High School Records, Transcript & Diploma
Record Keeping for High School
It is very important that you keep some sort of organized record of your child's courses and grades during the high school years especially if your child plans on higher education. Even if he or she doesn't plan on college, it would still be helpful for later job applications, apprenticeships, vocational work, ministry etc.
The portfolio system is usually a file box with folders which holds major work samples for each subject completed during high school. Include samples of all important projects--ie artwork, woodworking, photo record of a project, journals, etc. Be aware many institutions are not thrilled to review a large portfolio system as that requires significant time to assess an individual student. Trade schools are more interested in seeing work samples or proof of skills obtained. Many may require a GED.
Notebook System with Course List, Course Descriptions, and Syllabuses
A simpler system than the portfolio is a notebook that holds a written list of all courses completed with credits earned. Additional sections include course descriptions and/or supporting course syllabuses. Important project samples or project photos are often included as well.
The Transcript with Credits
The transcript is the traditional academic record prepared by high schools to show courses completed.
It is a single or two page written list showing all courses taken by the student. Courses are usually listed by term taken. All courses are then shown completed with credits earned, grades assigned, and/or their point equivalent (A=4pts, B=3pts, C=2pts, D=1pt, F=0pts). A total overall grade point average is usually displayed by term and then final overall high school grade point achievment.
Currently the Oregon Department of Education, requires 24 credits as a minimum for graduation for a public school student as follows:
English: 4 credits
Math: 3 credits (at the Algebra 1 level and higher)
Science: 3 credits (scientific inquiry with lab experiences)
Social Science: 3 credits
Health: 1 credit
PE: 1 credit
Second Language/Fine Arts/Technology 3 credits (2 years of Foreign Language are required by most colleges)
Electives: 6 credits
To see how these courses may be planned over the course of high school, please see our "Homeschooling Highschool" page for scoping ideas. Remember these credits are spread over the 4 years of high school, and 4 English credits (etc.) generally means 4 years of English courses. So 1 credit typically means a 1 year course completed, but not always. Some advanced courses may provide more credits. Some 1 credit courses may be completed in less than a year by completing a textbook meant for a 1 year course more quickly.
The advantage of the transcript is its portability. A transcript is easy to mail or send digitally. The disadvantage of the transcript is that it does not show the depth of your homeschool courses which may be challenged as they were not awarded by an accredited institution. (The accreditation supposedly shows a certain assumed course depth.)
This transcript needs to be well-organized with courses computed to show the number of carnegie unit credits, or class hours completed for each course, how many carnegie units/class hours completed collectively, and grades earned for each course with the overall grade point average shown as well.
Some colleges further require all non-traditional students submit a course description for each course taken, especially for the medical field applicants. If that is the case, preparing a notebook with an opening transcript page and then pages of course titles with course descriptions has proven very effective.
If a parent cannot produce a reasonably organized and complete transcript, even homeschool friendly colleges and apprenticeships may balk and require some further validation.
There are several software programs that provide good record keeping and transcripts such as Homeschool Tracker
Exodus Books sells a number of the manual lesson planning systems and home schooling high school books.
Covenant College in Georgia offers homeschoolers an editable and printable transcript template together with a GPA calculator (intended for their applicants, but useful for all). HSLDA also provides aids for the transcript.
For those who prefer not to personally hassle with a transcript preparation or computing credits, there are a number of diploma/transcript services such as our local Basic Skills or a national service like NARHS (North Atlantic Regional High School).
Usually colleges and vocational schools are most concerned about the transcript rather than the physical diploma because the transcript gives them a list of what the student has taken, the credit units earned, and how well he/she did. The physical diploma is just the document proclaiming that all the credit requirements have been met of whatever governing institution is certifying the diploma. As a homeschool parent, you are certifying the diploma under the provisions of Homeschool Law in Oregon.
To fulfill the requirement for an actual physical diploma, local homeschoolers have provided a notarized statement declaring the student has completed a secondary school course of study in compliance with Oregon homeschooling laws which has been effective as the "official" diploma for college entrance and financial aid. (Most Postal Annexes and UPS Stores have a notary public who will notarize documents for a small fee.)
This statement was signed by the student self-certifying he had completed this "legal" course of study; although I should think it could also be done by the parents declaring their child has done so (just as the high school principal does so for graduating public school students).
A few homeschool families simply did a letter without notarization.
A number have signed a decorative diploma without notarization indicating their child has completed the secondary course of study in compliance with Oregon homeschool law.
One family showed the admitting college the printed event program of their support group's graduation night as further "proof" of their child's completion of high school.
