Should Course Codes Be Used on Transcripts for Home Educated Graduates?

A year ago I addressed a common question, 

"Should homeschooling parents use course codes on home-generated transcripts for learners who graduate from a home education program?"

In other words, To Code or Not to Code. 

The question continues to be asked. This post offers example of the information previously addressed. 

The first step in answering the question is understanding what course codes are and why they are used. I encourage you to read the post. 

After reading the hows, whys, and what fors about course codes are used, do your own research. Remember, high school is not a one-size-fits-all experience--though we often want it to be. Wouldn't that be so much easier, too? 

Home School Legal Defense offers a fantastic resource--A Guide for Homeschooling through High School--which includes a sample transcript. 

Another step in the process of answering the course code question is to compare sample transcripts provided by colleges and universities for home schooled graduates seeking admission--as opposed to private or public schooled applicants.  Interestingly, in the research I have done I have yet to find a college or university which requires or suggests home graduates include course codes on home-generated transcripts. Again, the reason points back to why and how course codes are used. 

To help you in your search, I am including links to colleges and universities which offer sample transcripts  for home schooled candidates seeking admission. 

Baylor

http://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/69395.pdf

Liberty University

https://www.liberty.edu/media/9930/documents/Homeschool_Transcript.pdf

George Mason University

http://admissions.gmu.edu/freshmen/homeSchoolInfo.asp

Houghton College

http://www.houghton.edu/am-site/media/homeschool-transcript.pdf

Princeton

https://admission.princeton.edu/how-apply/home-schooled-students

Vanderbilt

https://admissions.vanderbilt.edu/assets/pdf/homeschoolcurr.pdf

Covenant College

http://www.covenant.edu/pdf/admissions/trad/homeschool/homeschool_transcript-sample.pdf

Wheaton College

http://www.wheaton.edu/~/media/Files/AdmissionsAid/Undergrad/homeschool-transcript.pdf

University of West Florida

http://uwf.edu/media/university-of-west-florida/admissions/undergraduate/documents/Homeschooler-Transcript-Requirements-&-Examples.pdf

University of Wisconsin

https://www.admissions.wisc.edu/apply/freshman/homeschooled.php

Cedarville College

https://www.cedarville.edu/Admissions/Home-Schooled-Students.aspx

Knowing what colleges and universities are looking for on a transcript is helpful when creating this important document. Do research. If the college has a home education admission specialist, set up a phone or in-person appointment. Building your tool chest and knowledge base will empower you as you walk alongside your high school learner into the next stage of learning. 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

 

 

 

The Possibilities of Elective Credits: Part III

How are elective credits documented?

The answer to this question depends on your state's home education law as well as what college or university choices find their way on your learner's "top ten" list. Your family's record keeping methods will also factor into answering this question. This was definitely the case for our family.

For our family, if a learner has a distinctive interest or an extraordinary gifting--something they naturally spend a good amount of time researching and learning (for us 75 hours for a half credit and 120+ hours for a full credit)--we count if for credit. I personally do not label or flag courses as core or elective on our transcripts (I do however flag dual enrollment, CLEP, or courses taken at other accredited entities). Too many colleges access transcripts differently to flag core and elective courses. What one considers a core course, an academic elective, or an elective another will classify differently. 

As a learner is actively involved in the the learning process, I keep a bullet point list of the concepts learned or experiences completed on a digital document. From that bullet list, I can write an accurate title and course description should we need it for university admission or scholarship applications. Once the course is complete, I add the title, grades, and credit to the transcript--a one-page snapshot of the young adults academic record.

Elective courses often set one young adult learner apart from another, especially if potential applicants have similar, cookie-cutter type elective credits. 

What strengths, interests, or giftings do your learners have which might equate to credit. Some of the courses our learners have completed include Care and Concerns of the Elderly; Drafting and Drawing; Competitive Gaming; Business and Entrepreneurial Principles; Introduction to Early Childhood Education; Nutrition and Health for Disease Prevention; and Interpersonal Relationships. These off-the-beaten-path have proven to give our now adult children life skills they may not have received otherwise. 


