How to Translate Academic Documents If You are an International Student

May 02, 2020

The process of applying to a university abroad might seem overwhelming at times due to the bureaucracy involved. As part of the process, many papers have to be translated in case the language of the study program or that of the future residence country differs from the one in which you have studied so far or in which you have your documents issued. Among the papers that require translations, one can mention student diplomas, certificates, academic transcripts (statements of academic record), CV’s, theses, dissertations, letters of recommendation, personal statements, letters of enrolment, statements of qualifications, etc. The formal requirements towards the quality of translation are typically most strict for legal documents but a high quality of translation is equally vital for all other documents, given their importance in helping to decide on the applicant’s fate.

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How to Translate Documents Step-By-Step

Although situations might differ from case to case, there is a general logic one follows when translating academic documents:

1. Carefully check the requirements of the university or the scholarship program aimed specifically at international students. These should mention the type of documents needed, which language they need to be translated into (the language of the program might differ from the official language(s) of the country) but also who is authorized to make the translations, and how these should be legalized.

2. Gather your documents in the original language. Note that some of the documents would need to be obtained at the very last moment in order to reflect the latest state of affairs - this is the case of transcripts. So you might be willing to wait until you have collected all the documents before submitting them for translation.

3. Translate the documents. Find a certified translator/ service that would translate your documents according to the specified requirements. Requirements for the level of certification of translators may vary greatly depending on the target academic institutions. Various confirmatory signs and elements might be needed to validate the translation, such as credentials of the translator or the translation company, a confirmation from the translating party that this is an accurate translation of the original document, the date of translation, the signature of an authorized translating party or official, a stamp, etc.

4. Legalize the documents. Note that translation and legalization often come hand in hand. Depending on specific agreements between countries and the conventions to which they have adhered, various legalization procedures might be required, such as assurance by a notary or legalization by means of an apostille. Note that the apostille certificate may also need to be translated.

Inage Credit: Commercebank

Submitting Papers for Translation

Although students can gather all the documents and submit them for translation at the same time, sometimes, they are either forced to or prefer to do it gradually (including in the situation when deadlines are pressing and students want to ensure that they aren’t left with a big pile of documents to translate at the very last moment). Fortunately, technology comes to the aid of everyone. Thus, many translation services already accept documents via the Internet, hence, students only need to pick the best translation site, submit the respective documents (digital or scanned copies), and finally, receive the translations either in an electronic or a physical format. However, if legalization is required on top, the original documents must be handed into the respective party (typically the notary) in a physical format. So, the approach described might be more suitable for a CV, personal statement, etc. rather than for an official document.

Translations Required for a Visa Application

Although the process of applying for a visa is distinct from and comes later than that of applying for a university, this is something that many future international students will face at some point. When translating documents for a visa application, students should again check the corresponding requirements. These are typically made public and regularly updated on university websites - feel free to check the requirements listed by the University of Birmingham and Imperial College London. By comparison with university requirements, which vary from one academic institution to another, these requirements should be standard for a given country of future residence and a given country of origin. However, requirements might differ in case you make an application from within the future country of residence or from abroad.
Final Thought

To conclude, the type of translations international students need depends entirely on the university they are applying for, on the country where this university is located, as well as on where the students themselves come from and where they reside at the moment of application. The particular countries involved determine whether translations are needed at all but also which conventions and rules apply for translation and legalization. Students should carefully consider all the requirements for their individual case (for instance, the certification required from the translating party, the elements needed to validate a translation, etc.) and should seek to fulfill them. The same is true about translating documents for a visa application.

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