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Your Homeschooled Kids’ Keys to College: Record Keeping

Keeping professional records during your homeschooler’s high school years can help them gain admittance to college.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Although I had homeschooled my two kids from day one of kindergarten, a distinct sense of trepidation (Okay, fear!) crept in as they approached high school. Homeschool record keeping in particular felt intimidating. How could I prepare professional-looking records containing all the documentation my homeschooled kids will need for college admission?

Homeschool Record Keeping

Of course, I had kept files of my children’s progress throughout each grade level. But now, as my students took this next step, my documents had to parallel those of traditional high schools. While overwhelming at first, I quickly realized this process could become a team effort. My husband and I kept school records and empowered our teens to take responsibility for presenting themselves as viable candidates for college admission.

When my first child entered high school, I joined a homeschool support group that focused on the teen years. Not knowing where to start with homeschool record keeping, I reasoned that these seasoned parents would have all the answers. But some of their homeschooled kids weren’t planning to apply to four-year colleges, and others had different goals. I discovered that there wasn’t a universal “right way” to proceed.

Step by Step Guide

Our family blazed our own trail toward college admission. I had the essential task of translating “homeschoolese” into “college-admissionese” as I chronicled our children’s home-education journeys. Here are the records I put together for my homeschooled kids during their high school years.

  1. Describe Courses

    I named and described each homeschool course, often using typical course catalog wording. I planned courses, compiled objectives and assignments, and used online examples for guidance. Photos and scans of textbook covers helped recall course topics. Drafting descriptions yearly, not last minute, was crucial and useful for scholarship and summer program applications.

  2. Document Learning Experiences

    While I kept a simple spreadsheet to loosely record hours, I primarily tracked essays, books, websites perused or created, art and music enjoyed or composed, projects, performances viewed, and debates held.

    This creative format was acceptable to colleges, as were traditional courses, since I’d matched the learning experience with corresponding course titles and descriptions that clearly communicated the content.

  3. Prepare the Transcript

    A transcript is a one-page summary of a student’s high school achievements, including courses, credits, grades, and GPA. It doesn’t need school seals or logos; clarity and conciseness are key. While preparing transcripts, consider using the homeschool report card available from Focus on the Family.

    I calculated the GPA by assigning points to each grade (A=4, B=3, etc.), multiplying by the course credits, and dividing the sum by total credits earned. Starting the transcript in ninth grade made it easy to update yearly and use for things like auto insurance discounts and community college prerequisites.

  4. Create a School Profile

    Using the Common Application, homeschooling parents can create a document outlining their teaching methods. I included course descriptions, textbooks, reading lists, assignments, and evaluation methods for clarity. I also added our educational philosophy, teaching style, and outside courses. Though not always required, having this information prepared was beneficial.

Homeschool Record Keeping for Applying to Colleges

Once teens are ready to apply for college, the basic documentation you’ve already assembled will provide what they need. The next leg of the journey encourages your student to take the lead in preparing materials for college admission as well as becoming an advocate for their own learning. They will develop a sense of ownership and responsibility. And, they’ll gain the necessary skills as they embark on the college years.

The Common Application

My homeschooled kids became familiar with the Common Application, or Common App, early on. More than 900 colleges and universities use this online master application. This allows students to streamline the admissions process by submitting just one application. My children were able to create an account, browse college requirements, and get a sneak peek at the overall process. While not all colleges use this tool, asking each of my kids to complete their applications and keep them up to date offered a major head start in their journeys to organize what they would need to write, fill in and gather to apply for college.

Personal Statements

One crucial element of the process involves preparing essays and personal statements. The summer before senior year, my students began in earnest to gather all required prompts, brainstorm ideas and draft early versions of essays, and personalized responses. Then came the whirlwind of numerous edits to crystallize their experiences.

Resume

Each of my children created another strategic document: a student resume. On this one-page document, they highlighted academic achievements, extracurricular activities, leadership roles, awards, honors, employment, volunteer experience and personal interests.

Resumes are not only important when students are applying for jobs, but they can also be helpful for college and scholarship applications. They can also be helpful in providing students with concise descriptions for filling in activities sections on college apps. Some college applications even allow students to upload their resumes. Examining a few resume samples online provided an overview of the format. As with other resources, I was glad this helpful tool was ready to go by their junior year. It came in handy for summer research programs and job opportunities.

Personal Recommendations

My students solicited recommendations from non-relative adults who could speak to their accomplishments and character. Excellent sources included teachers outside the home, employers, and volunteer coordinators. To find the right references, my husband and I guided our children to intentionally take note of other people’s comments regarding their skills and character. This included academy teachers complimenting their innate curiosity and ministry leaders commending their sense of responsibility. Building relationships early on helped each child identify strategic sources for recommendations.

Record keeping is certainly not glamorous. But with your guidance, your high schoolers can produce documents they can proudly display for any admissions department.

Other Important Resources for Homeschool Record Keeping

SAT or ACT

Depending on college test-score policies, students will need to register for a standardized test, such as the SAT or ACT. This test is a critical component of the application process. Your homeschooled kids should be prepared to take it during the second semester of their junior year in high school. Then if a test needs to be retaken to achieve a higher score, the student has time before applications are due.

CollegeBoard

This resource offers a variety of college search and prep resources. It’s the first stop for SAT, PSAT, and Advanced Placement test information.

Advanced Placement (AP)

High school AP work (including exam scores), coupled with transcripts and syllabi from community college courses, can be helpful for clearing university prerequisites or transferring previous community college courses.

Listen Now!

College professor and author Alex Chediak offers advice to parents on guiding their teens and homeschooled kids toward academic and career success.

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