This article was originally published in the Sep/Oct 2012 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. Learn more at www.HomeSchoolEnrichment.com

Hey! Where are you going? Come back; you’ll enjoy this article! Read the title again: it says “fearless,” not “fearful,” transcript preparation. Relax, read to the end, and you’ll be on your way to creating a professional-looking document for your teen. You can do it!

Record Keeping

To make your job extra easy, keeping records during high school will be necessary. “Uh oh,” you’re saying, “I’m not good at keeping records; I don’t like record keeping.” Don’t panic. The list of records to keep is really quite short—probably shorter than you think. 

If you track the materials you use for each high school course (name of textbook, list of resources), write up a short scope and sequence (what was taught and in what order), determine how much credit was earned and the grade received, you’re well on the way to collecting all the information you’ll need for the transcript.

In addition, file away the scores from tests your teens take during the high school years. These include standardized achievement tests, PSATs, SATs/ACTs, SAT subject tests, CLEPs, and AP tests. (You won’t need these for the transcript, but for college applications.)

If you want to keep from being frustrated later on in high school, especially when your son or daughter fills out college and job applications, there is some additional information to keep. “I knew it; I knew it! It’s not as easy as it was made to sound,” you say. Trust us; there isn’t much more, and it really will be helpful.

Taking time now to list awards and honors, extracurricular activities, leadership experience, special training and certification, volunteer work or community service, employment, internships, travel, and medical records will refresh your memory when this information is needed later. All you’ll have to do is pull it out of your files or off your computer—easy!

You get to choose the record-keeping system that works for you. It can be as simple as a set of file folders into which to drop information. Or you might have your teen set up files on the computer to input the data. Whatever you choose, streamline the process so it won’t take much of your time. If it’s too cumbersome, you won’t use it.

Transcript Sections

Now you are ready to create your teen’s high school transcript. There are a variety of transcript samples on HSLDA’s website you may use. How easy is that! Choose a style that works best for your teen. 

The top portion of all transcripts begins with a title. If you have a name for your school, use it; otherwise, it can be titled “Official High School Transcript” or “Home School Transcript.” Following the title will be your teen’s personal and school information.

The next section will be the body or academic portion of the transcript. Some formats set this information out by years; others by subject. “Which is better?” you’re asking. Either way is fine—it’s your choice. Whichever you choose, you have the opportunity to list the course work your teen has completed during high school. It’s helpful to title courses in a manner that describes the course content for admissions counselors or employers to understand. For example, don’t necessarily title the course by the book used (“Saxon Advanced Math”). A better title would be “Precalculus,” which more precisely communicates the content of the course.

Evaluation of Credit

Next you’ll want to indicate the credit each course earned. You may be using courses that have all been evaluated for credit by the publisher of the curriculum. That makes your work easier. But some of you may choose to develop your own course or use an integrated curriculum not preevaluated for credit, in which case you may want to log the hours your teen spent completing the assigned work. An acceptable scale to use is 120–180 hours for one year of credit. The upper end is for lab sciences that you’re developing. The midrange of 150 hours is appropriate for English and history courses, and the 120-hour range is for electives.

If your teen takes college courses as dual enrollment during high school, you will want to include this work on the transcript. In most locales, a three-credit, one-semester college course equates to a one-year, one-credit high school course. We suggest you place an asterisk next to these courses, noting at the bottom of the transcript the college name. 

Grades

Final grades will also appear on the high school transcript. Are you saying, “We haven’t been giving grades”? You’ll be relieved to know that many homeschool families do not award grades to their children in the younger years. However, we suggest you consider doing so during high school since letter grades are necessary to calculate a grade point average (GPA). “Oh, well, I won’t worry about a grade point average, so I don’t need to grade,” you’re saying. In most post-high school settings, people are accustomed to seeing grades on a transcript. The grade point average may also be necessary for scholarship applications—possible money. Did that perk up your ears?