Life skills + high school electives = WIN! for preparation beyond the turning of the tassel


 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

Transcript Matters: More than One Transcript?

I field a good number of transcript questions each month. In this post, I will address another question I received several times in the past few weeks. 

"What if my high schooler received some credits at the local public school, some through an online venue, and still others through dual enrollment? Do I need to create more than one transcript?" 

Great question. Home educated students have a variety of different environments from which they could possibly learn. Some of these entities are transcript-producing entities, meaning the entity is accredited and provides educational oversight and responsibility for students who take classes through their venue. Others do not produce transcripts (some co-ops and support group opportunities, private instruction and tutoring, church courses and seminars). 

First, it may be helpful to understand what a transcript is. 

A transcript is a permanent academic record which includes all grades conferred to the named student. It represents the student's academic record; a visual summary of the student's high school years. 

As the homeschooling parent overseeing your young adult's learning, you know your learner's academic record in its entirety, both in the home and away from the home. You know when courses were taken as well as which entity provided oversight for each class, whether it was an accredited transcript producing entity or not. You know whether some credits were earned at the local public school, and whether the course included CLEP or AP content, if the corresponding tests were taken, as well as what scores the student achieved. 

Yes, other entities may have conferred grades and credits, but you alone know where and when those grades and credits were earned. The parent-generated transcript you provide not only validates the courses, grades, and credits received directly under your supervision, but also offers employers and universities an overview of course variety and environments from which the student benefited, in and out of the home. Therefore, every course, grade, and credit is documented in one place--on the parent-generated transcript. It will be the parent-generated transcript which alerts any employer or university that they will receive transcripts from other entities.


With four high schoolers, two grads who entered colleges and universities by differing methods and means, we have experienced this first hand. And, we have helped others walk through answering this question as well. In every case, having all courses--no matter where they were taken--documented on the parent-generated transcript was helpful in the admission process. 


How did we denote courses taken outside the home?

First, there must be distinction made. We asked ourselves,

"Was this course taken under the oversight of a legally recognized transcript-producing entity?" 

If the course was taken at such an entity, we flagged the course on the transcript, meaning we added some type of notation super-scripted above the grade. Then we added an explanations of the flags under the grading scale of our transcript. 

Notation explanation as well as grading scale used for courses taken at home

Notation explanation as well as grading scale used for courses taken at home

For example, all of our high school learners completed foreign language online through an accredited source.  I didn't create the course, its content, or grade the work. This was all provided by the online instructor. As the parent overseeing the education of my student (outlined in our state statute), I knew the course was taken and that the source was accredited by the state, and is a transcript-producing entity. I added the course to my parent-generated transcript to provide colleges with the information that the foreign language requirement was met. However, my superscript alerted the colleges that they would be receiving an additional transcript for admission purposes. 

Courses taken in the home as well as outside entities.

Courses taken in the home as well as outside entities.

For some students, there may be several superscripts. I worked on a transcript recently for a student who had taken courses at the local public high school, a private school, an online public school, and a state college. The superscript above the corresponding grades provided admission personnel with a quick, concise picture of where this student had received her high school requirements. 


The parent-generated transcript not only validates the courses, grades, and credits received directly under the parent's supervision, but also offers employers and universities an overview of course variety and environments from which the student benefited, in and out of the home.


If you have questions like the one presented in this post, connect with us. Mike and I would love to help you on your journey. We publish Celebrate High School newsletter for families considering or currently walking the high school journey. You can subscribe to that newsletter below. 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

 

 

Transcript Matters: Courses Taken in Eighth Grade

 

Time to answer another commonly asked question. 

"Can we count courses completed in 8th grade for high school credit? And, how do I document them on the transcript?"

If you are asking these questions, you are not alone! 

First, to answer the first question. 

Yes, by all means you can count eighth grade classes for high school credit as long as doing so remains in the bounds of your state's homeschooling statutes. On this homeschooling journey, parents are able to make these decisions (again, based on their state statutes). However, you should know the hows and whys of the decisions you are making. You may be asked to substantiate your rationale as I did for one of the colleges to which one of our graduates applied. 

