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Creating Your School Profile & Transcript Legend

By Jeannette Webb
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #90, 2009.

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Jeannette Webb

While many parents have never heard of a School Profile/Transcript Legend, the document is critical for homeschoolers. It gives important details of our homeschool experience and allows admission’s officers to objectively compare our students academic experience with that of others.

Most Secondary School Reports ask for this document (see the fine print at the end of the Secondary School Report) and every public or private school should have one. Schools in the public school system have no control over this document. As homeschoolers, we have to produce it ourselves and can ensure that this document works for us instead of against us.

Keep Track from the Beginning

To make life easy on yourself, work with your child early on to keep track of information throughout high school. You’ll need a list of all books read (you never know when one will fold into a high-school course) and all field trips and learning experiences. For each course you need a list of textbooks, other books read, videos, field trips, original source documents, detailed course descriptions, grades, and credits granted. Don’t forget to keep track of volunteer hours, too.

The School Profile

Placed on your professional-looking school letterhead, the school profile basically tells about your school—when it opened, how many students there are, where you live, whether or not you have access to public school activities, and your general educational philosophy.

I give a brief description of the type of classes offered (whether they are taught at the honors, gifted/talented, or AP level) as well as how many credits in each academic area are required for graduation.

It is important to explain our assessment tools: what our grading scale is, if grades are weighted or unweighted, and what we use to calculate credit. I chose to use the Carnegie credit standard of one credit equaling 120 or more contact hours. While it doesn’t matter what standard you use, I feel that the closer we get to speaking the same language as our institutional school counterparts, the more successful we will be.

Finally, I list academic achievements of the student and test data (SAT, AP, SAT Subject, IB) as well as volunteer service hours.

This part of the document will probably fit in two pages. My daughter used a desktop publishing program to prepare the document, making sure to box off related information and use colored shading within boxes to match the letterhead. The result was a very professional document that showed our school at a glance. She also designed a footer for every page that had her full name, date of birth, and social security number. Be aware that many schools want all or part of this information on EVERY page submitted to them.

Transcript Legend

The “legend” part of this document explains each of the courses our student took in high school. This can get lengthy (ours was seven pages) and therefore must be easy to read and visually pleasing.

Every course listed on your transcript needs to show up here, preferably in the same order. Because my students are strong in science, I started our legend (and our transcript) with science courses.

I began each section with a paragraph that explained how we did each academic area. For example, we did science as a combination of self-teaching, work with mentors at a local university, and a few online AP classes.

Each class then has its own paragraph written in this format:

  • Class name (# Credits): description in paragraph form.
  • Instructor: name, title, qualifications
  • Textbook, author

The paragraphs at the beginning of each academic section are invaluable in explaining why we do what we do. It can also explain weaknesses and why they happened. For example, science was my student’s strength, so what little money we had was spent here on the best classes we could find. I explained that in the science introduction.

We were unable to find a tutor who could keep ahead of my students in Math, so they are pretty much self-taught. I felt comfortable teaching Language Arts, as I have an undergraduate concentration in English. We approach Social Studies in a very interactive way utilizing lots of real world experiences. Fine Arts was non-existent for my son, but needed to be explained in detail for my daughter, since she spends an inordinate amount of time with her music.

Foreign Language was our biggest weakness, as we do not have access to anyone who is fluent in another language. I could explain that to the colleges in this format, so my children were not penalized. And finally, in Physical Education I was able to show that we were unable to participate in team sports because we live too far away from homeschool leagues and public schools in Oklahoma do not allow homeschool participation. It’s not that my kids are unsocial: they just don’t have normal opportunities for this type of activity. Instead, I described their individual fitness programs.

Keep Your Audience in Mind

Remember that colleges are still getting used to the homeschool animal. While we did not find a single college that didn’t admit homeschoolers, many are still not quite sure of us. Err on the side of telling them too much instead of not enough. Do not assume anything. We must be extremely clear in what we do and why. Keep in mind that homeschooling varies from state to state and from family to family. What seems normal (and therefore not worth mentioning) to us can seem totally unique to an admissions officer.

Jeannette Webb has worked with high school students for over 25 years. 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. She can be reached through aiminghigherconsultants.com.

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