While many parents have never heard of a School Profile or Transcript Legend (also known as the Course Descriptions), these documents are critical for homeschoolers. They give important details of our homeschool high school experience and allow admissions officers to objectively compare our student’s academic experience with others.
Most Secondary School Reports ask for the School Profile (see the fine print) and every public or private school should have one. If we are in the public school system, we have no control over this document. As homeschoolers, we can be sure that these documents works for us instead of against us.
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, as well as your general philosophy.
I give a brief description of the type of classes offered (whether they are taught at the gifted/talented level 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 is our grading scale, whether grades were weighted or unweighted, and what do we use to calculate credit. I chose to use the Carnegie credit standard of one credit equaling 120 or more contact hours. I feel that the closer we get to speaking the same language as our public school counterparts, the more successful we will be.
Finally, I list academic achievements of the student, 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 software program to box off related information and use colored shading within boxes to match the letterhead. The result is a very professional document that shows our school at a glance. The Common Application (and other online applications) will automatically create a footer when you upload your information so that each page will contain pertinent information about your student.
Transcript Legend/Course Descriptions
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 descriptions of each course, grades, and credits granted.
This document explains each of the courses our student took in high school. This can get lengthy and therefore must be easy to read and visually pleasing. Every course listed on your transcript needs to show up here and in the same order. Because my students are quantitative kids, I started our legend with science courses. You should also start with your student’s strengths.
I began each academic section with a short explanation that detailed how we handled each area. For example, we pursued science as a combination of self-teaching, work with mentors at a local university, and a few online AP classes. These details are invaluable for showing why we do what we do. It can also deal with weaknesses in the student’s profile 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. We were unable to find a tutor that could keep ahead of my students in math, so they are pretty much self-taught. In Language Arts, I felt comfortable teaching this area 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 nonexistent for my son, but needed to be explained in detail since my daughter spent an inordinate amount of time with her music. Foreign Language was our biggest weakness as we did not have access to anyone who was fluent in another language and it was before online options were available. And finally, in Physical Education I was able to show that we were unable to participate in team sports because we lived too far away from homeschool leagues and our public schools in Oklahoma do not allow homeschool participation. It is not that my kids were unsocial, they just didn’t have normal opportunities for this type of activity. The Transcript Legend allowed me to explain all these things to colleges so my children were not penalized.
Each class then has its own section written in this format:
Class name (# Credits): followed by a description in paragraph form.
The Common Application nows asks homeschooled students to answer specific questions about each class they take. I have found it is easiest to handle that here.
- Instruction setting & schedule
- Frequency of interaction with instructor
- Frequency of interaction with fellow students
Instructor: name, title, qualifications
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. Ere 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.
Copyright 2010 Home Life, Inc., PO Box 1190, Fenton, MO 63026-1190, (800) 346-6322, www.home-school.com. Originally published in Practical Homeschooling # 90. A Practical Homeschooling subscription is $19.95 for six issues. Used by permission.
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