As with many things, be ready with an answer. 

When we make the decision as to whether to count an eighth grade class for high school credit, I always ask myself, 

"Is the content of the class considered high school level or above?"

If so, I count the credit. 

Now, for the second question,

"How do we include eighth grade courses on the transcript?"

I include eighth grade, high school level courses, on our young adult's transcript. I note the academic year, course title, grade, and credit received. The format I use is highlighted in the box below. 

I include the specifics on a course description document. Click here if you need more information on course descriptions. 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

College Admission Requirements for Homeschoolers- Part III: Application Paperwork

Great to have you back for post #3 in this four-part series on college admissions.

In part one I talked about preparation. Part two offered insight on admission must haves. In this post, the third in the series, I will look at the details of some of the paperwork colleges may require.  

Admissions paperwork for homeschoolers may differ from public or private schooled applicants. It will definitely vary from university to university. Therefore, being knowledgeable about the potential paperwork which may be needed is helpful as the high school years approach and move forward.

I remember when--eight years ago--my first high schooler was in the midst of applying to his top colleges of choice.

It was August of his senior year. I had researched, been to workshops, talked with moms. Not all I had learned and heard was needed. Yet, as we sat at the computer working on forms and paperwork, I was thankful for pockets full of potential. I remember joking with my son about how I had no way of knowing what cards we would have to play but I was grateful we had a deck from which to choose!

Transcripts. A transcript is a summary--a visual representation--of a young adult's high school academic record. This paper will represent your student, the student's educational experience, and your homeschool. Universities appreciate transcripts which are concise, presented in a clear, easy-to-read format. A professional looking transcript allows universities to take your homeschool seriously, like, "This family knows what they are doing."  

Like mama used to say, "The first impressions matter."

Accurate record keeping provided the information I needed for the transcript, mainly grades, credits, course titles, and test scores. Having all this information in one place helped me pull this document together quickly when a new baby delayed my record keeping and I needed a transcript for a good student driver discount. 

What about format? This question is asked often. After researching (can you tell I like this stuff?) formats, I created a document I knew would meet our applicant's needs and look professional. I've used the same transcript format for all my young adults as well as the young adults for whom I have created transcripts via consultations and evaluations. The format works. "This is the best homeschool transcript we've seen," says one highly-selective university. 

With our transcript template finalized, I simply edit the pertinent biographical information, courses, credits, and grades. This is much easier than starting from scratch every time we add another high school student. Be aware, some universities don't care how the transcript is formatted, others do. Some offer transcript formats on their sites. Flagler College reminds home educated applicants to make sure the person who prepares the transcript to remember to sign the document. Though this sounds silly, I know parents who forgot to sign their transcripts. The document is considered invalid without a signature. 


Finally, the transcript must include the signature of the individual who prepared it.
— Flagler College website

Parents often ask me if I include course codes on my transcripts. I don't.

I offer a detailed reason why I don't on this blog post. 

Course Descriptions. States have standards. High schools offer courses based on those standards. A description of these courses is published on the high school's website. If the college personnel had questions, they could access course content and standards (at least in theory).

Courses taken at home vary from home to home in methodology, structure, and content giving college administrators no standard for evaluation or comparison. This is a good thing, say homeschoolers. I would agree. However, this is the reason college admission officers considering home educated applicants sometimes require course descriptions to accompany transcripts. These short, concise paragraphs allow college personnel to become familiar with the student as well as his or her academic achievements and interests. 

Course descriptions serve two purposes.

First, course descriptions clarify and validate course content. This is especially true when applying to universities which refuse to accept parent-generated honors courses (which happened to us). Once the admission personnel read a course description, determination may be made as to whether the content is equivalent to a traditional honors level course--in their eyes.

Course descriptions also validate a student's academic abilities and achievements. And in some cases (ours included) universities use these course descriptions to determine invitation to honors college or offering of potential scholarship. 

This blog post about course descriptions may be helpful as you research and discover the requirements of your student's top college choices. And, it will help you learn how to put in words the unique and extraordinary learning which is happening in your home.

