In our first of three articles about homeschooling and college admissions, we discussed reporting about your schooling and teachers. This installment covers how to talk about your grades and classes. In the third installment, we’ll discuss essays and standardized testing.
The transcript. I’ve got to be honest, some homeschool transcripts drove me nuts! A memorable one from an “unschooled” student listed no courses or grades, but rather pages and pages about what she learned from her life experiences. I, personally, think this type of education has its merits. But it’s the parents’ responsibility to organize and present it so that the reviewer can verify that this student meets minimum admissions requirements.
Ultimately, every single student admitted to a university has to be able to prove he/she met minimum requirements for admission. College requirements for homeschoolers are the same as college requirements for traditionally schooled students.
For instance, most colleges are going to require that you be able to document that you’ve achieved the equivalent of 4 units of English, 2 units of science, 3 units of math through Algebra II, etc. The number and level of units needed can vary by institution. You can look up these minimum requirements for admission on most college websites. It’s up to you to be sure the transcript you present clearly demonstrates that you’ve met minimum requirements for admission. This doesn’t mean anyone who meets minimum requirements for admission receives an offer, but it does mean that anyone who doesn’t meet minimum requirements for admission will not.
The second big part of a transcript is some demonstration of your performance in each course. Your transcript must include some type of evaluative marks for each course: numbers, letters, prose descriptions of performance, etc. The method of evaluation should have been chosen before homeschooling began and it should remain consistent throughout. (More on how to prepare transcript for a homeschool student in a future article!)
‘Calculating’ A GPA
Most colleges are going to ask you for a GPA. Don’t re-invent the wheel here. Typically an A gets 4-points, a B 3-points, and so on. If it was a college level course (meaning actually from a community college or using a college level textbook) then it likely gets a 1-point weight added. So the A would get 5-points in the GPA calculation.
Don’t, and I repeat 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 worth 4-points in the GPA calculation instead of 3-points. Just be sure to notate somehow that the course was a weighted course (boldface weighted courses, etc.).
Then once all the grades/marks are awarded you tally up the points and divide by the number of courses completed. This is your GPA. If you used narrative evaluations instead of letters or numbers, you really can’t calculate a GPA. So, please, don’t try to be creative. It does buck the system when you can’t calculate a GPA so you’re a bit of a headache for the committee without one, but it’s OK.
If your homeschool educational philosophy didn’t include letter or number grades, the committee will respect your system and they will still evaluate your application — just using a different method. Realize, though, that without a GPA there are some programs from which you may be excluded. Sometimes scholarships or invitations to special programs/events are awarded simply by running a list of applicants with a certain GPA in the system. If you don’t have a GPA to report, you might not be included.
In the last part of our three part series on homeschooling and college admissions, we’ll talk about standardized testing and required essays and letters of recommendation.