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How to Make a High School Transcript

By Jeannette Webb
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #91, 2009.

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Jeannette Webb


You wouldn’t think that a one-page document could cause so much stress, but trying to come up with a high school transcript can seem daunting. To make matters worse, there are many people and organizations playing on our homeschooling fears and hawking transcript software whose results leave much to be desired. In college admission circles, homeschoolers are notorious for having transcripts that are lengthy and hard to understand. However, by using Publisher or Pages, any student should be able to come up with a professional looking transcript in a just few hours.

One Page Max

Keep it at one page. Everything you need can neatly fit in that space.

We divided ours up into 3 sections separated by two horizontal lines. Within each section there were two columns.

On the top fifth of the page we listed: student name, parent’s names, address, telephone, birth date, Social Security number, name of school, and year of graduation.

The next section is about 5 inches and contains all our class information. Headers are: Grade (class grade, not year in school), Subject, and Credit (how many credits the class was worth).

Starting with the strongest area (in our case, Science) we bolded the word Science and listed how many total credits were earned in that subject. Underneath that, we listed the name of each science class. This was followed by Mathematics, Language Arts, Social Studies, Fine Arts, Foreign Language, and Physical Education.

Immediately after listing the classes, I show Total Credits, GPA, Grade Scale and a brief explanation of anything that might not be clear. For example:

Courses without grades are in progress

*Grade assigned by professional instructors from Pennsylvania Homeschoolers

Credit calculated according to Carnegie Unit standard = 120 or more contact hours

Your descriptions will be different, depending on what outside courses your student has taken or what looks unusual and needs to be explained.

Final Section

The final section in the transcript contains all test data (SAT, SAT Subject tests, and AP tests) plus Volunteer Service Hours on the left side. There is also room for the Official Signature, Date, and a place to use our embossed stamp (with the name of our school and when it was established). These stamps are available for about $25 from an office supply store. This may seem overkill, but I was unwilling for 12 years of hard work to be dismissed by an admissions office simply because we did not look make the effort to look “official.”

Finally, we list an abbreviated resume on the right hand side. You should have about 18 lines to list Achievements and Awards as well as Leadership Positions.

You will want to print your transcript on a heavy, white rag paper or your embossed stamp will tear the page. It also looks much more professional than regular copy paper.

Composite Transcript

I would call a document produced by this method a composite transcript. It was easy for us as we only had classes at home and a few AP classes online. Yours could get more complicated if you have taken classes from multiple educational providers. You must submit transcripts from each provider to every college. Nonetheless, it is helpful to have this composite transcript where everything is in one place and easy to see.

Cautions

While this should not be an issue, I’ve seen it too many times not to make a comment. Our grades (which we must admit are assigned by a biased parent) must agree with our standardized test scores. If you assign an A for AP Biology, the AP Biology test score had better be at least a 4, preferably a 5. If your student had low scores on the Critical Writing portion of the SAT, we look like fools if we give our student an A in English. We also look untrustworthy to an admissions office.

The CollegeBoard finally put its foot down regarding its “AP” trademark. Now, for a course to be called AP, the teacher must submit his credentials and syllabus to the CollegeBoard for approval. Don’t call a class “AP” on your transcript unless it was sanctioned by the CollegeBoard and the student took the AP exam. If you don’t take the test, change the classification on your transcript to an honors class.

AP does not mean hard. AP means that your student has covered very specific material at a college level and taken the standardized test.

Lately I’ve seen a lot of AP Anatomy classes on homeschool transcripts. This is an immediate red flag to an admissions officer because there is no such thing as AP Anatomy. Unfortunately, there is a homeschool curriculum that confuses families on this issue. This transcript mistake can cost your student admission into better colleges.

I also advise against including fluff courses (especially if applying to a top or mid-tier college). By including four hours of Cooking (with an A, of course), you look like you are trying to pad your GPA. Do the math and it looks like a ridiculous amount of time spent in the kitchen. If your student is preparing to be a professional chef, fine. At least divide the classes up like “Foundations of Food Preparation” 1 credit, “Baking and Pastry Creations” 1 credit, etc. There is nothing wrong with including Home Economics or Welding in your curriculum, but it does not belong on a high school transcript headed to college.

Solutions

This transcript method solves many problems.

  1. It is very clear. Admissions officers can see at a glance how many credits we have in each area and how strong our classes are. When we list classes by grade in school, it takes a great deal of study to figure out if we have the required number of classes in each subject area.
  2. It allows us to be honest. By listing classes by category instead of by year in school, we have the freedom to take as much or as little time as we need to complete a course. It doesn’t matter if the high school level course was taken in 7th grade or if it took us two years (or 6 months) to complete, it is totally honest in this format because we just list the completed course.

I have used this format with all types of schools—Ivy League on down—and no one has ever complained.

Jeannette Webb has worked with high school students for over 25 years helping them develop public speaking, leadership, and interview skills, as well as prepare effective scholarship applications. In 2005, Jeannette received a Presidential Scholar Distinguished Teacher Award. Jeannette teaches “Homeschooling Through High School” seminars and is a college coach dedicated to helping homeschool students matriculate to America’s top colleges, including her own two homeschool graduates. She can be reached through aiminghigherconsultants.com.


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