“But what do I put on the high school transcript?!”
What is it that colleges want to see? How can you help your student stand out? Here are some tips which we hope might be helpful to you, in regards to college preparation.
IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE BEFORE WE JUMP IN: Some students are not headed toward a post-secondary education, and that’s okay! Other students desire career fields which may require a degree, and we understand that, as well! There is not a “better” or “worse,” “more intelligent” or “less intelligent” approach. My husband and I both come from intense backgrounds which emphasized concepts such as the importance of multiple degrees, attending only the top universities, and being massive over-achievers. We lived that life and embraced it ourselves for years, so we understand it, well! We are also very grateful for the positives that came from such a background.
HOWEVER… we are also of the personal mindset that colleges and universities are filled with sinful influence, are often ungodly, and don’t always prepare students for the real world. For this reason, we sit in a position of seeing the pros AND cons of EACH setup. We also know, obviously, that there are many career fields one cannot excel in (or obtain at all) without a proper degree. We know, also, that a degree or career is never more important than spiritual, emotional, and mental health. We agree that it can be possible to navigate all realms, with wisdom.
We understand this topic is a heated one in the homeschool community, so we wanted to start by letting everyone know where we stood, and that this is a safe place. We understand and support BOTH sides of the argument. We encourage families to do what is best for THEM (hopefully after prayer). After that, no one has a right to tell you or you student whether they should or should not obtain a college degree. For those who are desiring a post-secondary education, keep reading!
HIGH SCHOOL TRANSCRIPTS
First, consider the question: “What do I put on the transcript?” The answer to this question will vary, based on two things [listed below]. It is NOT the same for every homeschool student or state.
- State requirements for high school
- College or university requirements and desires
On the state end, that’s easy. You merely look up your state’s requirements and follow it. For example, some states require that you have “four credits of science” by the time you graduate, where others require, “one credit of biology, one of chemistry, and one of health…” so on and so forth. Even in public school, students have to deal with this when choosing their courses each year. They may have to opt toward a health class instead of another they initially wanted, in order to meet the “state requirements.” So, check with your state requirements, then list the unit’s science accordingly, that matches.
- For example, if you need more time in one particular area like biology, choose a unit that is more appropriate, and use it toward that credit. You can see our UNIT OVERVIEW for help. You can even complete multiple units and split the credit between two different sciences (etc). When wording it on the transcript, we can always help if you email in and have used one or more of our units.
- You can also see what your state is looking for by referencing your local public school course titles for reference (just for a general awareness/idea).
COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY REQUIREMENTS
On the college or university end, you will often hear people say, “Colleges care what they see on your transcript,” and “They have specific requirements!”
This is both true and also slightly misunderstood in some instances. Colleges, in general, look for a well-rounded education (as in: four years of English, four years of math, science, history, etc). They look to see if the basics were accomplished. And (crazy fact) almost every single student who ever applies to college will pass this step (homeschooled or not). This is due to the fact that most everyone covers all subjects in high school (because their state requires them to). Whether they use unit studies, text books, public school, homeschool, etc… it doesn’t matter. Everyone is going to end up with many years of science, history, language arts, and so on. It’s going to be very easy to get that “check” if you are following your state requirements.
As for how to word it… again, you can email in or check on local homeschool groups, and they will help you. Ultimately, though, you need to be asking yourself a different question when it comes to making their transcript shine. That leads us to our next point:
Quite honestly, there is not often a massive way to stand out to a college via your high school transcripts, alone. Certainly, there are advanced courses you can take in public school with more elaborate names, but not as many ways to do that in homeschool (more on this in a bit). Many students kind of fall into a generalized pot at that point. Sometimes parents get focused so much on this, not realizing there are also bigger issues at play.
PS: This isn’t to say you shouldn’t word your transcript creatively and carefully, but just a reminder that there are equally important things that are often overlooked.
Grades and GPA are very helpful. In fact, some colleges won’t even let you apply if your GPA falls under a certain number. BUT since parents are the ones giving the grades in homeschool, that becomes a slightly moot point in a college’s eyes (most parents don’t realize this). You could enter “4.0” all day long, but they’ll want to understand how that number was gauged. The parent can detail how grades were calculated, but even so it doesn’t carry quite as much weight as you might think due to the homeschool difference. We encourage you to keep record of HOW you grade, and we can help with that, as well, since it CAN make a big difference. So then, colleges move to step two.
