Not to brag, but it is a fact that I got progressively higher GPA’s from high school to graduate school. When I got my high school diploma, It was something like a 3.7. When I graduated from Biola University, I had a 3.8. When I graduated from Regent University with my MA, I had a 4.0.
We’ll see if the Ph.D. continues the trend.
I’m not one to claim singular causality and say this uncommon progression was caused by any one thing, but I will say that my homeschool experience in high school did a pretty good job of equipping me for the next step. My transcript looked right and may have even low balled my grades slightly.
In an age of weighted GPA’s and grade inflation, I am really thankful that my parents gave me grades I deserved. It never entered their minds to do anything less.
My experience with GPA highlights a couple of things about homeschool transcripts that I think are REALLY important to get.
- Homeschool parents who are overseeing their high school student’s education are completely competent in giving accurate grades. They may not have sophisticated rubrics and “disaggregated data” for tracking progress, but they know where their kids are. However, that’s not enough, which is why the second point must be made:
- It took a college GPA to validate my high school GPA.
This is the shocking truth of homeschool transcripts for students preparing for college:
Until you prove yourself in the college classroom, your transcript is suspect.
This creates a dilemma for homeschooling parents and families who want to homeschool through high school, but don’t want to diminish their student’s chances of getting into a great school.
Never fear, there are several good ways to address this situation.
My Light Bulb Moment
It was kind of an epiphany to me as I sat on my family’s couch helping my little sister gather application information for schools she was interested in applying to. What I was noticing is that the bigger schools were advising homeschool students to take SAT II subject tests to enhance their application packet.
My initial reaction was to think that a little unfair, especially considering the strong evidence of the ability of most homeschooling graduates.
However, I began to think like an admissions counselor and a teacher of high school students, and realized that the admissions offices couldn’t help it.
While on average, homeschool graduates tend to score higher on tests and do better academically, the admissions counselor has to evaluate the individual student and for each individual student, there are four major red flags on any homeschool transcript:
1. Lack of accreditation.
Yes, you can file an affidavit with your state and be considered a private school, but that doesn’t mean your homeschool meets any kind of academic standards.
“That’s preposterous,” you say, “We do more work than the public school family next door!”
That may be true, but your local school board doesn’t know that, the state department of education doesn’t know that, and the 5-50 colleges your student is applying to certainly don’t know that either.
All they know is that you’re a parent who is giving their student his or her grades. Accreditation doesn’t exactly make you a better school (there’s a lot of horrible schools that are accredited), but what a stamp of accreditation means is that your school has had a “quality control” check by an outside body that could compare your program to other programs and give you a comparative assessment.
When a transcript is coming from an accredited institution, it is considered comparable to similar schools, which helps a college admissions counselor compare students more accurately (hopefully).
2. No oversight.
While traditional homeschoolers probably eschew connection to the unschooling end of the home education spectrum, you have to understand that such educational approaches are lumped into the definition of homeschooling and seem to confirm the worst nightmares of professional educators everywhere:
Homeschool students are the top student in a class of one and have no way of formal assessment and comparison to their peers, which means we don’t know if they can make it in the college world.
Yes, this is completely unfair (and I am making a huge generalization by painting the picture this way), but every family has it’s crazy uncle and the homeschooling community can’t just ignore it’s more peripheral off shoots and expect a free pass in college admissions.
This is a valid concern of many college admissions offices: How can they be assured that your student is getting fair academic assessment? They can’t be sure, so they have to find ways to double and triple check that transcript.
3. Institutional opposition.
If this didn’t still exist in the education world, then HSLDA wouldn’t be in business.
Opposition to homeschooling as an educational alternative has been around since the movement first began building and it hasn’t gone anywhere.
While homeschooling is much more acceptable socially, that hasn’t exactly translated into a smooth ride through the educational establishment.
Colleges and Universities, particularly public ones, get a lot of their information on education and high school from the very educational institutions and establishments that have long opposed homeschooling. It should come as no surprise that a homeschool transcript may be given a more thorough going over.
