they a BBB accredited business? Do they have an A+ rating? Do they respond to reviews at BBB.org?
Step 3: What documents will I need to provide for my evaluation?
Some credential evaluators have the same documentation requirements regardless of your country of education. However, what may be reasonable to obtain in one country may not be in another. For example, if you studied in Somalia or Eritrea, you may not be able to get documents from your university. ECE understands this and has documentation requirements that vary by country based on what is reasonable and safe to obtain.
Step 4: What do they charge for the report type that you need?
Look not only at what the evaluator lists as the price for the report, but also at any other charges for required services, such as copy and delivery fees. Some do not list these additional fees clearly on their website and only reveal them once you are into the application process. Look for providers who are transparent with their fees, not just those who are at the lowest cost.
Step 5: How long will it take to get your report?
Turnaround time is important to both applicants and institutions. From the time you provide all the required documentation, it can take from a few days to a few weeks to receive your report. After the pandemic both institutions and credential evaluation services have seen a surge in applications. In order to maintain the high quality needed for a reputable evaluation, it may take longer to receive your report.
But ask yourself – is the evaluator being transparent about how long it will take? For example, ECE had a standard turnaround time of an average of 5 days for a long time. While we are working hard to get back there, currently the turnaround time is 2-3 weeks because of the volume of applications and the strict adherence to quality standards that we maintain. We post our current turnaround time on our website. Another thing to look for is rush service. If you absolutely need to have a report quickly, does the provider have a rush option?
Step 6: Do they provide good customer service?
Are you able to chat and/or talk with someone to get help and answers to your questions? If you leave a message, is it returned in a reasonable amount of time? At ECE we have a chatbot, Bingo, that answers easy questions and gets you right to a customer care representative by chat or phone as soon as you need help from a real, live person. Outside of business hours you can leave a message, and it will be returned within one business day.
Step 7: Are official translations required?
Some academic qualifications evaluators require that you have your documents professionally translated. This means extra time and extra cost. ECE allows the applicant to translate the documents themselves because all evaluators are trained to work from the original language documents. Translations are only used as a back-up. ECE also offers a Translation Waiver that allows the applicant to forego the translation altogether for a fee.
Sure, there are several things to consider when choosing a foreign transcript evaluation service. But if you start by knowing which providers your chosen institution will accept, that narrows down your options. Then look for a NACES member, check out what others say about them, and research the questions above. This will lead you to a credential evaluation report that will help you achieve your education or employment goals.