027. Advanced Courses and Testing

Dual Credit, AP, CLEP


Advanced Courses and Testing

Should your student take Advanced Courses and Testing?

Pros & Cons of Dual Credit, CLEP, AP, Honors, DSST and ACE.

Tune in this week while we discuss these topics and more!

Dual Credit, AP, CLEP
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Show Notes

Welcome to Episode 04. in our High School Series

Understanding the nuances of advanced coursework can be confusing to homeschool parents. The truth is that the advanced courses you choose for your child can either save your family money, time, and stress or set up your child for frustration down the road. 

Whether or not your student is college bound, Dual Credit/Dual Enrollment, AP (Advanced Placement), and DSST/ CLEP (Credit by Exam) are three of the routes you may choose to take to maximize your high schooler’s experience.  If they are college bound, these are great ways to legitimize a homeschool transcript and get ahead in college.  If they are not college bound, these are still great ways to save time and energy while completing core coursework to meet your high school graduation requirements.

High School Series

In our previous HIGH SCHOOL SERIES episodes, we’ve talked about making a 4 year plan, choosing core subjects and electives, and how to create high school documentation for your records and for college admissions.  If you haven’t listened, we have all of our high school info organized together on its own tab on our website and it is sure to be helpful.

Dual Credit/Dual Enrollment (3:18)

The very basic definition of “Dual credit” is that your child is awarded both high school and college credit for the same course.  You will sometimes see the terms dual/concurrent enrollment and dual credit used interchangeably. Some people or institutions define dual enrollment as a high school student enrolled in a college-level class, but the coursework does not meet any high school graduation requirement. Only college credit is earned. These same institutions may use the term dual credit to designate a student fulfilling high school credit along with college credit. For homeschool students, the parent is typically the one actually assigning credit so the difference in designation doesn’t really matter.

There are even more words, some state specific, that we encountered while researching this episode.  In our case, we both had students who did dual credit through our local community college, and they called it dual credit, so that’s the term we use.

College Planning Using Dual Enrollment by Kathe Lee is a valuable resource for any homeschooling parent looking to use Dual Enrollment to help their student stand-out, get done, or get money for college:

So nowadays, there are tons of options for dual credit classes:  in person or online through your local community college, through other colleges online, and through various online dual credit programs. We usually suggest starting with your local community college.  Many states have opportunities for dual credit that are low cost, discounted or free.  We happen to live in a county that offers it for free in county and discounted out of county. Either way, it’s a significant discount to regular university classes.

In-person community college classes are a great option for students who thrive or would like to experience a classroom setting. While taking classes on a community college campus, they also have access to resources like counselors, libraries, academic databases, study resources, and labs.  My son’s very first dual credit class was a communications/ news photography course and as an amateur photographer already, he was totally blown away by the equipment “rental” and the photo lab- giant printers, studio backdrops. 

Dual credit students also typically have access to clubs and other extracurricular programs that are also offered to enrolled students.  My kids also really enjoyed the vibe of a community college campus- they liked all the different study nook seating and areas.  They often liked to do work there even when they weren’t attending classes.

There may be restrictions or rules about these types of programs.   You’ll need to ensure your student meets the minimum requirements for dual enrollment in your state. In ours, there is not a minimum age, but you do have to confirm your child is in high school level.  Here, they also have to pass a placement test (the TSI or have a certain ACT/SAT score to waive).  You may also be limited to the classes or the number of hours that your student can take.  Our program has a pretty broad scope, as long as we have those classes listed, and they can take classes outside the dual credit catalog classes, but they usually cost the regular course price.

Transferring credit to a 4-year university can possibly get complicated. So if that is your ultimate goal for pursuing dual credit, you may want to check before your student takes any classes through a dual credit program to ensure they’re earning credits that will count toward their desired major at their future university.  Websites like www.transferology can help with this.  You upload your college and coursework taken and then your desired college and it lets you know what percentage may transfer.  And of course, the desired college admissions department is going to be your go-to source for this info.  Some colleges may take core work but require specific courses for your major to be done at their institution.  