Please note here, that I’m not insinuating a conspiracy theory to keep homeschoolers out of schools. I’m merely pointing out that admissions offices may not have the best information on homeschool graduates so they ask for extra info. I’m merely speculating as to why that is.
The above three reasons why homeschool transcripts are suspect are all beyond the control of homeschooling parents. However, in many cases the reason for suspicion is perfectly valid – Some parents just abuse the transcript. Not all parents are concerned with, or even aware of, measuring their student’s progress through particular subjects.
What can often happen, is a student will be given an ‘A’ just for doing work, with no regard for the quality of said work, the difficulty of it, or measuring if progress has been made from prior work. How do I know this?
I’ve seen the results first hand.
A few years ago, the school I taught at had a sudden influx of homeschoolers into two of the high school grades. They were all coming from a homeschool program that had previously been unknown to us (we had done work with other groups with no problem).
Without exception, all the students were behind in reading and math skills and those that were up to speed in one area, were woefully lacking in others…. but their transcripts did not indicate that! According to their transcripts, they went from being ‘A’ and ‘B’ students to being below average students. The students were unwitting victims of inflated grades.
So what’s to be done? Why even homeschool through high school if your student will have to do extra work for an admissions staff?
In every challenge, there is opportunity.
How to Get a Great Homeschool Transcript
One of the great things with homeschooling’s continued growth over the years is that more and more families are taking their students through high school and so more resources become available every year to help. There are lots of great options now to help you validate your homeschool transcript in the eyes of an admissions office, and even get a head start on college.
1. Use a local high school’s independent study program (ISP).
Now this one isn’t for everyone because some schools like to be really controlling about the curriculum, which defeats the purpose of homeschooling in the eyes of some parents.
However, not all schools are like this so explore a little bit and see what you can find. There’s also the added benefit of getting access to athletic programs, which is great if that’s your student’s bent.
2. Go ahead and take the tests.
Consistently high scores on SAT II subject tests or AP tests (another ISP perk) to go with good SAT/ACT scores not only validates your transcript, but has the potential to set you above the many millions of students who just do the SAT/ACT.
You demonstrate your commitment, knowledge and work ethic by doing this. Those are all ‘X’ factors that admissions counselors look for.
3. Community college classes.
Several of my friends did this in high school, and I really wish I had to. Get some college credits out of the way by taking classes at your community college.
I would recommend English, Math and Foreign Language requirements for sure. While I didn’t take JC classes in high school, I did go to a community college for my freshman year of college and then transferred to Biola. It was well worth it. A 4.0 easily validated my high school GPA and led to academic scholarships and a full Cal Grant.
4. Use a transcript service.
Some homeschool curriculum programs like Classical Conversations actually do provide transcripts for their students. If you’re enrolled in a program like that, then you have an objective transcript, not one you made on the home computer (which is what my family and I totally did).
While I don’t think Classical Conversations is accredited, they’re the next best thing in that they are an academic program that has a higher level of professional oversight and quality control.
5. Make your transcript look good!
Don’t just make it on the computer and hit print, use an online service to create a professional looking transcript and get a seal embosser to make the transcript official.
Your transcript is like an academic resume and the more professional and accomplished it looks, the fewer doubts it will raise.
This isn’t being deceptive simply because the admissions office will have duly noted your homeschool status already. However, it does demonstrate that you take this seriously and can provide the extra bit of confidence an admissions office needs to take a bet on your student by admitting them.
The Problem That’s Not A Problem
The reality is that transcripts are not difficult to manufacture and do not pose a problem to your high schooler’s future provided you seek to provide an honest grade for work well done.
This means that if you’re planning on homeschooling through high school, or are currently doing so, the focus should be on making sure you have a solid curriculum in place and there are tons of resources out there to help you with that too.
With help available to build curriculum and transcripts that are accurate and acceptable to college admissions offices there is not reason not to continue your successful homeschooling journey into high school!