STEP TWO – MOST IMPORTANT!
Reasons why you SHOULD intentionally use some of our units toward extracurricular credit with your high school student
Many colleges often actively seek out homeschooled students (this includes Ivy League universities). What is more important (and often overlooked) is that many hope to see extracurriculars, community service, job or skill shadowing or unique studies listed. This is where utilizing our units as an extracurricular (intentionally) is beneficial. They LOVE to see differences from the norm (differences that make you stand out in that “pot”). This is highly possible in homeschool, so use it to your advantage! Why do they look for this? Because, ultimately, they want their college or university to have a good name. If your child is active in the community, excelling in school, has good rapport, and is interested in unique topics and skills… then he or she is going to excel in said college or university, likely resulting in a successful reputation and career for themselves. This, ultimately, reflects well on the college or university. See how that works? They WANT someone who is involved in the community, takes initiative, and someone who is more likely to be a “cheerleader” for their school. This is just one of many reasons they prefer to see this interaction in the community (or in unique studies, job-shadowing, skill-based studies, etc). So, on that note… don’t get so caught up in the wording for core curriculum on transcripts that you miss out on this vital point. It all comes into play. When you do Campfire Units, use it to your advantage, in every way possible! List it as an extracurricular when you can. Use it as your core the other times. Mix and match to make your child’s transcript as creative as possible! Also, actually GO job shadowing after a unit (using the knowledge gained from our unit to get out into the community). Consider volunteering at a local vet’s office or news station (etc). Our units pave the way for this, and colleges and universities LOVE that!
One other thing: post-secondary schools sometimes like to see samples of your student’s essays. This is not always in the beginning of the application process, but can be after some time. They are looking for a student who is an independent thinker and can express opinion with critical thinking and good writing, especially with a creative voice. Our language arts Core Connections and our Think Tanks in every unit are perfect combination for this, and we HIGHLY suggest challenging your student to do his or her best. Then, save a few pieces of their best work to submit, if or when requested.
Exams! Don’t forget about the importance of exams!
Finally, there are post-secondary entrance exams to consider. Aside from the entrance exams, your standardized test scores also greatly matter. For example, they will look and see if you ever enrolled in or passed AP exams (homeschoolers can do this, optionally, if it is offered in your area). They will check your score on the ACT or SAT, as well. Many homeschoolers are not big on “test taking,” (we aren’t either); however, it is vital to learn HOW to be a good test taker if you are planning on attending good universities or colleges, as this will matter. We have our own children take additional standardized tests for the experience (even though we don’t do “tests” at home in our regular homeschool). One of our sons just recently took his and scored three grades higher than he should have. This is because we have trained him in critical thinking skills and used our units with him, and we have also taught him how standardized testing looks. In order to excel on these kinds of standardized tests, you MUST have a generally well-rounded education but ultimately good critical thinking skills (both of which our units are great for).
Side note: though the SAT does not have a specific “science” section (per se) like the ACT, it does ask science-based questions throughout, so your child will need to be able to logic through these questions like a scientists based on the basic formulas. They will also need to use creative writing skills to convey their thoughts, scientifically. This is great because such a skill is a huge focus of our units and a benefit of homeschooling in general. Still, students need to be prepared for the test-taking environment and typical wording of questions. We have a whole language arts theme devoted to standardized test questions in our Car Maintenance unit, helping the student to understand unusual questioning on tests. We highly encourage you to use it as a launching point.
Finally, colleges look for recommendations from someone aside from the parent. You can include letters of recommendation from local police (after volunteering in some capacity), pastors, coaches, and others. You can also keep and submit sample academic papers or descriptions of science projects with comments.
State or Community Colleges
If your student does not feel prepared for their university of choice (or perhaps they feel it is too late to be accepted), DO NOT STRESS! Many students often choose to go to a state community college. The admission process for these is much easier, and they usually accept most students. This allows the student to get their “basics” covered (bonus: it’s a lot more affordable and not too much different from what the first two years of college look like elsewhere). The student will excel in the community college, and then they can use their earned associate’s degree to transfer to a better college or university. This is often seen as a superior method for many families. This is just one of hundreds of options to show you that there is no need to stress, regardless of your family’s setup!
That’s a general overview, and I hope that helped to kind of answer the question, as well as many others that are out there!
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