Just days into the new college semester, the school year is already in shambles as the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on higher education. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill just announced a move to exclusively online classes after 130 students tested positive for the virus in the first week since classes began. Other news outlets report a similar drumbeat of stories.

What does all this mean for your high school student in the near term? As we’ve shared before, coronavirus has upended the traditional college application process. Here are a handful of ways:

  • Colleges are increasingly making standardized test scores optional in the application process.
  • Admissions departments are looking for more varied experiences on applications, including examples of volunteer work.
  • Essays are a big part of the equation, too. Colleges are looking for a solid answer to the “why” of a student desiring to attend their school.

The bottom line is that “admissions officers will pour over transcripts looking for academic rigor and any patterns that help bear out a student’s academic profile,” reports NPR. “They’ll be working overtime trying to triangulate each piece of the application they have, to make up for what they don’t.”

“We’re going to have to hit the reset button hard on this one,” explained Jeff Schiffman, director of undergraduate admissions at Tulane University. “It’s going to take a complete retraining of how we review applications and what we’re looking for. We’re kind of figuring it out as we go along.”

What does this mean for you and your homeschool student? Simply that a strong homeschool high school transcript matters now more than ever.

Here are four tips for creating one in 2020:

1. Put academics front and center

Schools won’t be expecting a perfect transcript. But because your student’s transcript could be missing key evaluative ingredients that admissions departments used in the past, casting what you do have in the best possible light is crucial. That means the last few semesters of academic performance for your student are keenly in focus.

Your homeschool student could have an advantage here over those in public or private schools. With many of these schools closing in 2020, students are increasingly either lacking grades for one or two semesters or strictly judged on a pass/fail basis. As a homeschool family, you have the opportunity to still showcase final semester grades on a transcript.

2. Emphasize a great essay and strong recommendation letters

An essay is always an important piece of the college application process. But that’s even more the case in 2020. Admissions departments will be looking more closely at essays since it’s one of the criteria they can still require and evaluate.

The same holds true for recommendation letters. More than likely, all of the colleges on your student’s shortlist expect to see these letters, and academic institutions put a lot of stock in what they say—this year more than ever. It’s a good idea to aim for at least two letters.

Remember, you should also be aware that some schools no longer require or accept letters of recommendation. So, be sure to research this component to know what your top-choice colleges want as part of their application process.

3. Focus your student’s list of extracurricular activities

Since the shutdowns began in March, most extracurricular activities have been put on hold. That doesn’t mean they aren’t important for your homeschool transcript in 2020. What was your student involved with, and passionate about, prior to the pandemic? Alternatively, has your student been involved with creative extracurricular activities since the pandemic began, such as serving the needy or volunteering virtually in some way? Even during a worldwide pandemic, it’s still important to show a well-rounded student.

4. Include seasonal jobs or part-time work

The lockdowns probably bid adieu to any hope of part-time or seasonal work for your student. But if they were able to work some this year, highlighting it on a transcript will give admissions officers a glimpse into your student’s work ethic. Drive and self-discipline, traits that are required to successfully perform on the job and are directly related to academic success, are highly desirable in incoming university freshmen.

Get started on your transcript now

This year more than ever, a great homeschool transcript is essential. We’re here to help you. Making a transcript from scratch can be an intimidating, burdensome task. That’s why having an app like Transcript Maker in your toolbox is so crucial. Transcript Maker does all the heavy lifting for you, so that you and your student can focus on what matters most heading into college or career. Try it free for 14 days.