When public and private high school students apply to college, their school counselors submit documents to support their application. Homeschool students also need to give admissions an academic history to base their admissions decision on. In addition to the applications the student fills out, there are several supporting documents for homeschool college applications that are usually the responsibility of the homeschool parent to draft and submit.
Home educators should also submit supporting documents that describe their student’s academic experience – even if it includes a mix of work done at home, in co-ops or support groups, or at local colleges. Each of these documents fills a different role, but together they show the admissions reader the academics the student did in high school, which is the most significant factor in college admissions decisions.
The transcript is an overview document that lists each course, along with the grade assigned and credit value. You can organize the transcript chronologically or by subject, though admissions reps usually say they find it easier to read if the courses are listed chronologically. Include the name of each course, when it was completed (grade or year), the credits earned in the class (like 1 credit for a year long course and .5 credit for a semester course), and the grade received. The transcript should only be 1-2 pages long.
If the student took some courses through outside curriculum providers, like an online school or a community college; you should include this information on the homeschool transcript. Annotate the course in some way so the reader can easily see the source of outside courses. I like to use a superscript with a key somewhere on the transcript. For example: General Chemistry w/ labHCC where HCC is Hometown Community College.
Transcripts should also include a grading scale and grade point average (GPA). If you add additional weight to honors, advanced, or dual enrollment courses, include a brief explanation of how you weighted the GPA. It’s a great idea to include both weighted and unweighted GPA on the transcript, and you might want to show the GPA for each year as well as a cumulative GPA that includes all courses to date. Transcripts do not have to include standardized test scores or activities, since that information is provided elsewhere in the college application.
Other Supporting Documents for Homeschoolers
The transcript is the most basic supporting document for homeschooler colleges applications. Most colleges will require some form of transcript, and it’s wise to update this each year so it’s not overwhelming. But there are a few other documents that will give college admissions readers a better understanding of their academic experience and the context for the grades on the transcript.
Course descriptions provide a brief summary of each course and may include information about outside educational partners, course content, and materials used. These 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 long enough to cover all four years of coursework.
I like to organize the course descriptions by subject area, then oldest to newest (or lower level to most challenging), though there are other options. Whatever you do, make it easy to find a specific description, since the reader is more likely to spot check to see what Roots of Steampunk Literature included than carefully read the description for Algebra 1.
Homeschool course descriptions should include a BRIEF explanation of course content, the type of assessment used to determine the grade, and texts or resources used. If you used an outside curriculum provider, it’s good include that information.
I often use descriptions from outside providers as a basis for my descriptions, but usually have to add to them or modify what can be marketing text or placeholder information. It’s ok for course descriptions for homeschool coursework to follow a pattern, and you’ll probably find that after you’ve written 2-3, the rest come more easily.
A school profile describes the educational setting the student was in. At a traditional school, this document might describe the student population, area demographics, courses offered, and graduation rate. For a homeschooler, a school profile document is often the place to describe educational philosophy and methods, grading practices, educational partners, and other important features of the educational environment. 1-2 pages is usually the right length for the school profile.
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.
Parents often wonder if an admissions counselor will even bother reading a counselor recommendation written by a parent. The truth is that there probably isn’t anyone else in a position to provide contextual information about challenges the student overcame and the specifics of their academic experience as a whole. But it does underscore the importance of also having other non-family members provide other letters of recommendation. This is something to keep in mind when choosing a curriculum.Taking a class with someone who would be able to write a recommendation from an academic standpoint may be an important consideration, especially junior year.
Why Include Supporting Documents
Homeschooling varies greatly family to family, and location to location. Use these documents to help the admissions representative understand what homeschooling looked like for your student. This may seem like a lot of work to produce these supporting documents for homeschooler college applications, but a well-written package can give an admissions office the basis to admit a student.
What makes this challenging for home educators is the sense that Admissions judges not only the student, but also the parent’s work. 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 working with homeschoolers. I’ve helped many 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.