For grades 9 through 12, home educating parents must fill out a transcript form that records subjects studied, years of study, units of credit, and final grades. Transcripts ought to be kept on permanent file. Although some colleges are happy to accept portfolios for homeschool applications, most insist on a regular transcript—and almost all financial aid departments require a transcript form before they will disburse aid. So fill that piece of paper out—it’s important!
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home offers detailed and specific guidance in how to settle on grades and award credits in many areas across the curriculum. However, here’s a brief guide to transcript preparation.
First, realize that the transcript isn’t an “official” form like a birth certificate or passport. It’s simply an organized document that records each subject studied, the traditional end-of-semester grades—A, B, C, and so forth—and achievement test scores. Transcript forms can be acquired from (or downloaded from) several different suppliers; see High School Transcript Forms for up-to-date suggestions. (And have a look at a perfectly acceptable, hand-written Sample High School Transcript here.)
The student needs to fulfill a minimum number of credits in order to graduate from high school. Traditionally, 1 credit in high school equals 120 hours of classwork, or 160 45-minute periods. Labs and projects, field trips, and independent reading can all count as classwork.
See State & Local Organizations and State Laws for links to your local requirements. (If your state is not represented, search with a web browser using a search string like this: home school homeschool (your state) laws (or organizations. By placing the subject, grade level and year, credit awarded, and grade on the transcript form, you are certifying that the work has been completed.
Generally speaking, secondary school subjects are organized into nine areas. The core areas (every student must take them in order to graduate) are Language Arts, Maths, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Foreign Languages, and Physical Education. The elective areas (they can count as credits, but aren’t required) are Fine Arts, Practical Arts, and Business.
Most individual subjects fall into one of these core areas (and those that don’t can be classified as “Other” and considered electives). The following chart shows the most common groupings of subjects, although there is some flexibility in how subjects can be classified:
- Operations (Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division)
- Pre-calculus and Calculus
- “Social Studies”
- Environmental Science
- Labs (hands-on)
- Study of any language other than English (Check to see if the college accepts ancient languages or sign language.)
- Instruction in sports
- General fitness
- Driver’s ed
- Computer programming
- Logic/thinking skills
- Test preparation
Any courses taken through a community college or a concurrent program at a local university should be listed on the high-school transcript along with the grade earned. These courses also count toward high-school graduation credits.
The high-school transcript also includes space for extracurricular activities. Record all the student’s nonacademic activities (teams, hobbies that she puts significant time into, athletic pursuits, music lessons, competitions, volunteer work, jobs, all memberships in any kind of organization, any leadership positions at church or in community groups, all participation in regular community activities). You’ll probably have to list these on a separate sheet of paper or fit them into a margin on the transcript since most transcripts have a preset list of extracurricular activities (“Offices Held” or “Band”). Just make sure these activities appear with the transcript wherever it is submitted.
High school graduation requirements and college admissions expectations are slightly different. The requirements listed below are those that a college admissions officer would generally look for on a reasonably competitive high school transcript.
Subject Required Credits Area
Language Arts 4 Language Arts
Mathematics 3-4 Mathematics
Foreign Language 2-4 Foreign Language
World History 1 Social Science
American History 1 Social Science
American Government 1 Social Science
Science 3-4 Natural Science
Physical Education 2 Physical Education
Electives 4-8 Any area
Time spent reading, writing, and doing spelling and vocabulary can all count towards the Language Arts credit.
Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra II, and upper level mathematics can count towards the Mathematics credits. Pre-algebra cannot be counted for high school credit, even if taken in ninth grade.
Foreign Language credits can be any modern or ancient language. (Some colleges do not allow ancient languages to count as foreign language credits; check the requirements of candidate colleges.)
World History can be Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, or Modern.
Science can be Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geology, Astronomy, or any topics that are subsets of those. Generally speaking, Earth Science is not considered high school level, even when taken in ninth grade or later. In most cases, at least two years of science study should include a lab component.
Physical Education credits can be awarded for 120 hours of purposeful physical activity, as long as the student logs those hours in a journal or diary.
Electives are made up of additional high school credits beyond those listed in the core areas. For example, if a high school student takes both a composition course and American Literature, she would earn two Language Arts credits on the high school transcript. One credit would fulfill the Language Arts requirement for that year; the other would go towards the Elective credit.