Reading Lists.This is definitely one of those documents which is not widely requested yet good to be knowledgeable about in case it is needed. 

 Reading lists are not required by all colleges. 

Fifteen years ago a homeschooling mom, who had graduated two students, told me to keep a cumulative reading list for my then middle schooler. Actually, by our state statute, we are required to keep a resources list, so it really wasn't a stretch to continue in high school. However, I didn't really understand why she was so insistent and I questioned her. She told me a story of how one of her graduates was asked to submit a reading list. Not knowing which universities my son would apply to, I decided I would consider her experience and wisdom and keep the list.

Indeed, I needed the reading list. One of the universities to which my son applied required a reading list. WHEW! I was grateful for the wisdom that mom so bravely shared. Only one college required the list. However, I had the list compiled and decided to submit it with every application we sent (those were the "old" days when applications went by mail) because most of the schools he applied to were highly competitive. 

Do we keep reading lists, even though few colleges require them? Yes. Our students keep a cumulative reading list, recording title and author of every high school level (or higher) book read. Why? First, it is required by our state statute, and I don't want to scramble to reproduce what we can fairly painlessly record as my students finish their reading. In our family when our learners begin to read high school level or higher materials, the mantra is

"read the book, record the book, get the credit." 

This simple statement extends freedom for our students to select independent reading and earn credit. Keeping the list not only allows a cumulative reading list to be compiled--by academic year--but gives me a tool from which to cut and paste (integrate) student-selected reads into high school courses. 

Letters of Recommendation. Letters of recommendation are written and submitted by a third party who can attest to the academic accomplishments, work ethic, and personal character of a student. The majority of colleges will ask for letters of recommendation for admission. Each university is likely to request letter from different sources. Be prepared to ask instructors, teachers, band directors, employers, supervisors, pastors, or coaches if needed. Remember, I talked a bit about these letters in post #2 of this series. 

Essays or writing samples. Universities may require applicants to submit essays, writing samples, or personal statements with the admission packet. Essay topics can often be found on the college website or on the college application. Researching and practicing essay writing before actually submitting an application is helpful and recommended. This blog post offers some of the most common essay questions colleges ask. 

Bucknell University requires extra writing samples for home educated applicants. 


Home-schooled applicants submit the same application and testing as other students, but we require additional writing samples.
— Bucknell University website

Some colleges have a word count requirement for their essays. Therefore, high schoolers may benefit from practicing writing within a specific word count. For example, I asked one of our seniors to write a 500 word essay one afternoon during the first weeks of school. He wrote a first draft in the time and word count limit. A day later, we sat and worked through grammar and mechanics, organization and word choice. We followed up with a final draft. The student was motivated because the content mattered. He wanted to attend the college requiring the essay. Win for the application. Win for composition. We made a copy for his English work samples which were shown to our evaluator at the end of the year.

Some colleges ask writing samples from applicants. Amherst College suggests a short writing piece and a research paper. 

Additional paperwork may be needed. For example, Emory-Riddle Aeronautical Univeristy suggests a student resume, though it is not required. University of Pennsylvania requires additional information to be present in the paperwork provided. Their homeschool applicant page states


More information is better… In the Secondary School Report and elsewhere in your Penn application, please share your motivations for choosing a rigorous home school journey. Why did you or your family seek home schooling as an option for your education? Describe your curriculum in detail and tell us how you, your family or oversight group have organized your pursuit of knowledge across core academic disciplines including humanities, math, social and natural sciences, and foreign languages. How has being home schooled helped you grow intellectually and personally or enhanced your opportunities for learning? The aim is to help the admissions committee understand how you have worked to “demonstrate mastery” and “distinguish excellence” across the curriculum. Anything you or your academic supervisor can do to explain and contextualize your educational circumstances can only be helpful in the Penn admissions process.
— University of Pennsylvania website

Each piece of paperwork has its nuances and importance, just as every university has its requirements. This post is simply an introduction to each document a family might be asked to submit with a college application. Families can research their young adults top colleges of choice for specific requirements, especially if those choices include military academies.  I have written extensively about each of these documents--with examples--in my book Celebrate High School which is on sale until October 7.

