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 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. 

College Admissions for Homeschoolers- Part I: Preparation

High school is an exciting life season. With life after high school on the horizon, students apply for jobs, serve volunteer hours, and practice essay writing, hoping to land their dream job or attend a first choice university.

Parents worry if they have done enough, kept the right paperwork, and poured everything they possibly could into their young adult's minds and hearts.

I have been there. Still am.

Truth be told, even with the experience of four high schoolers (two, soon-to-be three grads), I still have doubts.

For me, one of the best means of alleviating concern as been to  gather knowledge--to be prepared!

This blog series is meant to help you glean answers to common questions you are likely asking.

Will my homeschool grad be able to apply for admission at his or her schools of choice?

Over the past thirty years, homeschooling has grown from a pioneering movement to a popular, viable educational option. It's been proven that homeschooling through high school graduation often provides graduates with essential soft skills colleges and employers seek--problem solving, initiative, self-discipline, work ethic, and time management. Colleges, universities, and employers often find these qualities in homeschool graduates. 

Some colleges pursue home grads. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) offers an admissions page specifically for homeschoolers. This quote from that page is especially reassuring.


One quality that we look for in all of our applicants is evidence of having taken initiative, showing an entrepreneurial spirit, taking full advantage of opportunities. Many of our admitted homeschooled applicants really shine in this area. These students truly take advantage of their less constrained educational environment to take on exciting projects, go in depth in topics that excite them, create new opportunities for themselves and others, and more.
— MIT website

MIT is not the only university seeking the accomplishments of home-educated young adults.

Bellhaven University in Jackson, MS states on their website


Belhaven welcomes home educated students! Approximately 22% of our current freshmen class was home educated. We encourage home schooled students to consider Belhaven if they are looking for a Christian college that is committed to preparing them academically and spiritually.
— Bellhaven website

Covenant College also admits a significant number of homeschooled grads. In fact, Mike and I personally consulted and evaluated two students who have recently completed their first year at Covenant. 


Covenant College enjoys a large number of home-schooled students in our student body. In fact, our population of students who come to Covenant from a home-school background has risen from 4% in 1995 to 23% today!
— Covenant College website

Colleges are making efforts to become well-versed at evaluating the extraordinary achievements of home educated students working to understand and accommodate the methods home educators use. To that end, universities have begun to hire home education specialists in their admissions departments. Bryan College is one of those colleges

In addition, more and more universities are leveling the field, asking for the same admission and testing requirements from all applicants, public, private, and home graduates. University of South Florida is one of those schools. 


Many of USF’s best students have completed home education programs. As a home schooled student, you must meet the same admission criteria as your peers graduating from traditional high schools, including:
—A comprehensive transcript for the equivalent of grades 9 through 12, including work completed through home school, Florida Virtual School or dual enrollment. You may use our Home School Transcript template to generate an acceptable transcript.
—An official SAT or ACT score with the writing component included
—A portfolio or additional documentation may be requested if deemed necessary to complete an appropriate evaluation for admission
—Additional factors are also considered for home schooled students.
— University of South Florida website

Colleges are also offering practical helps and tips for homeschool graduates on their websites, all in an effort to insure homeschooled applicants indeed feel welcomed. Parents are encouraged to do their research, communicate with admissions departments, and become familiar with requirements. 

College admissions for homeschoolers doesn't have to be scary!

Be Prepared

Many years ago when my first learner was mid-middle school, I began to realize I was--in the not so distance future--going to be wearing another hat--guidance counselor. YIKES! Knowing I wasn't alone on my journey was refreshing, helpful, encouraging. Like many homeschooling parents who had become their high schooler's guidance counselor, I was stepping into the ranks, into good company. 

I was relieved to know what I was embarking on was possible. 

In between diaper changes (I still had littles!) and essay edits, I attended workshops and seminars, talked with admissions counselors and advisers. And, I took time to breathe! Eventually, the high school lingo--credits, transcripts, academic electives, and GPA--became familiar, and I began to feel more comfortable in my budding new role as admission's advocate for my son. That was fifteen years ago! 

I must admit, I felt overwhelmed at times. Being a guidance counselor was a lot of work! And, somehow, like many other moms, I carried the weight of admissions on my shoulders, even when I tried not to and in spite of the moms who told me it wasn't my job to do so.

Toward the later years of his high school journey, I realized being familiar with admission requirements and deadlines for his top five or ten colleges would be just as important as preparing him for standardized tests, accumulating community service hours, and practicing essay writing. Doing a little bit each day, eventually, preparation in these areas--admissions included--helped us create a strong student profile. He applied to five or six universities, several highly selective, and was accepted to all.  

It was all coming together. Good thing! I had another high schooler right one behind.

