Questions of the Day – Transcripts & College Applications

“If a child completes a college level course in 8th grade can it go on their high school transcript?

As the head of your own home school, you get to choose what goes on the transcript. That’s the great thing about homeschooling, the flexibility. Just make sure that all the activities you are counting for credit actually are relevant to the particular subject, and will help increase your student’s test scores in that area as well.
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When you say a college level course completed in 8th grade, are you referring to a dual enrollment class? Although I’m unfamiliar with any university allowing a student that young to take college courses, if it did so happen, by all means, count it on the transcript. The age or “grade” of the student when the course work is completed is not nearly as important as the level of course work completed.

“What should my 10th grader be doing right now to prepare for college applications?

10th grade is a little early to begin applying for college, but there are several steps that can be taken to best prepare your student for those applications come senior year.

Make sure she is taking a rigorous curriculum of courses that will challenge her. Keep the grades up. Test preparation is also crucial here as well. If she hasn’t taken the PSAT yet, look into taking that this year. Keep solid and accurate academic records that can be added into her transcript and/or portfolio. If she’s involved in sports or extra-curriculars, make sure she is consistent with these. Leadership roles are good. Begin looking at potential colleges she might want to attend. If those schools are located relatively close, attend their open house/preview days. Lastly, make sure her writing is steadily improving. This can be a huge factor for the entrance essay that most colleges require. (Not to mention scholarships as well!)

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Questions of the Day – Dual Enrollment & Service Projects

How do dual enrollment classes work and are they worth taking?

Dual enrollment courses are a great way for homeschooled students to take college classes while still in high school. Many colleges offer them for high school students, including homeschoolers. Check with your local college or university to see if they offer a dual enrollment program. I wrote an entire article on the dual enrollment process last week. You can view it here.

How important are service projects to colleges?

Local community colleges and some state schools will not expect or require service projects. However, most private colleges and state universities will want to see that your student has been “giving back.” I would recommend that you document any service projects your son or daughter has been involved. If you keep a portfolio, this would definitely go in there.

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Questions of the Day – Transcript Design & Math Testing

Direct from my email inbox, Laura asks today’s questions:

What should a homeschoolers transcript look like?

There really isn’t a standard for high school transcripts. After working in the college admissions field several years, I’ve seen everything under the sun. Transcripts vary from state to state, and from school district to school district. Simple is good. Only those things which are relevant to your student’s academic career should be listed on the transcript. These will most likely include the following:

  • Name, address, and date of birth of the student.
  • School address and contact information.
  • Names and grades for all courses completed during student’s high school education, along with the number of credits.
  • Date of graduation, which must be after the date of the completion of all courses.
  • The signature of the primary homeschool teacher, principal, or headmaster.

It is always preferable to list the student’s standardized test scores, such as the ACT and SAT. This is purely a convenience factor for the admissions office.  (A great way to win brownie points!)  Some schools include the student’s social security number on the transcript, but I would advise against it. Documenting the grading scale used is also important. Lastly, having the transcript notarized with an “official” seal is a good idea. (you can buy one at most office supply stores.) Like to see a transcript template which you can download for your personal use? Your wish is my command!

Home School Transcript Template

I have a student who excels in everything except Math. How do I help make up for her low SAT or ACT math scores?

Tough question, Laura. What is your daughter’s cumulative score on the tests? if it’s over a 25 ACT or 1140 SAT, it probably won’t present a problem for college admission, depending of course upon the schools she’s applying for, and the program of study she intends to go into. If her scores are lower than this, some intensive math instruction might be in order to bring up the scores.

As a rule, if a student excels in every other subject but math, she’s obviously intelligent, but may need some remedial work in that particular subject to bring her scores up to par with the rest of her academics.

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Question of the Day – What are the Best HS Courses to take?

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Today’s question of the day comes from Cindy, who asks:

“My boys are just now in 6th grade, but I would say that my biggest question is what courses and how much of each should they have in high school in order to best prepare them for college? I am not worried about SAT/ACTs, but more just the best foundation in the liberal arts so that they will not feel like they are “catching up” in college.”

Cindy, great question, and one that many parents are unsure of. I’m glad to hear you’re interested in giving your sons a solid liberal arts education. The liberal arts truly are the foundation upon which all other education is built. Now, to answer your question. In order to best prepare your sons for college, whether they plan on attending an Ivy League school or a small Christian liberal arts college next door, you need to make sure they have the following subjects:

  • 4 units of English, including: Grammar, American Literature, World Literature, and Advanced Composition.
  • 4 units of Math, including: Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, and Calculus.
  • 4 units of Natural Science, including: Physical Science, Biology w/lab, Chemistry w/lab, and Physics.
  • 4 units of Social Studies/Social Science, including: American History, World History/Western Civilization, Economics & Government, Philosophy, Psychology, etc.
  • 2 units of Foreign Language, consisting of Spanish, French, Latin, Greek, etc.  (It’s best if the same language is taken throughout.)

