How to create a high school transcript that colleges want to see

Whether you are a parent is seriously considering homeschooling during high school, or just curious about how a parent accomplishes the task of fulfilling graduation requirements as a homeschooler, the questions most often asked are:

The first two were answered in the previous post, How to create a course of study and count high school credits Part 1. This post is in answer to the last three.

I'm going to answer the last question first - yes, a parent homeschooling in accordance with the statutes in their state can award a 'legal' high school diploma.

I believe the underlying question is "What about accreditation?" Parents want to know if the piece of paper they give their child carries the same weight as the piece of paper given out at the local high school.

We are conditioned to believe that only government can make something 'official', so be prepared for a few college admissions offices or employers to give your homeschool diploma and transcripts the hairy eyeball. There's nothing we can do about folks who don't understand home education except continue to be examples of academic rigor and excellence, and handle ignorance with grace.

The fact is ~ accreditation does not indicate the quality of the education a student has received.

Many private schools are accredited by different accrediting agencies, or are unaccredited altogether. The assumption that a brick-and-mortar school is more 'real' than a homeschool is faulty logic.

Colleges have become more knowledgeable about and accepting of homeschoolers. What most colleges want to see is

  • a detailed transcript with a description of the courses and requirements for completion of those courses
  • supportive documentation, which would be the student's portfolio of completed work.

College accreditation is a completely different question, and one that I can address more in another post.

Again - the diploma a homeschool parent awards their child may not be accredited, but as homeschooling is a legal educational option, colleges and employers have no legitimate reason to reject a homeschool diploma simply because it was given by a parent and not a school.  

What do colleges want to see on transcripts? This is a two-part question. You will need to be prepared with a transcript, but also 'supportive documentation'.

A transcript is just a big chart that gives an accurate record of your child's high school courses, grade point average, number of credits earned, as well as an outline of extra-curricular activities, apprenticeships, volunteerism, employment, special projects or awards. . .

Supportive documentation, in the form of a portfolio, will include course descriptions that give some details about the books and assignments used, goals/objectives, and information or skills the student mastered for that course. Completed workbooks and worksheets, copies of reports and papers, and a record of projects and activities round out the picture and 'prove' that the student accomplished the requirements for those courses. 

This also gives the college (or employer) the information they need to make an informed decision about whether or not to accept (or hire) your child. 

Side note: While many parents are minimalists, and view any questions about home education as a personal affront, I wouldn't expect a college or employer to hire anyone without taking the time to make sure the person was suited for the school or the task.

What is disconcerting is that many colleges and employers have been so conditioned by institutionalized education that they don't demand the same evidence from public and private schooled students. Just because a child has completed courses in a government school, we as a society assume this means the child received an adequate education, and this is not always the case.

For college-bound students, the crux of the matter is "How do I get accepted to the college of my choice?"

Think of your transcript as the Reader's Digest Condensed Version of your high school life. College admissions not only want to know your GPA, but if the courses you took were challenging and covered an appropriate amount of relevant material. A high grade point average is only as impressive as the difficulty level of the course content.

You won't have a class rank as a homeschooler, but even in a traditional high school, class rank only means as much as the quality of the curriculum and requirements of the teacher.

Extra-curricular activities tell the story of what you care about as a person. Are you an entrepreneur? A humanitarian? An athlete? An artist or musician? Your transcript should show how you chose to use your time outside of 'school' to become a well-rounded person. Did you take part in academic competitions, science or history fairs, a speech and debate team, community theater? The more information you include, the more you become a whole, real person to the admissions officer.

Knowing all of this will help you chart your course of study. Ask yourself "What do I want to be able to say about myself when I graduate?"

The transcript itself is just a form used to keep all these records organized in a format that is easily read and understood. We again take a page from for an idea of what a transcript can look like. You can also see samples at the bottom of this page at the HSLDA website. If you know how to make a spreadsheet, you can design your own transcript and organize the information by subject or by year, as well as leaving room for recording all those activities and projects that rounded out your homeschool education experience.

If you already have some ideas about the colleges you are interested in, start researching course requirements for those schools, make some phone calls and appointments to meet admissions counselors. Ask to survey a couple of classes, and hone in on those subjects and activities that will most benefit your education experience and prepare you for college, a vocation, and future as a responsible, productive adult.

Don't allow this process to remain a source of mystery or anxiety - use this opportunity to learn how to research, make phone calls, ask intelligent questions; not just charting a course of study for high school, but having the tools to chart their course for life.

Do you have questions not answered here, or in Part 1? Ask them in the Comments below.