For our family, we strictly used dual credit as a way to satisfy high school requirements for a very good price.  We figured if beyond high school any credits transferred, that would be a bonus.  We were fortunate that all credits did. And that’s important- make sure with any of the things we talk about today that you are assigning high school credit first! You don’t want to end up going nuts on credit coursework, only to find out you forgot some basic high school graduation requirements.

Pros of dual credit:

  • Variety of classes: In person classes are great for students who thrive in the classroom setting, online courses are great for students who may like to do self-paced work at home.  Some have online time, plus in person labs.
  • Access to college resources- some of the things we mentioned above like counselors, libraries, academic databases, study resources, and labs, clubs, and extracurriculars.
  • Great way to knock out gen ed or core classes.  My non-mathy kids loved tackling all their college math at home, while it was still fresh and so that they never had to do it at university.
  • It’s a 2 for one deal! You knock out high school and college work at the same time.
  • It’s a time saver. A one-semester college course (or an exam) is equal to a one-year high school course. It’s a great way to stack several semesters worth of work into a smaller time period.  We also enjoyed short semester classes.  
  • Your student is able to demonstrate college readiness. They are able to build an academic track record, proving that they are capable of college-level work, and it legitimizes your transcript.
  •  Your student can spread college credits out over additional years, lightening their course load later.
  • Students learn valuable skills such as managing time, planning a schedule, prioritizing deadlines, etc.
  •  They learn how to communicate with professors.  I can’t tell you how many freshmen my kids have met at college who simply don’t have this skill.  I encouraged my kids to go to open hours and study classes that were offered and they were often the only ones.  But we had no shortage of reference letters and other opportunities provided because they learned this skill.
  • Continue Interest-led Learning- dual credit is a great way to experience classes that maybe you aren’t comfortable teaching at home.
  • Explore potential careers- they are able to take a variety of classes that may help in deciding a major or career path later, without feeling locked into a major right away.
  • Dual Credit from regionally accredited institutions has the highest level of transferability and acceptance. These credits result in a letter grade on a college transcript. 
  • Gain independence and confidence. If you have always been their only teacher or they have not had many, being in charge of their own classes and coursework can be a great way for them to see that they really did have the skills and abilities you always told them they did.  It always sounds better from someone other than mom!

Cons of dual credit:

  • Potentially difficult to transfer credits. As we mentioned above, some colleges prefer credits to come from their school, or they may have a limit on the number of credits allowed.  Sometimes they don’t know how to apply them and may put them all as electives- this happened to a friend whose child ended up taking all higher-level coursework that was pretty intense and not having the break of an elective.  We tried to combat this by taking only core classes.
  • Cost: $0 – $400 per class, depending on your state (not including books).  If you don’t have access to free programming, dual credit prices range quite a bit.
  • Interaction with classmates- community college is made up of a variety of people of all ages.  Your child may be sitting in a class full of adults.  They may work on group projects with adults.
  • Loss of flexibility- gone are the days of taking nice weather days off.  You will have more of a traditional schedule with dual credit coursework.
  • Readiness- you will want to make sure your student is indeed ready for the course load and content.  
  • Introduction to mature topics- the instructors typically don’t know and don’t care that your student is a child.  So if you subscribe to a particular worldview or wish your child not to be exposed to certain content, you may want to wait on college coursework or choose a school that aligns with your belief system.
  • Permanent record- college grades are permanent and forever impact your GPA.  Sometimes you can retake a class and sub out the grade, but some schools also have limits on how many times you can do this.  If you aren’t fully sure your child is ready, ASU Universal Learner program is a great option. There is a $25 enrollment fee per course and an additional $400 if you pass the course and decide you want the credit on your transcript. 
  • Student is in charge of communication- we had this in both categories but outside of financial and advising situations (in which you have signed a FERPA), your student is the point of contact with the school and the professor.  That means they get the emails and they are the ones who ask questions or let the teacher know they will be late. This can sometimes be hard to watch from the sidelines, especially if the student is struggling.

How to determine readiness for dual-credit classes…

Skills your student will benefit from having before they begin a dual credit course:


Your students should have a general understanding of basic note taking. They may need a notepad or laptop or upgraded system for this.

Time Management

Students need to be able to map out daily tasks in order to accomplish all of their high school and college work.  This is great that you will be able to help guide them.  You should encourage them to find a system that works for them.

