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College Application Overview for Homeschoolers: The Official Transcript

The media hype surrounding college admissions is cyclical. One obvious swell comes in April/May as decision envelopes slim and fat go in the mail. The other – the one that’s gearing up now – is the back-to-school/welcome-to-senior-year/time-to-start-the-process blitz that starts in August/September.

Lost in this shuffle is the homeschooler who’s looking forward to the next phase of their education and who, along with their family, would like some guidance in getting there. Unfortunately for the homeschoolers, most of the available resources are tailored to the overwhelming majority who attend public and private high schools.

This means that most college application resources are focused on – and in the language of – public school students. Homeschoolers often have to translate the popular public education speak to find college application guidance that’s relevant to their own situation.

They shouldn’t have to, but they do. I’ll help ease that process and explain the elements of a complete application from a public school student and how a homeschooler can approach the admissions process.

The typical public school student has five basic elements to their application:

  1. Official Transcript
  2. School Profile
  3. Recommendations
  4. Application with essays/resume
  5. Standardized Test Scores

The first part in this series addresses how a homeschooler with a unique, non-traditional application can provide a description of their curriculum and their academic accomplishments. I’ll start by describing a traditional applicant’s transcript – then I’ll look at how a homeschooler can produce a similar document or, in most cases, a better one.

The official transcript is a document produced by a public school’s guidance department and lists all the courses a student has taken and the grades received. Transcripts may also list attendance/absenteeism; despite popular myth and occasional threats from teachers/administrators, the official transcript very rarely documents suspensions or other disciplinary action.

The homeschooled student doesn’t always have an official transcript, so how do you demonstrate to a college that your academic efforts have been rigorous and completed successfully?

You can and should:

  • Prepare a copy of your academic curriculum as approved by your state department of education [or other appropriate authority], preferably with a note from that body certifying its approval;
  • Highlight any college-level courses you’ve taken at accredited institutions or through accredited on-line programs and submit official transcripts as proof;
  • Report scores for CLEP exams. Even if the college to which you’re applying does not award credit for CLEP tests, submitting your scores shows the college that you can handle rigorous, college-level coursework
  • Create an academic portfolio [digital or hard-copy] that shows off your academic achievements. This is a growing trend in admissions; it gives the homeschooler an opportunity to demonstrate the unique value they’ll bring to the campus and provides context and evidence that can help an admissions officer understand your non-traditional application [it also lays the foundation for a rich pre-admissions interview].

The homeschooler has an excellent opportunity to stand out in the college application process by taking advantage of the freedom they have in constructing their own application; simply put, the homeschooler isn’t constrained by the norms of a public school.

A homeschooler can make that a strength by approaching the college process – starting with the transcript – as an opportunity to craft a remarkable, singular application reflective of the homeschooler’s experience.

The next piece in this series will address the homeschooler’s School Profile.

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3 Responses to “College Application Overview for Homeschoolers: The Official Transcript”

  1. AmyL says:

    I notice in the first requirement (“prepare a copy of your academic curriculum…”) an assumption that government oversight of the curriculum is required. In some states, that is not the case. Also, while I haven’t looked into them myself (my children aren’t out of elementary grades yet) there are a multitude of forms, packages and even services available online to help the homeschooling family with transcript preparation. A review of those might be an interesting topic for the future. ;)

  2. Matthew says:

    Amy,

    Absolutely – we all know that homeschooling topics generally aren’t “one size fits all” and a specific facet like the transcript is no exception.

    The assumption is that if your curriculum does have some local or state oversight, you should use that as certification/testimony in the process. If not, no bother – you just have a little bit more work cut out for you in preparing the transcript.

    Thanks for the suggestion about evaluating online forms and packages. Part of the reason I started this series was because I found some of them inadequate and wanted to elucidate the concepts behind the approach first. Stay tuned!

  3. Thanks for addressing the homeschooling population specifically, Matthew. It’s much needed advice for people who generally do not have access to a guidance counselor or other professional to assist them.

    Since I’m sure yours is a web resource that’s going to be stumbled upon by many homeschoolers world-wide, I’d like to respectfully point out that the information you’re providing is relevant to U.S. admissions, but not necessarily for Canadian university admissions. (We have a shortage of info up here, so a lot of what people do find tends to be American.)

    I’ve volunteered for the last 6 years with our provincial home schooling organization (www.ontariohomeschool.org) primarily in the role of “private guidance counselor” and specifically researching and compiling Ontario home school university admissions policies (which have only come into existence in the last 7 years or so). I speak annually at home schooling conferences around the province, and usually the first thing I have to say is, “Forget what you’ve read or seen on t.v. because most of it is American.” :)

    So, I hope you don’t mind if I point out to any of your Canadian (specifically Ontario) readers that also visiting sites such as http://homeschooling.rainsberger.ca will provide local information for applying to Ontario schools.

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