When my firstborn reached eighth grade, I began thinking about his high school transcript. I admit it: my initial emotion was dread. How could I accurately summarize four full years on one little page? And how complicated would it be to figure out a GPA?

A homeschool friend with older children kindly sat down with me and shared the format she had used. Since then, I’ve tweaked that format in creating transcripts for my other children, but the basic components remain the same. Let’s first define what this transcript is and why it’s necessary. Then we’ll examine the required elements and possible supplements. Finally, we’ll consider a few helps to creating this necessary document.

What Is a High School Transcript?

The high school transcript is a certified, one-page record of a student’s high school academic work. It is an official document weighed heavily by colleges when they consider applicants, which is why homeschooling parents must certify that the information on any transcripts they generate is accurate and complete.

High school transcripts–whether representing public schools, private schools, or homeschools—will provide the same information in a straightforward, recognizable format. Getting creative here could undermine the credibility of your document, so when fashioning your teen’s transcript, stick with a standard format.

Why Transcripts Are Necessary

Even if your child doesn’t plan to attend college you should complete the high school transcript for your own records. This document, completed over four years, can keep you organized as you oversee your teen’s education and show your local school system that you’re doing what you’re supposed to as a homeschooling parent.

Public and private high schools are required to generate and keep this record, and you may need it down the road. Your homeschool graduate may decide to attend college years from now. They’ll need their high school transcript. They may excel at a job and be considered for a promotion. Their academic records (high school transcript) could be requested. In jobs that require security clearance, their full academic record will be scrutinized. Long story short, complete a high school transcript for each one of your homeschooled children.

As is so often the case, updating your child’s transcript as you go along is the best way to do it. Choose your preferred format as each child starts high school. You can add the courses they’re taking that year with the corresponding credits, then complete each line with the grades earned at the end of the year. Once the courses for the next year are selected, simply repeat. Since you’ve already set up the framework, it doesn’t take long to update mid-year or at the end of each year and figure out the GPA for that year, or the cumulative GPA in successive years.

The Nuts and Bolts

The elements of a high school transcript are, thankfully, straightforward. There is some choice in wording and page set-up, but we’ll look at the most common format which is divided by academic year. The following components must be present:

  1. Document Title. Identify this important document at the very top of the page. You can title it “Official High School Transcript,” “Smith Homeschool High School Transcript,” “High School Transcript for John Smith,” etc.
  2. Student Information. Give your student’s name, full mailing address, email address, phone number, and date of birth. Also include the student’s expected high school graduation date.
  3. School Information. Include the name of your homeschool, the name of the homeschooling parent(s), full address, email and phone number.
  4. School Year Headings. This could be “Freshman Year, 2020-2021” or “2020-2021, Grade 9.” (Some high schools organize their transcripts by subject, but again, the most common transcript format is to organize by school year.)
  5. Course Titles. Underneath each school year heading you’ll list the titles of the courses your student took that year. These titles should be brief but sufficiently descriptive: “Geometry,” not “High School Math,”… “Spanish 1” or “Spanish 2,” not “Rosetta Stone Latin American Spanish.” List major academic courses before electives.
  6. Course Grades. This is the final grade your student earned in that course. Choose a grading scale to use, and be consistent. Specify if it is weighted or unweighted. For simplicity, I recommend grades be unweighted, where 4.0 is a grade of A, whether earned in a college-prep class or an AP class. You can use whole letter grades only (A = 90 to 100, B = 80 to 89, etc.), or you can choose a scale that includes pluses and minuses (for example, B- = 80 to 83, B = 84 to 86, B+ = 87 to 89). If possible, avoid Pass/Fail course grades, since these do not contribute to a student’s grade point average.
  7. Credit Earned. For each major, full-year course successfully completed, your student will earn one credit (1.0). For a major half-year course or lighter full-year course, they’ll earn half a credit (0.5).
  8. GPA. Your student’s transcript should show their final GPA for each year of high school as well as their cumulative high school GPA to date. To determine a year’s GPA, convert each letter grade to points (usually A = 4, B = 3, C = 2, D = 1) then multiply the points for each course by the credits earned for that course (usually 1 or .5). The resulting “quality points” will then be added together and that total divided by the number of credits your student earned during that year. The cumulative GPA would simply be an average of the combined annual GPAs. (HSLDA’s website offers an excellent four-part series on high school transcripts, including detailed instructions for determining GPA.)
  9. Certification. This brief statement is the final element on your student’s homeschool high school transcript. With it you affirm the information above is true and accurate according to you, the person responsible for your teen’s high school education. You will sign and date this certification.

Extras and Possible Supplements

As a one-page snapshot of your student’s academic career, a high school transcript may also include a few extra pieces of information. Did your student complete an SAT, ACT, or other standardized test that colleges request? These scores can be squeezed in before the final certification. Were some high school courses actually college courses taken through dual enrollment? You could add a superscript following such courses and insert a brief footnote prior to the certification notating the college or university. This information completes the picture and is appropriate to include if you can do so neatly and concisely.

Because some colleges and universities are more homeschool-friendly than others, I also included some additional pages with each transcript submission. My first supplement noted by year the specific curriculum used for each course, if the course was taken at a co-op or different school, and the instructor and their degree/qualifications (if not me). The next page was a detailed high school reading list. It was important to show that my two aspiring English majors had read a broad range of literature representing multiple countries, time periods, and genres. The final supplement was a one-page listing of extracurricular activities. This included everything from youth group and mission trips to part-time jobs, driver’s education, honors and certifications (CPR, lifeguard, etc.), and local service activities.

Available Helps

If the task still seems daunting, even with the many samples you can view online, there are other options. If your student’s high school courses are taken through an umbrella school, that organization will likely generate the transcript as part of their services. Various online educational companies can generate a professional-looking transcript for your student from the information you provide. HSLDA itself offers a transcript service, for a nominal fee, which allows you to store and professionally format your high schooler’s academic information, and it will calculate your student’s GPA automatically.

As homeschooling parents, one of the final ways we can help our children academically is to ensure that their high school transcript accurately and professionally reflects them to those individuals and institutions that will be looking. Build each transcript using these nuts and bolts. Refer to the many helps and instructions available. Ask God for direction and ask experienced homeschooling parents for advice. You can do it!

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Debbie

Debbie O’Brien homeschooled for 19 years in Massachusetts, teaching literature and writing to students at multiple co-ops. A mother of three and grandmother of two, she now proctors practice SATs and ACTs for a Boston-area tutoring company. When not working, she can be found reading, baking, or kayaking with her husband of 31 years.