This is the second post in a series for homeschooled students and their parents.
Attend any college information session, on campus or in your hometown, and you will likely hear about the importance of your high school transcript. It makes sense that the most important piece of the college admission puzzle is the summary of the work a student has completed over the four years of high school.
For a homeschooler, this might pose a difficulty. Often homeschooled students have pieced together a curriculum that meets their needs. It might include any combination of the following: self-study, online courses, pre-purchased curriculum, and traditional courses in a local high school or community college. This summary of learning might not provide a GPA, almost always lacks a class rank, and doesn’t necessarily lend itself to looking like the same path a student takes at your local high school.
Is that OK? Absolutely. One of the advantages to homeschooling is the flexibility a student often has to pursue his or her own interests. The choices you have made, in concert with your parents and other guiding adults, are intriguing to the admissions committee. If you try to look like traditional students with traditional transcripts, you are probably selling yourself short.
However, you do want colleges to recognize the breadth and rigor of your studies. At the most basic level, an admissions committee does want to see that you have met their basic curricular requirements for admission, which in many cases include multiple years of English, math, social studies, science and foreign language. If you are applying to specialized programs such as engineering, the arts, or nursing you may need to provide evidence of other types of coursework as well.
A transcript-type format does make it easy for colleges to understand that you have pursued a high school education that has prepared you to be successful in college. If you have taken courses through an online program or in a traditional high school, you will have transcripts from those institutions, and I encourage you to submit an official version of each of these documents with every application, even if you create a single transcript that encompasses your entire high school experience. As you account for coursework that you have developed on your own, make certain that you have accounted for the relative number of credits – is this the equivalent of a full year course, a semester course, or a trimester? A full year course is the relative equivalent of 4+ hours a week of instruction, over the course of 36 weeks.
Rigor is more difficult to quantify. Many homeschooled students sit for AP exams, which do provide a benchmark to the colleges. For classes below the AP level, the secondary school report, which will be the subject of a future blog post, can best establish rigor.
Developing a transcript for a homeschooled student is paradoxical: It challenges and rewards. Demonstrating the breadth of your studies and the significance of your accomplishments is similarly and simultaneously satisfying and daunting. In a holistic college admissions review, members of the admissions staff take great care to understand a student’s record, regardless of the format – high school transcripts can vary greatly too! However, given the vast number of applications that many colleges review annually, if you are a home schooled college applicant, make sure you cover the basics so they are easily apparent, and then let the distinctiveness of your record shine through.