Overview: You can create an impressive homeschool high school transcript once you know a few pieces of vital information. Here is everything you need in order to wow colleges!
You wake up out of a sound sleep—heart pounding, adrenaline rushing, hot flash, well, flashing.
Your anxiety-laden subconscious has been stewing about that dreaded homeschool transcript again.
Once started, you churn ’til morning: Will the transcript you create wield the same magical power as a public school version to get your teen into college? Will you leave out something important? Or worse, will it take longer to make than it took your teen to slog through Algebra?
You are not alone. When I asked my Facebook group to name their greatest worry about homeschooling high school, transcripts came out near the top.
Enough of this dread and despair—in this post I will tell you EVERYTHING you need to know to make a homeschool high school transcript that will impress colleges. I’ve gotten five kids into college with our homeschool transcripts, so this information is tested, tried, and TRUE. Let’s get right to the nitty gritty!
A homeschool transcript has these main components (and nothing more):
- a list of the high school courses that your child has taken,
- the grade earned for each course,
- the credits given for each course,
- GPA’s for each year and overall,
- a graduation date (or projected graduation date, for students still in high school),
- Student and school information (student name, birthdate and/or social security number; school name & address), and
- a signature (yours).
I know this seems like a long list, but if you’ve been keeping up with your homeschool paperwork (i.e., grading), then the entire thing is merely a matter of inputting data. Easy!
The public high schools don’t make ’em any differently than this, y’all. Doing a Google image search will bring up myriads of high school transcript samples, if you want to see for yourself.
All other information is OPTIONAL.
Which also means unnecessary, hello. This includes listing extra-curricular activities, awards, scores from college entrance exams such as the SAT and ACT, etc. That information will be entered on the application itself, so there is no need to replicate it on the transcript. The transcript is not a resumé of everything your kid is; it represents only their academic work.
This is where many of the “experts” will add extra –and unnecessary! — stress onto your plate, telling you that you “should” add all these things to make the transcript special in order to get scholarships. Or they may not be certain one way or the other — in fact I just read an article that in one place said you may want to add these things and in another place said not to do so! Confusing much?
The plain TRUTH from someone who has actually been there done that is this: these extra items do NOT go on the transcript. Over all five of my children, NONE of their transcripts had any of this stuff — and they ALL earned scholarships.
Here’s the thing: admissions people are looking for something easy to follow. Think “uncluttered” and “white space.” So do NOT muddle the transcript with any information other than what I’ve listed above, if you want colleges to give your transcript the attention your kid deserves.
Social security number is also optional, as long as you have a birthdate as identifying information on there, so colleges can easily compile their paperwork and keep your “John Smith” separate from every other samey-namey who has applied.
Should transcripts for homeschoolers have a grading scale on them?
That is up to you. I didn’t include one on my kids’ transcripts, and there was no issue with any of them. This is a DON’T NEED item.
However, if you are using an atypical scale (other than 90-100 for an A, 80-89 for a B, etc.), then you might want to include the grading scale on your transcript. I personally don’t see an advantage to using a scale other than the traditional one—remember, I’m all about making it EASY—but you do YOU. :-)
What about course descriptions?
NOPE. These are NOT part of a homeschool transcript. Course descriptions are a completely separate document, and often they are not required AT ALL.
Note: If you’re still unclear about that, you can read everything you need to know about course descriptions here: The Complete Guide to Homeschool High School Course Descriptions: with downloadable swipe file!
What’s the difference between a homeschool transcript and a homeschool diploma?
I’m glad you asked that. Or that I asked it for you, LOL. Many people get the transcript and diploma confused with one another, but they are two very different documents.
A diploma is a certificate of completion. It does not have coursework or grades or credits. It does not get sent to colleges. It is great as a symbol of the journey that has been successfully travelled, showing that your kid fulfilled your graduation requirements—but in reality it may get hung on the wall or stuck on a shelf and never needed again.
More information about diplomas here: How to Get a High School Diploma — for homeschoolers.
What about accreditation?
Nopety nope nope nope. You do NOT need your transcript to be accredited by anyone. You do NOT need to pay a BUNCH of money to have someone validate the high school education you have given your child. You also do NOT need to pay a BUNCH of money to have your teen take accredited courses or belong to an accredited program.
If it makes you feel better and you have the budget for it, then go ahead. But realize you are then submitting yourself to someone else’s idea of what is good for your kid as far as coursework and curriculum goes. Just sayin’.
You REALLY can do this homeschool high school transcript thing all by yourself, and it REALLY will be accepted by colleges all over the country. REALLY!
Related Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Preparing for College for Homeschoolers
How do we determine high school credits?
In general, a full-year high school course is worth one credit, and a semester course is worth .5 credit. But there is a bit more to it than that, so to be fully confident that you are representing them accurately on the transcript, I suggest one of these three resources:
1) Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School: A Step-by-Step Handbook for Research and Planning — this book is a great place to get all the info you need to create a coursework and credits plan for high school, if you haven’t done so already. In fact, if you are just getting started homeschooling high school, then forget about the transcript and work through this book FIRST.
TO BE CLEAR: A transcript is NOT something to worry about before even beginning 9th grade. Read this page for general info and to ease your mind, but don’t freak out about it. You won’t need a transcript until your kid is ready to apply to colleges either as a freshman (for after graduation from high school) or for dual enrollment (which doesn’t usually happen right away).
What to do in the meantime? Just make sure you are keeping a record of the courses your kid is taking and the grades they are earning. And yea, the credits that those courses are worth. And then come back to this article when you are actually needing to MAKE the transcript. Mkay?