Lastly, I would suggest your sons keep a list of all the books they’re reading throughout high school. This can be very impressive when applying to liberal arts or great books colleges.

These sample course listings should give your sons a strong enough foundation that not only will they score highly on their standardized test scores, but they’ll be setting the pace in their college classes so that their public school counterparts will be the ones who need to “catch up.”

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Questions of the Day – Diploma vs. GED

Great questions today from Kristen on diploma vs. GED and naming your home school.

Can my child earn a diploma of some sort, or is the only option to have a certificate stating that he passed the GED?

If you decide to use a 3rd-party curriculum, they will most likely award a high school graduation diploma. Many of these “schools” are fully accredited, so the college or university chosen should accept this without issue. Since practically every school now requires the ACT or SAT to be taken, the need for an accredited curriculum has been greatly diminished. You may even choose to award your own “home-made” diploma. Nothing wrong with this at all. Many parents do this and have no problems.

Taking the GED is an option, but one I would only recommend as a last resort. There is a stigma attached to it that will probably never change. Someone with a GED as their only credential screams “high school dropout.” If the college in question lists the GED as a requirement for homeschool admissions, I would look for another school.

We have named our Home School. Is it fine to use this name on any documents asking for school name, or is it best to include that it is a Home School?

By all means, use the name which you have given your home school, as it adds an element of credibility. Depending upon the state in which you live, by doing this, you may actually be considered a “private school,” and this tends to make the reviewing university more lenient.

Kristen, thanks for the great questions!

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Questions of the Day – Record-keeping and Grading Scales

Questions the next two days come from Kristen, a mom who’s son is currently in kindergarten, but really likes the idea of getting a head start on college preparation.

I’ve heard that it is good to use a sort of “school” for homeschoolers that the parent pays to keep homeschooling records for validity in transcripts sent to colleges. What options are there?

Record keeping is very important in high school, as most every college or university will require some sort of transcript to review for admission. Since organization is key in this regard, those parents who feel they lack the ability to keep accurate records may opt to use a 3rd party home school curriculum who will keep track of courses taken, grades, etc. There are many excellent home school curriculums out there, and their prices very by product and service. For some, this may seem to defeat the whole purpose of homeschooling, the creative, design-your-own-curriculum or unschooling mentality. If you fall in this category, make sure you keep copious records of activities, tests, grades, etc. As with many things in homeschooling, there is no hard and fast answer. It will greatly be determined by your own teaching style and your son or daughter’s needs.

I’ve heard that these “schools” sometimes use a different grading scale than local public schools (i.e. 93%-100% is an A, 85-92% is a B, etc.) which would appear on a graded transcript that the child in home school who scored a 91%, earning a B, did worse than the public schooled equivalent who earned an A- for his 91%. Is this the case? If so, what can be done about it?

Many private schools have more rigorous grading standards than do public schools, and the same can be true for homeschool curriculum providers. The key here is to make sure the grading scale used is documented, so the the college or university reviewing it can see the quality and make their own determinations. This is another reason why standardized test scores are weighed so heavily in the admissions process, they tend to be more objective than a student’s GPA, which could potentially vary depending upon the school attended or curriculum used.

Anyone else have suggestions for Kristen?

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The Key to Life

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This post has absolutely nothing to do with homeschooling or preparing for college, but it’s something I’ve been pondering recently. What is the point of reading? Why do we as homeschoolers place such an emphasis on it? Is it really that important? And what are we going to do with this acquired knowledge?

The love of reading is something that most homeschoolers possess. I am of the opinion that one of the greatest reasons public schools are doing so poorly (other than being government run) is because teachers have neglected to instill a love of reading to their students.

There is nothing like a good book! Doesn’t matter if it’s science fiction, an autobiography, do-it-yourself handbook, or the Bible, books change lives. Zig Ziglar says that “leaders are readers, and readers are leaders.”

Now I don’t know about you, but for a long time I was perfectly content to read as much as I could get my hands on, and yet do nothing with this acquired knowledge. I see this as a problem. Writing is the reciprocal of reading. You must have both to be fulfilled. One cannot stand alone. He who writes without reading is a fool, and he who reads without writing is wasting the knowledge gained.

So today, I want to encourage you to write as well as read. If you’re already an avid reader, start putting your thoughts on paper, or even better, on a blog. Share your wisdom with the world, we’ll all be better for it. If you’re already a writer but don’t like to read, start. It will definitely improve your writing ability and open your eyes to a whole new world!

I’d like to thank Jarkko Lane for the inspiration to write this post.

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