When high school students apply to college, their high school counselors submit documents to support their application. Typically, these include a transcript and a school profile, as well as a counselor recommendation.
Even though homeschool students may not attend a traditional brick and mortar school, colleges still want an academic history to base an admissions decision on. Home educators should submit documents to describe their student’s academic experience – even if it included a mix of work done at home, in co-ops or support groups, or at local colleges. I recommend that homeschoolers consider preparing four key documents for college applications: a transcript, course descriptions, a school profile, and a counselor recommendation.
Each of these documents fills a different role. The transcript is an overview document that lists each course, along with the grade assigned and credit value. Transcripts can be organized by subject or chronologically and are usually only 1-2 pages long. Course descriptions provide a brief summary of each course and may include information about outside educational partners, course content, and materials used. Course descriptions need to be long enough to answer the admissions office’s questions about what English 1 or Ancient Civilizations covered, but not so long that they overwhelm the reader; 4-8 pages is typically a good length.
A school profile describes the educational setting the student was in. At a traditional school, they might describe the student population, area demographics, courses offered, and graduation rate. For a homeschooler, a school profile document might be a place to describe educational philosophy and methods, grading practices, educational partners, and other important features of the educational environment. While a school profile describes the educational setting, a counselor recommendation describes the individual student. Letters of recommendation are strongest when they use vivid examples to convey a student’s strengths and personal values.
In 2020 many applications add an optional section to explain the impact of Covid-19 or other natural disasters on academics and other circumstances. While students will have their own section in which to discuss the impact the pandemic had on their experience, there is also a section for counselors to address topics such as changes in grading criteria, schedules, instructional methods, and other extenuating circumstances. If your co-op had to go online for the semester, activities were cancelled, or access to dual enrollment changed, this is something you could describe in this section.
This may seem like a lot to produce, but well-written supporting documents can give an admissions office good reasons to say yes to an application. What often makes this challenging for home educators is the sense that not only the student, but also the parent’s work is being judged. This sense of looming critique, combined with feeling uncertain about where to start often makes homeschool parents reluctant to tackle this project. As a veteran homeschooler, I understand these challenges, because I’ve faced them myself. I also know the excitement felt on all sides when the first acceptance letter arrived.
I’m an Independent Educational Consultant with years of experience as a homeschooler. I’ve helped a number of families produce supporting documents that conveyed to admissions offices the breadth and depth of their homeschool experience. If this is an area where you would like one on one assistance, let’s talk.