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How to Create a Homeschool High School Transcript that Colleges Love

There I was - another night of lying wide awake in the dark. My husband - snoring peacefully next to me - didn’t know I was worried. Like, really worried. What if I made a horrible mistake by homeschooling in the first place? What if my homeschool isn’t taken seriously by the colleges on my son’s list? What the heck do schools want from homeschoolers anyway?

I was at the beginning of the college admissions journey with my first kid. And what I was obsessing about most was the homeschool transcript.

One page. That’s all it is! And it was enough to keep me up at night.

It’s only natural to feel overwhelmed

How can a one page spreadsheet sprinkled with a bunch of letters and numbers cause us so much aggravation?

Because this simple document tells our homeschooler’s story. And this simple document is supposed to move admissions officers to say yes to that story.

What I’ve learned over the years

After launching 5 of my own kids into college and helping hundreds of other homeschoolers, I’ve learned that there’s no one way to create a transcript. There are lots of great ways.

Just find the way that best reflects your homeschool and your homeschooler’s story.

Find the way that allows you to sleep peacefully at night.

homeschool high school transcript with plant

The homeschool high school transcript is a great way to tell your story in the college application.

What is the Homeschool Transcript?

Very simply, the transcript is a one-page document that provides a quick overview of a student’s high school courses, grades, GPA, and, if desired, test scores (more on that later). Not only does a transcript serve as a college admissions piece, but can also be used for scholarships, contests, internships, certifications, and jobs. Note that the transcript differs from another document called Course Descriptions.

College admissions officers prefer a one-page, simple, easy-to-read transcript.

How to Create the Homeschool Transcript: Step by Step

  1. Get organized. Create a folder or start a Trello Board (get my template here) and add to it each year of high school. Collect course names, grades, and syllabi.
  2. Name each course. If a course is taken at home, feel free to give it a unique name. Just be sure it’s obvious what subject it is!
  3. Decide if and how you will weight grades to reflect rigor. Some schools immediately unweight and recalculate GPA’s according to their own system, but some use weighted grades for merit scholarships. You don’t want to miss out on those!
  4. Establish a grading scale and give each class a grade. Will you use pluses and minuses? Percentages?
  5. Assign credits to each class. There are a few ways to do this, but most determine 1.0 credit on 120-160 hours of work.
  6. Calculate the yearly GPA and the cumulative GPA. Use my instructions below or use an online GPA calculator.
  7. Decide if you want standardized test scores on the transcript. Don’t include them if you’re applying test-optional!
  8. Determine if a subject or year transcript best showcases your homeschooler’s strengths.
  9. Create your transcript in Google Docs or by using a transcript template.
  10. Make it official. Label it “official transcript”, sign it, and date it!
  11. Upload the transcript to the counselor section in the Common App or the school’s online aplication.
  12. Be sure to send an updated transcript in your midyear and final reports.

Bonus: Download my FREE College Prep Planner for Homeschoolers and know exactly how to launch your teen into a college and life they love.

What should I name the courses?

Should your course names be creative? Or should they be standard? Your homeschooler’s education was not standard, so if you have the chance to label their English Class, The Power of Voice in Women’s Literature, do it. Sounds better than 11th grade English, eh? Just make sure it isn’t difficult to decipher what subject the class is!

Another Question You Should Be Asking

To weight or not to weight? That is the question.

Because Honors and AP courses are more demanding, some schools give more weight to them. Instead of a class being 1.0 quality point, they assign it 1.5 or 2.0 quality points - weighting those classes by .5 or 1.0 respectively. Whether you weight or not is really a personal choice, as is so much of this process.

What You May Not Know

Many schools unweight grades before reviewing the homeschool high school transcript.

Why? Because there is no standard in the way schools weight courses. Some base it on a 4.0 scale, others on a 5.0 or 6.0 scale. In order to streamline the process, admissions officers recalculate on an unweighted 4.0 scale (many times excluding electives). They then assess those courses according to their school’s particular rubric used when evaluating an applicant.
It seems that unweighted grades are the way to go, right? However…

Another little secret

Some schools use weighted grades for scholarship purposes.

If your student is going to compete with others from schools that weight courses, you should consider doing the same. What is the best way to know if the schools on your homeschooler’s list use weighted grades for merit scholarships?

Some institutions will share this information; some will not. It is best to call the admissions office and ask!

What to Know About Honors and AP Grades on the Transcript

If an outsourced course is labeled Honors or AP, certainly call it that on your transcript. If you think the course is much more demanding than a typical high school course, feel free to call it Honors. How much it matters depends on the specific admissions officer and if those grades are backed up by thorough course descriptions and/or SAT II or AP scores.

IMPORTANT: AP courses must be officially approved by College Board. If your course has not been officially approved, you may not list it as such on the transcript.

Grading Scale

Each transcript should have a grading key or grading scale. This explains your grading system in an efficient way to the admissions officer. There are a variety of scales from which to choose. Pick one and be consistent.
Simple Grading Key
Grading Scale

How do I calculate GPA?

There are two GPA calculations on the transcript. First, there is GPA by year. Second, there is cumulative GPA.

First, assign each course a numerical grade. Let’s make this easy and base it on a 4.0 scale.

Numerical Grades

Second, multiply that numerical grade by credit amount.

How to Calculate Grade Points

Third, add up all grade points and divide by number of credits.

3+4+3+2+2= 14

14/4.5= 3.11 GPA

Or, you can use this handy dandy GPA Calculator!

Cumulative GPA: ​

To get a cumulative GPA, add up each year’s grade points and divide by the number of credits taken over those years.

​> Note: the cumulative GPA is NOT an average of each year because the number of classes taken each year is different.

