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Writing a Transcript for College Admissions

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2008 issue of The Informer.
With the growth of home education today very few college admissions officers are unfamiliar with homeschooling anymore. But the question remains, how do I best prepare transcripts for my student to get into college? Cindy Morris provides some simple answers!

Information that has changed since this article originally appeared has been updated.

What is a “homeschooler”? Many admissions officers ask themselves that same question each year. While you may understand your homeschool, you know that there is no “homeschool mold.” A well-compiled transcript of the high school years will provide the answers an admissions officer needs in defining your particular school while highlighting your student’s achievements and skills.

However, before discussing transcript details, allow me to give you a few quick pointers for coordinating the high school years. These will prove to be helpful when you construct your student’s transcript later.

Planning

  1. In Indiana, your homeschool is considered a private school. The laws pertaining to the public schools do not apply to you, but, if you cannot prove that your child has received an education equivalent to, or better than, what the public school provides, colleges may not accept your student.
  2. Because many of the courses neces­sary for graduation may be studied any­time during high school, it is recommend­ed to plan the entire high school career as one unit so that all courses are studied in an orderly, timely manner.
  3. Use Indiana’s diploma options as your planning guide. The Honors Diploma is a typical, college-prep diploma guideline. Some have found the Core 40 may be suitable if the student has demonstrated solid mastery of the course of study. A study has found a greater degree of remediation of students who used the Core 40 than with the Honors Diploma. Diploma standards change over time, so be sure to visit the Department of Education’s website for more information.
  4. Pick up a high school handbook or curriculum guide. Resources for homeschooling through high school are abundant. Remember that as a private school you determine your graduation guidelines and your own curriculum. Use different references when you are looking for another English course, ideas for electives, or needing a name for the hands-on, part time job in which your student deserves a high school credit.

Would you like some specific examples of how I used the curriculum guide? First, our oldest son worked part time for two years on a hog farm, learning all the steps from breeding to birthing to going to market. It was a fantastic opportunity, but what could I call it? Livestock Production was listed in the guide, a perfect fit.

Working as nannies for a set of triplets starting the week they arrived home from the hospital, two of our daughters received credits in Child Care.

And yet another example is that one of our sons enjoyed stereo components, com­puter programming, and electronic giz­mos. He tinkered, tore apart, and rebuilt a bunch of things. Later, he studied and received his Amateur Radio Operators License. A credit for Electronics appeared on his transcript.

Recordkeeping

As for recordkeeping, Indiana law only requires homeschoolers to keep attendance records, but attendance records won’t help much when you need to compile a tran­script! So, jot down details for each day and record scores when there is something to grade. A check mark may suffice on days when reading is the assignment, how­ever, it is wise to record the topic studied or textbook page numbers for reference.

Counting Credits

There are two ways to count credits. The easiest method is this:

1 credit = 1 semester of study per course. As an example, World History is a two-semester course, so you will give your student two credits for the entire course.

The second method of recording credits is in Carnegie Units which requires record­ing the hours of study. Fifty minutes x 5 days a week x 18 weeks = 1 semester or 1 credit. Frankly, this is a little laborious and I am thankful that I’ve never been required to count Carnegie Units. If you know that college your student plans to attend, call them early in the process to learn of their preference for counting credits.

In Indiana, each class is worth one cred­it per semester except Physical Education which is worth only one credit per year.

How do you count credits for creative courses in which you do not have typical textbooks, like Livestock Production? I always leaned toward the conservative side to avoid being challenged by an admissions officer. In other words, don’t be overly generous with these credits. It is better to be too tight than to give more credits than what a college feels are acceptable for the course.

Figuring Grade Point Average

GPA means “grade point average”. It is an overall score given for each year of high school. To calculate GPA:

  1. Find the semester average of your student’s work for each course. Apply a letter grade to the percent­age score such as:
Percentage
Letter Grade
Grade Point Average
100%
A+
4.0
95-99
A
4.0
90-94
A-
3.7
87-89
B+
3.3
84-86
B
3.0
80-83
B-
2.7
77-79
C+
2.3
74-76
C
2.0
70-73
C-
1.7
67-69
D+
1.3
64-66
D
1.0
60-63
D-
0.7
<59
F
0
  1. Add the GPA decimal values of all scores within a given year.
  2. Divide the total by the number of scores added.

The answer will be the GPA for that year.

Compiling the Transcript

You may purchase blank transcript forms and fill in the information or create a form on your own computer. Our school has done the latter and it has always been honored by the admissions office.

On the front of the transcript, make a nice letterhead, using your school name and address. Below that, make a chart entitled STUDENT IDENTIFICATION. This should include: student’s name, birth-date, gender, Social Security number, and parents’ names, address, and telephone number.

Next print: STUDENT’S ACADEMIC HISTORY

One year at a time, list the courses, applying a letter grade to each semester the course was studied. During the senior year, it may be necessary to submit the transcript to a college before graduation. In that case, simply designate the courses being studied during the cur­rent semester.

The STUDENT’S ACADEMIC SUMMARY is another way to present the above with less detail. By school year, list the number of credits received in Language Arts, Math, Social Sciences, Natural Science, Practical Arts, Business, Physical Education, and Other, which is anything that doesn’t fit into one of the other categories. “Other” would include Livestock Production and Child Care. Provide the Grade Point Average for the year, and the total number of days of study in that particular school year. (Indiana law requires a minimum of 180 days.) In this section, also provide a total of credits earned, or expected to be earned, by the graduation date. This total covers all credits earned during the high school career.

Transcript Extras

Colleges want to enroll self-motivated students who have good social skills. On the back of the transcript, list anything and everything that will get the attention of the admissions officer. Has she gone on mission trips? How about 4-H? List any offices or volunteer positions your student has held in the community and special talents or hobbies. Also, be sure to record jobs your student has worked over the years. This may include relevant activities previous to the high school years too.

Are there any unique features to point out about a particular course? A one-line description is appropriate. Don’t overlook science labs. Our children were required to study Understanding the Times by Summit Ministries during high school. Being atyp­ical, I wrote the following description: “Understanding the Times is a course on worldviews from a Christian perspective.” One college asked for the publishers of each course.

It is wise to provide scores for any achievement or placement tests your stu­dent has taken during his high school career. Examples of these are PSAT, SAT, ACT, and achievement tests — Stanford, Terra Nova, and Iowa Achievement tests. With each, provide the month and year the test was taken.

Make your transcript look official by adding lines for signatures of the head­master or principal, and primary teacher or instructor. If you feel that your transcript is a good representation of your student’s achievements, make the extra effort to get it notarized. When designing your own transcript form, be sure to allow space for the notary’s signature and stamp.

Course Description

When submitting your transcript, include a cover letter and a Course Description sheet. On this sheet, define your school’s requirements for graduation, listing the special features and expecta­tions that each of your children must meet before you present a diploma to them. This page should present a clear description of courses, especially those which are not typical in the public school. Also, describe the method you used in counting credits.

Finally, print your transcript and descrip­tion on attractive paper.

Remember, the admissions officer is wondering, “What is a homeschooler?” or more specifically, “What makes this homeschooler stand out?” Take this oppor­tunity to make your student shine!

Cindy Morris and her husband Steve began homeschool­ing out of conviction from the Lord in 1981. Formerly, Cindy coordinated the annual IAHE Home Educators Convention and was a featured writer for the IAHE Informer. She now enjoys ministering to home educat­ing parents and mentoring young women to become the Proverbs 31 women God wants them to be.


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