Creating a transcript for a homeschooled student is perhaps one of the hardest tasks for homeschooling families. After reviewing thousands of homeschool transcripts, here are a few tips that will be much-appreciated by the person reviewing your college application.
Start ASAP and Keep It Updated
First and foremost, start early. You should make decisions about grading systems, grading scales, and weighting systems early. Please do so before the student begins the equivalent of high school or before the student begins any “graduation” requirement coursework. Don’t wait until senior year to try to recreate on paper what occurred in each of the three prior years. Keep a running record each year of courses and grades.
Next, be sure to include the student’s full name (as it will be listed on the college application) and date of birth. You’d be shocked at the number of transcripts I would receive that didn’t include the student’s name. However, DO NOT include the student’s social security number on the transcript. Don’t include the social security number on anything other than where the college asks for financial aid purposes. You don’t want that number in any more documents necessary. For privacy, colleges must go through a whole process of document management to try to clear it from their records. Simply, it’s a ginormous pain in the rear and waste of time for colleges and universities!
Group classes by year, not subject. There should be headers that include something such as “9th Grade: 2014-2015” for each year. Under each header should be a list of the courses completed that year, unit equivalents (usually 1 for each year of study), and some type of evaluative marks. This can be number grades, letter grades, prose descriptions of performance included on a separate sheet, etc. It’s up to your family what to use, but those are decisions that should be made before homeschooling begins. It should be kept consistent throughout the four years (or equivalent) of high school. The senior year should be listed and should include the list of courses planned for the senior year. It will likely not include senior grades unless you’ve completed at least one marking period before you send the application.
Grading and GPAs
Please include a grading scale key if you’re using letter or number grades, like “A = 90-100, B = 80-90, etc.” Similarly, please include a weighting key if you have any courses that were weighted for the purposes of calculating a GPA. For instance, if you took a college level course and you earned a B in it, a B should show on your transcript but the points used in a GPA calculation should reflect the additional point. A grading scale key might include two columns; One showing that an “A” in a regular course received 4-points for GPA calculation and an “A” in a weighted class received 5-points.
This is a fairly standard weighting scale and, quite honestly, the one I would recommend. Some schools, however, and some entire states have more generous weighting systems. For instance, North Carolina public schools all weight 2-points for AP courses. If you live in North Carolina, you might have an argument that it makes sense to weight your college level or AP courses 2 extra points. So given the variation possible, be sure the reader knows what system you’re using by including a scale. This way if you end up with a 5.2 GPA, the reader won’t be quite so befuddled.
How to Calculate a GPA
Speaking of the GPA: If you used letters or numbers for evaluation then you should be able to calculate a GPA. You should include this on homeschool transcripts and it should be clearly visible (maybe in bold) and note “Cum. GPA = 3.92.” To calculate your GPA, you tally up all the points earned based on the letter grades received and the weighting system in place, then divide this total by the number of units (generally a year long course counts as one unit). This is your GPA.
Remember, DO NOT list a B earned in a weighted course as an A on the transcript. It was a B. But it was a B in a weighted course which means it’s likely worth 4-points in the GPA calculation instead of standard 3-points. Just be sure to notate somehow that the course was a weighted course (boldface weighted courses, etc.).
Two Transcripts Are Needed
Also remember that the GPA you report will likely only include courses completed through the end of your junior year. You haven’t completed your senior year courses at the time you apply to college. So the transcript you send will only include a cumulative GPA through the end of junior year. You can still report grades earned in maybe the first quarter of senior year (depending on the timeline when you apply), but those grades don’t go into the cumulative GPA calculation unless you adjust the units used to reflect the partial influence of those grades.
Footnotes Are Your Friends: Use Legends
Lastly, it’s important that homeschoolers who used a variety of instructional formats use a legend to help decipher the format for completed coursework. For instance, if you took the course through the local community college, you could add an asterisk beside the course name. The legend would say something like “CVCC coursework denoted with (***).”
If it was an online course through an educational institution or company, maybe it gets italicized. The legend would reflect something such as “Keystone coursework denoted in italics.” If it was a course completed through your local homeschool co-op taught by other homeschooling parents, maybe it gets a ($) or (#) or (%) beside it. You get the idea. Just give the reader something in a legend that helps them understand the course format and instruction.
I hope this gives you an idea of what the person reading the application would like to see. I shared a lot of details, but in a nutshell, your homeschool transcripts just need to include:
- Grading Scale
- Legend for Course Format
- Years and Grade Level Courses
Application readers everywhere will thank you!