Related:How to Show Colleges That Your Homeschool GPA is the Real Deal

The Nitty Gritty

Nitty-Gritty-Transcript

Test Scores

What about SAT scores, ACT scores, SAT 2 scores, and AP scores?

Test scores can be included, UNLESS applying test-optional (choosing to not send scores to a test-optional school.) For obvious reasons, you would not want those scores on the transcript. Also important: Do NOT self-report those scores in the Common App. Many applicants think they are required to put scores in the application when asked! They are not and should not, if you are applying test optional.
Physics Class

Consider this…

There are two main kinds of transcripts that homeschoolers use; they differ in their organization.

  • Subject: Organized by subject and is usually front-loaded by student’s strongest subjects.
  • Date: Organized by year. Similar to brick and mortar school transcripts.

Which transcript to use depends on your homeschooler. Does one type seem to reflect their story better than another? Does one highlight their strengths better than another? If you have a student who has studied a few languages or a student who has doubled or tripled up in math, a subject transcript may work best for you. On the other hand, if your teen isn’t strong in a particular subject, a subject transcript will make that painfully obvious!

How to Create Your Own Transcript

You can create your own transcript easily! It’s a simple document that can be created using tables within Google docs. The document itself isn’t usually an issue; it is the preparation that goes into it before you create one! If you’re looking for a template, there are free ones and paid ones to be found online.

Where to upload the transcript on the Common App

In the Workspace Section of the Counselor’s Common App account, there is a transcript section. Here it will ask you how many transcripts you want to upload. Read as “How many pdfs do you want to upload?” If you are including Course Descriptions and School Profile, take those pdfs into account. Upload the document in the “current” slot, being mindful of size requirements.

Common App Transcript Section

Transcripts and Official Grade Reports from Outsourced Classes

There is no need to send every transcript or grade report. Here are the basic guidelines for what gets sent and what doesn’t.

College or University Courses Taken During High School:

Ask the school to send your homeschooler’s transcript directly to colleges.

Online Courses

Sometimes online providers offer an official grade report. Your homeschooler takes English from one provider and math from another? Unless your student has taken the bulk of their classes from that provider, just transfer the grade onto your homeschool transcript.

What if Your Teen Attended a Brick and Mortar School or an Online School Before Homeschooling?

If your homeschooler’s high school years included a school that was not legally a homeschool, you have two choices.

  • Your transcript only includes the homeschool years.
  • Your transcript includes all four years.

When this gets tricky: If you cannot easily translate the former high school grades into your homeschool grading system and GPA calculation, leave those years out. College admissions officers prefer that we not translate the other school’s grades ourselves. Leave that to them. They see students from a variety of schools, grading systems, and transcripts. They would prefer to do the interpreting themselves.

Former Homeschoolers Who Currently Attend a High School:

Create and send a homeschool transcript (with course descriptions and counselor recommendation letter) directly to the school. This clears up any questions admissions officers have regarding the specifics of their homeschool education.
girl Walking with Backpack

Middle School Courses

In general, middle school courses should not be listed. The high school transcript is a transcript for high school courses.

However, look at each school’s requirements. Do they require 4 years of each subject? Do you need that 8th grade Algebra course on the transcript to meet those requirements? If so, then include it. If not, then it’s not necessary.

The two middle school subjects - if taken at a high school level - acceptable to put on a high school transcript are Math and Foreign Language.

Fall Semester 12th Grade Classes

Yes, include 12th grade fall semester classes with grades if the timing is right. If you are applying Early Action or Early Decision, include the names of the courses and note that that they are in progress. If applying at the completion of fall semester, do include those grades. It can make a difference.

TIP: If fall semester grades are particularly strong and they weren’t sent with the original transcript, send them to the school. If a student is considered a borderline applicant, a strong senior year could have an impact!

Spring Semester 12th Grade Classes

As with the fall classes, list any spring classes as “in progress” or “IP.” The grades for those classes will be sent with the counselor’s final report. And, yes, you will send a final report with an updated and “FINAL” transcript. Be sure to include the graduation date on that final transcript.

Independent projects

Look at the application in its entirety. When put together, the application should reveal all that your homeschooler is. There are two places independent projects and studies can go - on the activities list or on the transcript. First, ask yourself if the independent study involved enough hours. If so, the transcript is an option. Then ask yourself if it is worthy of a course description, rather than the 150 characters available in the activities section of the Common App. If so, the transcript is the way to go.

Electives on the Transcript

If the electives are interesting and important to the student’s story, include those electives. If they are physical education or health, there is no need to include them.

What Does NOT Go on a Transcript

Activities, awards, and course descriptions do not belong on the transcript, especially if using the Common App. There are specific sections to list those items. If not using the Common App, and there is no section to include such accomplishments, consider creating a separate document.
teen boy with awesome afro

As you can see, much of what you choose to include is up to you. Ask yourself how you want your homeschool and your homeschooler’s story to be told. Yes, there are plenty of details to think about, but as a homeschooler, you’re used to that!

Bonus: Download my FREE College Prep Planner for Homeschoolers and know exactly how to launch your teen into a college and life they love.

2019 Fearless Homeschoolers Timeline

Want More on Homeschool Transcripts?

How to Upload Homeschool Transcripts in the Common App
How to Create an Amazing Homeschool High School Transcript
All You Need to Know About the College Application Mid Year Report

Your Turn

What trips you up most about the homeschool document? Share in a comment below!

Hey there!

Lisa Davis Fearless Homeschoolers

I'm Lisa Davis. I believe the path through homeschool college admissions can be made clear...even if the road you're taking is less traveled. Join me and I'll show you the way.