As a homeschooling parent, you are responsible for creating a high school transcript to use for college applications. This is no cause to panic.
Why? Because there is no such thing as a standard transcript form even among school districts.
Try this, do an image search on “high school transcripts samples” in Google. Take a look at the wide variety of fake transcripts offered for “novelty” purposes. There is no such thing as a “correct” transcript.
Homeschoolers are usually caught unprepared when the need for a transcript first arises. Not because they don’t expect their kids to go to college but because it will come up as a requirement for a summer program or dual credit application. All of a sudden, they have to produce a transcript when they thought the entire process would be a year off or even more.
But as I said earlier, there is no need to panic. There are plenty of examples of homeschool transcripts available on the web for you to model yours on. Furthermore, you can keep them pretty simple. As far as I can tell, the must have elements for a transcript are:
Title: You can use whatever name you want for your homeschool or not, the important phrase is “Official High School Transcript.”
Student Information: name, gender, birthdate, and address. Social Security number is expected but for those with concerns you can include some sort of statement like “number provided on acceptance” or whatever condition you want. Just remember, you are going to have to provide the number as part of the financial aid application so the school will get it one way or another. Parental information is also expected and most transcripts include SAT, ACT, and other relevant test scores. Schools generally will not accept these scores as official for homeschoolers; just consider it a very useful convenience for the admissions staff.
Courses taken: notice, you do not have to list them by grade level and you don’t even have to provide a grade. It’s common for unschoolers to just provide a list of courses (topics) that the student covered by category, ie math, history, science, etc. Even many non-unschoolers (not sure that’s a word, but you know what I mean) only include grades given by outside sources, usually community colleges or distance education classes.
Official Signature: You need to have a line for your signature as the “Official” whatever of your homeschool. I found “Official Primary Signature” worked find for us.
Graduation Date: If the school doesn’t recognize the student as a senior, they may require a different application process.
As you can see, these requirements aren’t that demanding. Of course, there are other aspects of the transcript that you need to consider depending on the purpose of the transcript. The one that probably causes the greatest anxiety are grades and gpa. Many homeschoolers are reluctant to put “mommy grades” on the transcript because they think they won’t be taken seriously or think that they have to have some sort of outside evidence to back them up. You can leave out mommy grades and your student can still be admitted into the most selective schools in the country.
There are two issues to consider. The first is merit scholarships. In many cases, if you don’t have a gpa, you aren’t eligible for merit scholarships. Again, there are homeschoolers who get merit scholarships based on work in a portfolio and never provide a gpa. Other scholarships are based just on SAT/ACT scores.
But you are still taking a risk and think of it this way. What’s the worst that can happen if you do put your own grades on a homeschool transcript? Worst case scenario is that the admissions’ officer becomes annoyed with you for having to go through and remove all of the grades and decide to reject the application. But hardly likely. I have yet to hear of homeschoolers being punished for listing their own grades. Consult with the school and then do what you’re comfortable with.
There is a case where you must enter grades and in chronological order. If your student is intending to compete in Division I or II college athletics, the NCAA requires grades to be assigned to each course so that they can calculate a gpa for qualification purposes. If you do not assign a grade, they will assign a “D” for you. Furthermore, it is in your best interest to use course titles that are listed as acceptable core courses on the NCAA website. You may have done a study of Japanese literature but you put it down on the transcript as “English 11.” If college athletics are a possibility, visit the NCAA Eligibility Center early to make sure you meet all the requirements.
GPA is probably the area most ripe for convoluted calculations and general anxiety concerning homeschool transcripts. The first concern is grade scale. It’s a good idea to put your grade scale on the transcript. You’ll see something like “A 90-100 4.0” and then down the scale. Many schools use pluses and minuses and so they list their numerical equivalents as well. And then there is the weighting of grades with honor points for taking honors, advanced placement, or International Baccalaureate classes. This allows for a B in an advanced placement class to have the same weight as an A in a regular class which is how students end up with gpas over 4.0.