Even though grades are subjective, take time to evaluate your teen’s knowledge and understanding of his course work and give a grade. A side benefit may be that the grades will motivate your student to work harder and more carefully since she is reaching toward a goal—a good grade.

Grade Point Average

After filling in the credits and grades for the courses, it’s time to add up the total credits earned for each year and calculate the yearly grade point average. We want to quickly encourage you that if you can add, subtract, multiply, and divide, you can calculate the GPA. There are four basic steps.

First, convert the letter grades to grade points (A = 4, B = 3, C = 2, D = 1). The second step is to multiply the grade point by the number of credits earned, which gives the quality points. For example, A = 4 x 1 = 4 (quality points) for a one-credit course; B = 3 x .5 = 1.5 (quality points) for a half-credit course. Do this for all subjects taken during the year. The final step adds all the quality points and divides them by the total credits (subtracting out any pass/fail credits) earned that year. The result will be the yearly GPA. Easier than you thought!

If you are creating a transcript by year, a cumulative GPA will typically be included along with the yearly GPA. Since your teen likely did not complete the same number of credits each year of high school, you should not add up all the yearly GPAs and divide by four. This gives you the average of averages rather than an overall average. We’re hearing you ask, “So how is a cumulative GPA calculated?”

The ninth grade is easy because the yearly and cumulative GPA are the same. To figure the cumulative GPA at the end of the tenth-grade year, add the quality points from both the ninth and tenth grades, add the credits from both years, and divide the total quality points by the total credits, resulting in the tenth-grade cumulative GPA. The eleventh-grade cumulative GPA is found by adding all the quality points from the ninth, tenth, and eleventh grades; adding all the credits from these three years; and doing the division to end up with the eleventh-grade cumulative GPA. The twelfth grade follows the same steps: adding the quality points from all four years along with the total credits for four years, dividing, and voilá—your teen’s cumulative GPA for high school!

A word of advice: ask someone to check all the calculations to make sure everything is correct. Working with so many numbers can easily result in mistakes.

Grading Scales

You may have noticed that some transcripts include a grading scale or grade table. This is optional. If you taught all the courses to your teen throughout high school, the grading scale or table can be helpful to the person reading the transcript. However, many homeschoolers will take one or more courses from outside instructors. These teachers use their own grading scales which will likely be different from yours. In this case, it’s advisable not to include a grading scale or table on the transcript.

Transcript Summary

Hang in there; you’re just about finished! The last part of the transcript will show the academic summary with the grand totals of credits, cumulative GPA, and date of graduation.

Don’t forget to sign and date your document. Every time a transcript is requested, please present a signed original. We hope it goes without saying, but never send anyone a handwritten document.

If you begin working on your transcript as soon as your teen completes a high school course and add to it each year, by the senior year you’ll only need to polish it up in time to present to colleges, employers, scholarship committees, and others. You’ll be excited to give it out!

Now that you have these tools, we hope you tackle transcript preparation with more confidence. Keep a copy of the transcript handy—you never know when your teen (and future adult) will need to produce it. In our experience, adult children sometimes need a transcript for certain jobs, certification, or enrolling in post-high school training in later years.

Follow the steps above for fearless transcript preparation, and rest easy knowing that your teen’s high school academic record is ready for viewing.  

Becky Cooke and Diane Kummer serve as High School Consultants for the Homeschooling Thru High School Program of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). They are nationally acclaimed speakers and authors on high school topics. As former homeschool moms whose adult children have graduated from college, Becky and Diane can relate to your homeschool joys and challenges. Their desire is to help you homeschool high school with excellence. Most of all, they pray that your homeschooling years are full of delight, knowing that your investment in your teens is seen and rewarded by the Lord. Benefit monthly from their expertise by signing up to receive their free monthly e-mail newsletters, on topics of interest to those teaching high school at home. If you are interested in having them speak to your group, contact them at highschool@hslda.org

Publication date: September 19, 2012