Obviously ask the college how formalized the diploma must be to prove your child has completed high school and is eligible for financial aid. (Likely, the college will only care about the transcript.)
Questions About the Validity of the Home Diploma and Transcript.
Most problems that could arise are easily resolved. Almost all can be resolved in one manner or another with a little additional effort.
Most colleges have admission pages for homeschoolers to explain their process of admittance for non-traditional students. Be sure you have paid attention to what they actually want in way of application or records before you apply to avoid unnecessary delays.
Many Oregon homeschoolers have awarded their child a home diploma, prepared a home transcript, and merrily sent them on their way to college admissions or career schools without any problems arising. Many colleges now actively seek home schoolers because of their history of success.
Some families have had to battle with reluctant college administrators who did not view the home diploma and transcript as valid. Four-year colleges are the most likely culprit if there is a reluctance.
Rarely do community colleges balk at admitting homeschooled students--which is an obvious work around to the reluctant four-year institution--go to a community college first, and then transfer to the four-year institution.
If an institution questions the homeschool diploma/transcript, usually they then attempt to require a GED or a number of SAT Subject Tests.
In those cases when the institution would not budge from requiring additional tests, the homeschoolers in question had their child take the GED or SAT Subject Tests and their child passed and went on to successful courses of study at that college.
So why do problems sometimes occur?
Lack of Documentation
Often it is the lack of documentation by the parent. Most colleges would like indication of what your child has done during his high school years, even if the child got a stunning SAT or ACT score. This is usually done through a single page (sometimes two-page) formal transcript. Some colleges are very flexible and allow for portfolios of work or an informal parent letter simply listing the courses taken, but most will balk if you can offer little information about what your child did during high school.
Confusion About Federal Aid and the FAFSA for Homeschoolers
Sometimes the reluctance to admit a homeschooler stems from the college's misunderstanding of a student's eligibility for federal financial aid or eligibility to the FAFSA. The FAFSA website now acknowledges the eligibility of homeschoolers who complete alternative education according to their state's laws, so hopefully this confusion is a thing of the past.
The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) keeps current scholarship and financial eligibility information here.
For more details on the FAFSA application for home schoolers, please go to our Planning for College and Career section.
Work Arounds to Home Diploma or Transcript Problems
1. Have a completed homeschool transcript and a notebook of course descriptions readied. Politely remind the college or apprenticeship of the law regarding federal aid eligiblity of homeschooled students and the validity of the homeschool diploma.
2. Use an accredited correspondence, distance, or umbrella school (see our Co-Ops and Academies page for local and distance options). Colleges will then perceive the student as a private school student, so the question of the home diploma/transcript fades away. However, make sure the distance school's diploma is indeed accredited in your state, or at least the state of the college's, before you pay dollars for it. The federal government does not recognize non-traditional transcript services or umbrellas as accredited schools. Oregon sees umbrella school students as still being home schooled. Another thing to consider is that the umbrella or extension school will want their credit requirements met which may mean reduced parental choice for courses or curriculum (each umbrella works differently).
3. Comply with the reluctant four-year college's requirement for a GED or additional SAT Subject Tests. While annoying, and likely legally questionable, most homeschoolers pass them easily, and it ends the argument. Some fear the drop-out stigma of the GED, but once college degrees are awarded, few employers look beyond the college degree.
4. Send your homeschool graduate to a community college before applying to a four-year college. Once significant community college credits are successively received (usually around 30 credits), four year institutions no longer look at the home diploma.
If your high schooler is indeed mature enough (and not all are ready for college classes at high school age), you may consider the Open Enrollment option at Portland Community College for students age 16 and older. Some local districts allow dual enrollment for high school and college credits.
Always check with your final institution of choice to see how many college credits may be earned before freshman scholarships are at risk. Usually the gain in savings from credits earned at community prices exceeds scholarship gains, unless your student desires to go to a prestigious institution which awards large blocks of scholarships to incoming freshmen. Also, some degrees are best served at the 4-year institution due to entrance requirements to their upper programs.
5. Find a homeschool friendly college. Many colleges are now actively recruiting homeschoolers due to their reputation for being successful students and campus leaders. The Best Colleges for Homeschoolers gives an overview of colleges nationally. and Learn in Freedom has a great article about colleges that admit homeschoolers together with lots of links for information on the homeschool to college process.
6. Gracious persistence. Don't be afraid to take a stand for your schooling method and course choices, and go prepared to show the excellence of your homeschool should you encounter resistance. (Prepare your child to do so as well.)
the CHOC Board
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(Permission is given to print for personal use or link to this article as long as credit is given to Tammy R. Arp at the CHOC Board and our website address is shown.)