3) The BEST info about credits is found in my new book all about transcripts — Taming the Transcript: The Essential Guide to Creating Your Teen’s Homeschool Transcript from Scratch. You can definitely make a transcript with just the info from this page, but if you want ALL the deets, then this book is for you. More about it below.
What if your kid completed high school credits in 8th grade?
You can definitely include high school credits that were earned before 9th grade on the transcript. Just make a notation in some way that they were indeed taken in 8th grade (or whenever).
I include them in the spot for 9th grade, at the top of that section, with asterisks after them. Then below that section, there is the asterisk that explains that they were taken in 8th grade. The GPA for 9th grade will then include those grades. That’s fine.
I do have opinions about how many and what kind of credits are reasonable to apply to your kid before 9th grade. You can hear them here: Episode 21: High School Credit Before High School?
Official vs. Unofficial
Some colleges are particular about the wording on the transcript, so I would suggest using the term “official” at the top.
In my experience, the word “official” only means that the transcript is sent straight from the school administration (in this case, YOU) to the college. An official high school transcript is not handled by the student nor sent by the student. An unofficial transcript is a copy that the student has access to and sends for themselves.
In either case, your homeschool transcript does NOT need to be notarized unless the college specifically requests it. I have yet to apply to one that does, but I have heard of it. They will notate that on their website—but don’t worry about it unless they make it VERY clear.
How to Format a High School Transcript
Believe it or not, this is completely up to you. Yep! If you are comfortable with word-processing or spreadsheet software, you can totally just make your own.
Just make sure that it is:
- Typed or done on a computer—NOT handwritten, and
- Easy to follow.
See how much freedom we have? There is no one right transcript format, y’all. They vary WIDELY among public schools, too. Colleges are OK with that, because they get applicants from all over the world.
(NOTE: If you are NOT comfortable with word-processing or spreadsheets — or you don’t want to take the time to create your own design — then definitely take a look at my Printable PDF Transcript Template. It makes the whole thing super easy!)
Year-Based vs. Subject-Based
These are two options for how to format your homeschool transcript. The first lists each year in high school—Ninth Grade, Tenth Grade, etc.—with the courses taken during those grade levels listed underneath. The second lists each subject—English, Math, etc.—with the courses taken in each subject listed underneath, with no reference to grade level. (You can find an example of a subject-based transcript here.)
I have heard of both formats being used successfully. My personal recommendation is to use a year-based format, because I think it is valuable to see the progression of the student’s high school career. How many credits did they take each semester? How did their grades improve over time? (And don’t worry about senioritis and lower grades that year; colleges are used to seeing that, LOL.)
I also personally recommend showing both fall semester grades and spring semester grades, then averaging those for a final grade, for each year-long course. Again, this shows progression, which is valuable information that colleges would be interested in. Did the kid bring his B up to an A? They can’t see that unless they are shown grades for each semester.
The transcript does NOT have to fit on one page. That is a common misunderstanding which is just NOT TRUE. Mine have all been 2 – 3 pages.
Sample Homeschool High School Transcript
Below is what my three older girls’ high school transcripts all looked like. (Name redacted to protect the guilty, LOL.) This was formatted by the homeschool record-keeping software I was using at the time, called Homeschool Tracker.
Using your homeschool planning software is really the easiest way to go, because it does all the calculations and formatting, and you choose which student, courses, and other information you want on there and then print that bugger out.
This particular document (C’s and all) got this kid into two different colleges with merit scholarships at both. You do NOT have to show all A’s on a homeschool transcript, y’all; in fact, I advise against it. Show who your kid really is. Don’t try to fit them into a mold they are not equipped to sustain.
(But that’s the topic of another blog post. Read The Truth About How to Look Good on College Applications — or listen to Episode 12: How to Look Good on College Applications, if you’re more the podcast type.)
Remember, you can see another sample homeschool transcript by downloading my free Transcript Cheat Sheet.
The cheat sheet has one of my own kid’s transcripts (a different one than the one above) as well as a checklist of all the things to include on a transcript — and what NOT to include. It’s a quick reference for when you’re ready to make your transcript — or just to ease your mind until you get there!
But what if you don’t have any homeschool software and you don’t want to take the time to format your own?
Or your computer skills are worse than those of your cat? LOL.
Then you can purchase and download my fillable PDF homeschool transcript template for only $5.99! See all the details here: a homeschool transcript template for EVERYONE.
(If you don’t want to take my word for it, LOL, my template was used by Mary Prather of Homegrown Learners for her daughter’s college applications. You can read her review here: Homeschool to College: The Transcript.)
But wait! There’s more!
(I’ve used the Ginsu knife joke before so I will valiantly not repeat it — but if I could, you know I’d be all over that.)
For even MORE HELP with your homeschool transcript, you can purchase my NEW BOOK called Taming the Transcript: The Essential Guide to Creating Your Teen’s Homeschool Transcript from Scratch (without overwhelm). It is literally the BEST resource for the task of making the transcript — it has all the information you’ve just read on this page but in more depth, plus all the other little detailed stuff you might be still wondering about, like course titles, letter grades vs. numbers, what to do with credits obtained at a legit outside institution, and more. Just click the green button to check it out!
To sum up, the homeschool high school transcript is very doable—just like every other aspect of homeschooling high school. Don’t make it more difficult or worrisome than it needs to be. With the information you now have, you’ll be able to crank one out in no time.
You’ve got this! Sleep better TONIGHT!