Understands Deadlines

A dual enrolled student should understand the consequences and care enough to get the work done on time. They need to know not to wait until the last minute to start long projects and to procure the supplies or materials they need to complete things well before the due date.

Writing and Research

Basic essay writing skills are necessary for many dual credit courses. Knowing how to conduct basic academic research will also be a benefit. We did find that community college composition classes did teach a lot of this information.

Open to Instruction

Students need to be able to take instruction from others and work well with a group.

AP – Advanced Placement Classes and Exams (22:35)

View College Board AP info

When we discussed transcripts and weighing your GPA, we mentioned that many people give a full point extra to both dual credit and AP coursework.  So, what is an AP Course? Advanced Placement classes are college-level courses which expose high school students to the rigor of college work. Traditionally, APs were used to accumulate college credit which lessened the cost and the time spent on lower-level college courses. While this may still be true, some selective institutions are pickier about accepting these for credit. These days, most students are taking AP classes and exams so that they can be competitive with other applicants.  Some traditional school students are taking anywhere from 5–10 APs in high school. AP classes and tests are heavily promoted and offered in public schools.

But homeschooled students may also take the AP courses, and the later AP exams, after completing appropriate academic courses. Most homeschool students probably take AP classes online.

AP Class

The cost of AP classes varies dramatically—you might be able to get free AP classes through your state or other sources, or you might need to pay a tuition of $100 – $250, either per class or per month. These classes are rigorous and time intensive. They may require a minimum of 5-10 hours per week for an entire school year and are meant to prepare students for the AP exam.

AP Exam

An AP exam is usually taken following the completion of an AP course and the test was created as a way for competitive students to get a head start on college courses. The exams are offered by the College Board, the makers of the SAT and CSS Profile.

AP Exams are offered only once a year in May and there are currently 38 exams in a variety of subjects from which you can choose. The cost of the exam is $97

Students don’t technically have to complete an AP course in order to take an AP exam. The students are graded on mastery of the subject on a scale of 1 to 5. AP works by counting the class toward a high school transcript and the results of the exam toward potential college credit. Like Dual credit, AP classes and tests lend legitimacy to your transcript and prove that your child is capable of higher-level work.   A high score on an AP exam may earn credit for specific college courses.

Typically, a score of 3 or higher is considered “passing” and recommendation for college credit. But universities can be especially picky when it comes to awarding credit for AP exams. So, like we talked about with dual credit, it’s important to know whether or not your student will actually earn viable, transferable college credit before taking any AP tests and courses, and you may want to consider that before making any significant time or money commitments.

Pros of AP classes/exams:

  • Good for students who need a lot of test-prep.
  • It can be a chance to study more for a favorite subject.
  • Students can be awarded weighted high school credit for AP classes.
  • Students may earn college credit for AP exam scores.
  • Students can take an AP test without an AP class (but it’s not recommended).
  • Challenges your student academically.
  • Backs up homeschool grades, lends legitimacy to your transcript.
  • Help make your student competitive with other applicants and comparable to other students on a national, standardized level.
  • Prepare for college-level work and taking difficult tests.
  • Increase chances at merit aid. 
  • If offered credit, it eliminates the need of taking lower level classes at college
  • Money saver if credits are offered.
  • Approximately  85% of colleges accept AP Exam for credit

Cons to AP classes/exams:

  • Whether or not a student is awarded credit depends on their desired school and their grade system.
  • Time- AP Classes are time-intensive and rigorous.
  • Cost and availability of classes.  It can be hard to find AP courses and they may be expensive.
  • A single exam score determines your credit potential.
  • Tests can also be hard to find. Parents and students cannot order AP Exams directly. Students who are homeschooled, independent study, attend virtual schools, or schools that don’t administer AP Exams will need to find a school where they can test. The AP Program encourages AP coordinators to help these students. You can look through the AP Course Ledger for schools that offer the test and then you also have to find out if they allow homeschoolers to test and to order tests before November 15th.
  • If AP scores are more than four years old, they have been archived and no longer viewable online. You will need to request scores to be sent to schools via mail or fax.