As I mentioned, one of the most helpful things for us (he and I) to do was to find out what the admissions requirements were for his top college choices. In those days--before bookmarks and Pinterest--we wrote notes and printed pages. Today, I keep a running log of college and university homeschool admission requirements on my blog. It has been a huge help to me and to others Mike and I work with. In fact, it is one of my most popular blog posts--College Admission Requirements for Home-Educated Students. This post may be one of your first stops on the research journey. I hope you find it helpful! 

As read through the webpages, you will begin to find commonalities in admission requirements. I will discuss some of those requirements in my next post, College Admissions for Homeschoolers- Part II: Admission Must Haves.

 

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. 

 

 

Using 4-H for High School Course Content

"Our high school learner is very active in 4-H. Can we use any of what the student is doing toward high school credit?" 

I love out-of-the-box thinkers! 

When I started homeschooling twenty-three years ago, 4-H was a well-known, popular option for home educators. Homeschooling families gathered at the extension office to glean curriculum for nutrition, citizenship, animal sciences, aviation, and more. Families loved the 4-H intentionality toward hands-on, experiential learning. 

Today, Mike and I walk with families--Kindergarten through high school--on the home education journey. Several use 4-H materials. 

This question was very appropriate as this particular family purposed to work with the interest of the learner. 

How does this family consider awarding credit?

  • Consider state statutes in regards to high school. States vary in regards to graduation and credit hour requirements for home educated students. Parents are responsible to determine what is required per their state statute.
  • Consider activities. Some families prefer to keep digital documentation, perhaps a bullet point list of experiences, projects, presentations, awards and the like or a spreadsheet log. Alongside each experience, the parent (or student) can record study, learning, or preparation hours for that activity. See the sample spreadsheet below for a student's work toward Filmmaking.
  • Consider documentation. One of the advantages of completing 4-H work is the paperwork and documentation required. This paper trail can be saved right along with the work samples in the student's portfolio, should this be required by state statute. If the young adult chooses to apply to a university which requires course descriptions, the completed work samples will be extremely valuable. 
  • Consider credit. Each family determines how many hours will constitute a credit hour of work (unless otherwise determined by the home education statute in your state).  There really isn't an established right answer for this determination. We know families where 120 hours is required for one credit, others where as many as 200 hours are required per credit. Generally, each half credit would require half the number of hours. Once the hour requirement has been determined, parents and students can tally up total hours spent on the each discipline or course. If the student is short on learning hours, other activities or assignments can be added.
SAMPLE LOG with hours. NOT required, but helpful for some families. 

SAMPLE LOG with hours. NOT required, but helpful for some families. 

  • Consider intern or volunteer hours.  A great way to add learning hours is to gain personal experience through internship, apprenticeship, or volunteer hours. These hours can be logged on the spreadsheet of activities. For example, in the case of filmmaking, perhaps the young adult might spend a weekend filming content for a church video presentation. These hours could be added to the spreadsheet log. Universities and potential employers appreciate practical, hands-on learning in a field of interest. These hours are valuable.

Let's assume the learner has achieved the determined hours to earn credit, either a full one credit or a half credit. 

What's the next step?

Course titling. 

Titling a course is very important, essential, in fact. It is, in many cases, the first impression of content as well as student.

The title should be an accurate, concise representation of what was covered in the course. For example, Film Production is assumed to be different than Television Broadcasting or Film Techniques. Each will encompass different processes, media, and likely marketing and audience considerations.

Often parents ask, "Do I have to use the title given by the company or curriculum?"

The answer to that question depends on a variety of factors. 

In light of this post's focus, 4-H is not a credit conferring entity. As such, a parent could use the title of the curriculum or the parent could--especially if significant content is added to the 4-H curriculum--choose a title which would more accurately define the course. For example, if 4-H  Filmmaking is used but the young adult also studies the history of filmmaking and changes in production technology, perhaps a better title would be History of Filmmaking or Historical Survey of Filmmaking. If the student completes Filmmaking and then completes an internship with the video production team at his or her church, perhaps Video and Film Production would be a better title. 

Need help with titling?

I have researched course titles online as well as read through local high school curriculum guides. Doing so has helped me understand the importance of accurate titling and has offered me guidelines. You could do the same by searching for course titles in an area of interest. In this case searching "high school film courses" or "high school film production courses" may render some title options. 

Back to the original question, 

"Can we use what a student is doing in 4-H toward high school credit?" 

YES! Indeed, 4-H can be a very beneficial learning tool and a young adult could potentially use completed content toward high school credit. 

Have you conferred high school credit to a learner using 4-H? Tell us what you did in the comments. 

If you need more detailed information about any of the topics--credit, course content, and titling--my book Celebrate High School has full sections dedicated to each. 

 

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.