I hope you will join us for the final post of this series, The Big Picture. 

Celebrate High School: Finish with Excellence
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This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

College Admissions for Homeschoolers Part II: Admission Must Haves

 

"Must haves." 

I know, sounds determinate, like "if you don't do this you won't get in." But stick with me. 

I'm not telling you what to do. That is not the point of this post.  

And, there's no way for me or anyone else to tell you exactly what to do for your high school learner. Only you know your student or his or her unique circumstances.

The purpose of this blog post is to share current information so you can be intentional; equipped to make informed decisions for your high schooler. As a mom who's walked the high school path with four very different young adults and an evaluator/consultant who has worked with many families, I understand what works for one student may not work for another.

However, like it or not

there are definite items colleges will request of all their applicants--public, private, and homeschooled.

Knowing what those items are offers applicants opportunity to prepare and to keep paperwork current as courses are completed, hours are served, and achievements are made. I have learned from experience that although we homeschoolers like to dig our heels in the sand and stand our ground (thinking we should or shouldn't have to deal with certain admission requirements), our dug in heals may leave us stuck with little or no options. 

Test Scores. Like it or not, most universities with a traditional mindset still believe testing helps validate grades on a transcript. Many colleges believe that test scores are especially important for home education graduates because their educational environment is potentially less standardized than traditional public or private schools. On the other hand, some universities are moving toward test optional scenarios (as stated in this Washington Post article)Stetson University is one of those schools.

Stetson University, a test-optional school states


Stetson University values academic achievement, commitment to personal values, leadership, talent, character and initiative above standardized testing. Therefore, submitting standardized test results for admission consideration is optional. Score-optional consideration is an alternative for applicants who feel that their test scores don’t adequately reflect their level of academic achievement and/or accurately predict their potential.
— Stetson University website

Though some schools are now test optional, others are not. Still others offer the applicant to make a choice based on his or her strengths. Homeschooling parents find It best to research and then prepare to meet the testing requirements for colleges of choice, if test scores are an admission must.

Knowing test score expectations allows a young adult to be prepared, to choose a specific test from the options, one which will best complement his or her strengths, and then to study for the special characteristics of that test. Some colleges have the same test score requirements for public, private, and homeschooled graduates. Other universities have stricter standards for homeschoolers and even require additional SAT Subject Test scores. 

Emory University has specific test score requirements for homeschoolers. According to their website


The Admission Committee is happy to receive applications from home-schooled students. In addition to meeting all admission requirements and submitting the required results from the SAT or ACT, we ask that a student who has been schooled at home submit results from three SAT II subject exams—one in mathematics and two of the student’s choosing. Additionally, we require at least one letter of recommendation from someone other than a family member. We also encourage home-schooled students to submit a comprehensive explanation of their curriculum.
— Emory University website

Grades. Universities like grades. Again, this is a traditional educational evaluation method used to place (at least in theory) public, private, and homeschooled graduates on the same plain (whether you agree or not). Knowing whether a college prefers unweighted or weighted GPAs is another aspect of grading with which parents should become familiar. 

Grading in high school doesn't have to be scary. Check out my detailed blog post Grades...in High School. I highlight how we graded some of the most traditional and the most unique courses of our high school journey.

Transcripts. This is another traditional requirement for the applicants and perhaps the most stressful for homeschooling parents. Hence, why some homeschoolers will argue this document is not necessary. However, a large percentage of colleges and universities will have this requirement. Some colleges including Wheaton College, are offering a transcript template on their homeschool admission page. Again, preparation can combat fear. As you build your understanding of transcripts, consider:

  • Most universities want this document on one page; neat, concise and eye-appealing, easy-to-read.
  • The majority of colleges are looking for variety--in content and format. In regards to content, many universities are eager to see depth and individual interests. An unique interest for a student applying as a veterinary medicine major might be Introduction to Veterinary Medicine. Schools will also be looking for the specific courses they require for admission, for example Biology. Class format is important, too. Universities want to know your student can learn and interact in traditional, online, seminar, and hybrid courses. This is why lab sciences and foreign languages are often required for applicants. Overall, they are looking for well-rounded students who will impact their campuses. 
  • Some universities require 16-20 core courses for admission and will offer suggestions on their homeschool admission pages as to what courses they are looking for. Wheaton College is one of those universities. 
  • Be sure the transcript you create contains the information requested by the colleges to which the student is applying. 

