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
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
Courses without grades are in progress
*Grade assigned by professional instructors from Pennsylvania
Credit calculated according to Carnegie Unit standard = 120 or more
Your descriptions will be different, depending on what outside courses
your student has taken or what looks unusual and needs to be explained.
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
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.
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.
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.
This transcript method solves many problems.
- 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
- 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.