Good record keeping produces a great high school transcript. But the process of keeping records can be a huge pain, especially for busy homeschool families. So is it worth the effort?
Public, private, and parochial schools keep certain records on hand, including test scores and grades, attendance records, report cards, and immunization records. And while some states don’t require homeschool families to maintain records, it’s certainly a good idea to do so—especially because it makes creating a transcript, and applying to colleges, that much easier your student’s senior year.
Moreover, keeping solid records gives you valuable backup in case a college or university wants to see materials to justify what’s on your student’s transcript. You’d be surprised at the level of detail required by some college admissions departments—and at how hard it is to remember specifics going back three or four years. Not to mention that it’s always nice to see a concise record of the progress made throughout high school.
Here are seven quick suggestions that’ll help you keep better high-school records—and better prepare you for the information colleges, military recruiters, or employers may need:
1. Write course descriptions for each class
Think of course descriptions as a helpful snapshot of what your student covered. Include things like course type (e.g., honors, AP, or regular), credits earned, which textbooks you used, and methodology and grade evaluation. You don’t have to get elaborate. It’s OK to keep the descriptions short and concise. Learn more.
2. Keep major grade-bearing projects on file
Some homeschool families keep a detailed record of every test, paper, or quiz their student takes. Others take a less rigorous approach. It’s entirely up to you, but at a minimum it’s wise to file major grade-bearing projects like term papers or exams. Even a comprehensive reading list that shows the depth and breadth of your student’s education can be helpful for admissions officers, recruiters, and employers.
3. Log hours your student spends on various subjects
Keeping track of classroom hours can save you major headaches when it’s time to complete a high school transcript. Why? Because demonstrating the time spent on subjects helps build the case that your student received a solid homeschool education. Most high schools and colleges in the U.S. use the Carnegie Unit approach to credits, where one high school credit hour translates into 120 to 180 hours of classroom work. In logging hours, you can track time manually or opt for the more convenient route of software or an online platform.
4. Keep an attendance record
Closely related to tracking hours, keeping an attendance record shows that you’ve fulfilled all the days in an academic year. It can also be a good reference point to look back on during those particularly tough or discouraging days of high school.
5. Track and record extracurricular activities, special projects, and awards
Extracurricular activities, special projects, and awards are super important on a high school transcript, so keeping a good record of them is a must. And don’t just write down what your student did—get even more detailed by including photos, videos, news stories, clippings, pay stubs (from a part-time summer job or internship, for example), and more. In particular, college admissions officers and military recruiters like to see evidence of leadership and physical skills—anything and everything to show that your student is well-rounded and multidimensional.
6. Begin building a transcript during your student’s freshman year
Don’t wait until the last minute! The key to creating an outstanding transcript is to be organized and keep plugging away at record keeping—starting when your student is a freshman. Then, when senior year rolls around and it’s time to pull it all together, all the hard work has been done and the transcript comes together smoothly. Here, an app like Transcript Maker makes it easy to create a transcript and update it throughout the year.
7. Keep your records for at least three years—or more—just to be safe
While most parents aren’t wild about the thought of hanging on to every bit of their student’s homeschool work, the reality is that you don’t necessarily know which path your son or daughter will take after high school—or when they will take it. Some students are ready to head right into college, join the military, start vocational or trade school, or find a job. Others may decide to wait until their 20s to apply for college or continue on to grad school. Whatever the case, good high school records will likely be required to make the next move—and it’s your job as a parent to keep adequate records for a long enough period of time so that your student isn’t left high and dry.
Try to keep a combination of yearly and permanent records. Yearly records should be kept for a minimum of three years and include schoolwork samples for each subject, tests, daily activity logs, and records of field trips and special projects. Permanent records are just that—kept permanently—and include report cards, standardized test results, financial aid paperwork, and medical documentation and immunization records.
As tedious as it can get, keeping good homeschool records is well worth the effort. Not only do admissions officers, military recruiters, and employers frequently need them, you as a parent can rest well at night knowing that you’ve done your part to lay the foundation for a great transcript—which is the key to your student’s next season of life.