As a homeschooler, you can choose to weight classes to indicate difficulty and use any grading scale you want to as long as you indicate what is an A,B,C etc. The question is, should you?
It’s generally believed that most colleges recalculate the gpa according to their own standards. It makes sense for them to strip the weighting and calculate a straight gpa and then create some sort of system to indicate the difficulty of the course work. Many will also only use what they consider “core” classes in these calculations. So why go through the agony of weighting classes when it’s not going to be used? It’s easier to just calculate a straight gpa and indicate which classes were honors or college level.
This can be complicated if the student has outside grades that are based on a more elaborate scale that includes minuses and pluses. However, since the admissions people are likely to turn the A- into an A, there is no reason why you can’t do the same on your transcript while sending an original transcript from the community college separately.
Regardless of the form you chose for your transcript, it you are calculating gpa start with it on a spreadsheet. This will help to minimize mistakes in calculating gpa for the school year and the cumulative gpa. You can also double check your information by using one of the many gpa calculators available online.
If you are calculating a gpa, you are going to need to report credits. In general, people give one credit for a course that covers the entire school year. There are some homeschoolers who insist on assigning credits based on Carnegie Units where one unit equals 120 hours of time spent on the subject. After sitting through a State Board of Education meeting discussing the number of minutes to require for elementary reading, I’m not a big fan of the system. I suspect that most college admissions expect the amount of time a homeschooler spends a subject to vary widely to account for different speeds of mastery. In other words, I suggest you give a full years credit for Algebra 2 even if the student finishes it in three months. Now, if it’s an issue of the student taking two years to complete what is generally expected to be a one year class, that’s another problem.
It’s also a good idea for homeschoolers to indicate the source of the class, whether it was a community college class, taken online, etc. Not only does this indicate the outside source of validation that so many homeschoolers are worried about but also indicates successful socialization skills in the classroom that so many non-homeschoolers worry about. This can be done with footnotes or as part of the course title.
Some transcripts include a space to enter extracurricular activities. I don’t see the point unless you don’t have any other place to include this information as part of your admissions application.
I’ve seen a few transcript examples that include attendance. To me this is more of a report card category and only of interest to states that require homeschoolers to report attendance. If the organization isn’t requesting it, I wouldn’t include it.
Some colleges have examples of homeschool transcripts including Baylor University, Mary Baldwin College, East Tennessee State University, Liberty University, Convenant College, Bethel College (includes Excel form), Wheaton College, NCAA, and the Common Application. Looking at these examples should reassure you that there is not one correct way to do a transcript. Many colleges, while not providing a transcript example, will list what information they want to see on the transcript including University of Washington, Indiana Wesleyan University, Houghton College, and Lewis & Clark.
It’s important to distinguish between transcripts and course descriptions because the colleges won’t always to it. Many descriptions sound as if they want the textbook and syllabi listed on the transcript. Unless you are doing a very short course description or just listing textbooks used as required by the NCAA, it’s easier for all involved to have your course descriptions separate from the transcript. You might include the course description as part of the transcript document where the transcript is the first page in a traditionally expected format and the following pages contain the course descriptions. Consider the transcript the overview of the course descriptions.
It’s not difficult to find a variety of sample homeschool transcripts by doing a simple web search. You can also buy software or web services that will create a transcript based on information you enter. Some simply generate the transcript while others are part of a comprehensive grade book program. You may find them useful.
However, I hope after reviewing some of the examples I talked about here, you realize that this isn’t something to panic about. I have a link to the two transcripts we used for my son. The first transcript I put together rather quickly so that he could apply for a dual credit program at the community college. I realize now that I didn’t include a grading scale. He got in anyway. The community college did require that I have transcript notarized.
The second transcript is the one we used for his college applications. All the colleges my son applied to with the exception of one, used the Common Application. I created a file that included the transcript, course description, and reading list which I uploaded as the transcript file. He was accepted at all of the schools he applied to.
If you’re interested in learning more about the college search process, visit www.diycollegerankings.com.