In many ways, your child’s future depends on what their high school transcript shows. If you make a mistake on their transcript, they may not get into college. If the formatting doesn’t look professional, or worse, if the grades look doctored, your child’s entire future might as well be down the drain. It’s true, putting together a homeschool transcript is usually a stressful process. However…
The reality of preparing transcripts is actually much less dramatic.
Sure, you’ll spend anxiety-filled hours combing the internet for how-to guides while constantly worrying that you must be missing something. You’ll dig through your long-forgotten records from years ago to find evidence that your student actually did do math at some point in high school.
But in the end, you’ll bring everything together in a neat little package with just the right formatting and all of the needed information in its proper place. Great job! If you’ve followed along with the online how-to’s, you’ve just created a very professional document. But don’t celebrate just yet.
If your goal is to give your child their best chance possible of getting into their dream college, there’s one more thing for you to worry about.
Will a cookie cutter transcript make it easier for your child to get into their dream college?
Probably not. Every year, colleges are flooded with millions of transcripts. It’s a safe bet all of them are formatted correctly. Most of them even have all of the information transcripts are supposed to have.
If all that you’ve focused on has been including the right information and using the right format, your transcript is now exactly like the millions that admissions counselors see every year. And you’ve missed an important opportunity to help your child stand out from the crowd that is already clamoring at the gates of higher education.
So unless you want to risk lying awake at 3:00 AM worrying that you haven’t done enough to help your child get into their dream college, you may want to find a way to make their transcript stand out.
Here’s how to prepare a transcript that helps your child stand out. (It’s easier than you think.)
Making your homeschool transcript stand out is a fairly simple two-step process.
First, prepare early by keeping accurate and complete records. Make complete lesson plans and keep any major assignments your child has completed. And on top of that, you should create a course of study for every class. Even if you forget or can’t do this at the beginning of each school year, do your best to gather all of this information before writing out your student’s transcript.
This may sound like a lot of work, but in the end, it makes your life simple. With good records, the total time it takes to put a transcript together is actually quite minimal, and you can definitively prove any claims you make on your child’s transcript. (Most of the horror stories that involve homeschool transcripts happen because someone waited until the last minute to start putting their records together.)
Next, simply show how your child’s studies, as a whole, have been different.
Homeschool students tend to have more opportunities than students in public or even private schools. We can thank the flexibility of a homeschooler’s schedule for that. Homeschoolers are better able to invest time in internships, specialized study, or traveling overseas on missions trips. These extra opportunities are what make your child stand out on paper.
So if your child has done or earned something that shows exceptional growth, maturity, responsibility, merit, talent, or recognition (especially from a governmental body), put it on their transcript.
Not exactly sure what extra items your target college would like to see? While every college is different (and you should do your research to figure out what your target college wants to see) there are a few things you could list on your child’s transcript that will impress just about all of them.
Here’s what admissions departments like to see on high school transcripts.
Volunteering is more important to some colleges than others. However, nearly every college likes to see some form of voluntary community service. To admissions departments, volunteer work is a signifier of leadership, initiative, personal development, and experience.
Internships have similar benefits to volunteer work. The major difference is internships tend to be more focused on developing critical skills and experience in a specific industry. Internships show that your child has a plan for their life after college and has started proactively working toward that life. They’re also valuable as an endorsement from a respected member of your community.
Colleges like to see students who choose to invest in their area of interest. For example, let’s say your child intends to study computer science. In this situation, if your student has gone outside of the typical high school curricula to learn specific programming languages, that reflects well on your child and should be placed their transcript.
Colleges like to see extracurricular activities on transcripts because it gives them an idea of who the applicant is. If a student is driven, competitive, disciplined, passionate, or just plain motivated, it shows in the activities they do outside of school. But don’t go overboard with these! Keep this section short and relevant. You want your child to look good on their transcript, so if an extracurricular activity doesn’t suggest a desirable character trait, don’t list it.
Has your child earned recognition for their service, studies, or accomplishments? Prestigious awards look great on transcripts. Governmental awards (such as The Congressional Award) and earned ranks (like Eagle Scout) are particularly desirable.
Of course, not every college is going to be impressed by missions trips. However, if your child will be applying to a religious institution, then listing any missions trips you may have taken would be a good idea.
A word of caution.
As I said before, the benefit of being homeschooled through high school is you typically have more opportunities than students in public schools.
Homeschoolers have more flexibility to develop specialized skills, serve their community, or focus their studies on something that interests them. So, it’s possible you have an abundance of extra items you’re tempted to include on your child’s transcript. But if you want to make your child look as good as possible, only include information that is relevant to both your student’s studies and the college that they’re applying to.
Remember that colleges receive millions of transcripts every year. So you want your transcript to be effective but short. This makes the extras you choose to list more likely to be read and remembered. A technical school with no sports program won’t care if your child plays pickup basketball on the weekends, or if a painting they created when they were 4 won a blue ribbon at the county fair. Leave those things for the scrapbooks.
If you keep your student’s transcript focused, start preparing early, and show how your child’s studies have been different, you will sleep well knowing you’ve prepared an awesome transcript that makes your student stand out from the crowd.
One excellent way to ensure your student stands out is by pursuing dual credit in high school. Not only will your student prove their readiness for college-level work, they can also shave some time (and money) off their future degree! Click to learn more about earning dual credit in high school.
Wyatt is an Unbound graduate and a driven entrepreneur. He’s passionate about building businesses and gets annoyed when someone says the only way to be successful is to get a “real” job. When not working on a new business idea or general self-development, Wyatt spends his time pursuing the life moments that make him feel alive.Read more by Wyatt