University of North Florida requests a transcript containing the standard information required of all applicants, including home educated graduates. 


Home school students must submit transcripts indicating course title, semester, grade, and awarded credit for all academic courses. Official SAT/ACT scores and official transcripts from accelerated mechanisms are also required.
— University of North Florida website

Letters of Recommendation. These documents are required of all applicants, public, private, and homeschooled. And, for some universities, this is the second most important documentation on behalf of the applicant. Letters of recommendation are especially important for the home educated applicant as they offer an unbiased perspective of the student. In other words, though the parent may act as the guidance counselor and write a letter from this position, the university will want a glimpse of the student from a source outside of family. Often a youth pastor or instructor from a traditional setting--online, co-op classroom--a coach, or an employer can offer the information a college is needing. In addition, some colleges will have specific guidelines about who they want to write a letter (clergy, employer, coach) as well as when the letter must be written (an instructor from the student's senior year). Not all colleges require specifics letters to be written, but when they do, be sure to follow their guidelines. 

For example, when our first son applied to highly-selective universities, one of the schools required a letter of recommendation from an instructor during the senior year. Though my son had had teachers in previous years through local co-op classes and individual instruction, his senior year courses were taken mostly through home study. However, he was finishing up a second year of Spanish online. I called the university and asked if a recommendation from his online teacher would be acceptable. They agreed, though I wondered how she could even write a recommendation having never met our son. Her letter focused mostly on his work ethic, academic ability and integrity, and timely assignment submission. All good points none of his other letters addressed. 

Princeton University explains what is important for applicants to consider when submitting recommendations. 


It’s most helpful if your teacher and counselor references come from three different adults who can comment on your intellectual curiosity, academic preparation and promise, and extracurricular involvement. Some home schooled applicants ask a parent to complete the School Report, and they ask others who have known them in an academic context to complete the teacher references. If you have taken any high school or college courses, or had a teacher other than a parent in a particular subject, we encourage you to ask those professors or teachers to write your teacher references.
— Princeton University website

When our high school students ask mentors, supervisors, or instructors for letters of recommendation we encourage them to follow up with a note of thanks and gratitude. I outlined that process in a blog post, The Thank You After the Letter. 

Interviews. Nine years ago when our son began to receive offers for admission and scholarship, interviews were essential if the student intended to accept a Presidential scholarship. Today however, interviews are becoming more popular for admission. Interviews provide a chance for the student to talk about his or her achievements and aspirations as well as offer an opportunity to exhibit proficient communication and interpersonal skills. College personnel want to know what value the student will bring to the campus.  Rice University is one university which recommends a personal interview.

Additional paperwork may be required. Research each college. Determine what types of documentation each university is requiring. For example, St. John's College asks applicants to write an essay for admission. And, Vanderbilt University suggests student submit an optional curriculum chart. Arizona State asks home educated students to submit a lab sciences evaluation. Though a first reaction may be frustration--as it was for me when I had to write essays about our educational methods and grading system--it is wise to step back, breathe, and take a few minutes to ponder the request. After a thirty second pause, the request may not be as bad as first perceived. 

In our situation, though I was initially discouraged that our son's top school required me to write essays, once I started the process, the pondering of our home education methods was beneficial and indeed helpful for us as a family. I was reaffirmed that indeed we had worked hard together and our son was extraordinarily prepared for his next steps. In the end, that school offered our son a Presidential scholarship, four full years paid tuition. 

Once we know what will be required for admission, we can get down to the business of creating the documents and records we need. We'll take a closer look at specific admissions paperwork in the next post. 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children.