How to take an AP course:

There used to only be one online provider for APs. Now, there are many more options. 

AP Course Providers:

PA Homeschoolers

John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth  CTY 

The Potters School

 Blue Tent 

Derek Owens

 Lukeion Project


And remember, you can take an approved class without taking the exam. Some students may want to be challenged academically, but not necessarily want the stress of taking the test.  AP coursework allows more independence in their studies and can offer a variety of learning experiences and formats. There are so many options for classes that utilize a variety of resources when teaching their students including lectures, discussions, visual aids, and virtual PowerPoints. 

Likewise, you can self-study for the exam without taking an official class. There are a ton of resources that can support your homeschooler while studying for the test, from books to online programs. Resources like Coursera, EdX, Khan Academy, and practice tests through the College Board are free and accessible to all. You can also look at the guidelines or syllabus for a class online to understand what to study for. There are AP tutors and teachers out there that also offer classes or just free content for studying.

Resources free and accessible to all:



Khan Academy

College Board

Lastly, you as the homeschool parent have the same opportunity to create your own AP course and get it approved by the college board. Check out College Board’s page for the AP Course Audit process. If you are all about re-creating the wheel or if you just really enjoy cultivating your own curricula experience, go crazy!

Honors Courses

This is the advanced course designation that is often referenced by homeschooling parents.  Unfortunately, it’s also the most subjective.  

An Honors level homeschool high school course should be similar in rigor to an AP course. However, the title

“AP” can ONLY be used by courses specifically approved by the College Board.

Honors level courses should be highly rigorous and require a lot of work. This may be worth it for teens who are applying to competitive private or state colleges.

Traditionally, honors courses show it was more advanced work with in-depth thinking. 

some things to know about honors courses:

  • Not equivalent to college-level work.
  • Good option for highly motivated or independent students.
  • No required standards to meet.

It is expected that Honors courses have more hours than traditional courses and would typically receive a half credit additional on a weighted transcript.

CLEP and DSST (31:32)

View College Board CLEP info

CLEP and DSST are both “credit by exam” programs.

The DSST Credit-by-Exam Program (formerly known as DANTES Subject Standardized Tests) is for civilians and military personnel seeking college credit based on knowledge acquired outside of traditional classroom settings, such as from work, military experience and/or personal studies. 

DSST- More Info

DSST exams are multiple-choice, pass/fail tests that mostly cover general education topics.  But they also have more technical or work topics like Human Resources, Cybersecurity, Management Information Service, etc. Over 1500 Colleges and universities recognize DSST program and may offer credit. There are over 30 exams and tests can be taken at a variety of test centers. 

CLEP stands for College-Level Examination Program. It is a group of tests offered by the College Board and the purpose of the exams is to help people earn college credit for topics that they already know. Therefore, students can earn college credit by passing a CLEP test. 

CLEP tests are multiple-choice questions given online at one of 2000 testing centers. CLEP test centers can be located at colleges and universities, independent testing organizations, military bases, and high schools. You can also take CLEP tests online with a digital proctor. The tests take about 90 minutes- 2 hours to complete, and scores are usually available immediately. CLEP offers 34 exams that cover introductory level college course material. With a passing score (over 50) on one CLEP exam, you could earn three or more college credits at 2,900 U.S. colleges and universities.

The main difference between CLEP, DSST and AP Exams is that there is no official preparatory class.  Students learn the material covered in the exam on their own.


CLEP Official Examination Guide:
Get your FREE 16-page guide before taking any CLEP exam (pdf)
Official CLEP Study App (practice questions + study guide)
 REA Guides are specifically aligned to CLEP (comes with online access code):

CLEP exams are offered in four topic areas:  History and Social Sciences, Composition and Literature, Science and Mathematics, World Languages

We won’t read off every course here, but we will include the list in the show notes:

History and Social Sciences

  • American Government
  • History of the US 1 and 2
  • Macroeconomics
  • Microeconomics
  • Western Civilization 1 and 2
Social Sciences
  • Social Sciences and History
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Introduction to Educational Psychology
  • Introductory Psychology
  • Sociology- Introductory

Composition and Literature

  • American Literature
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Literature
  • College Composition
  • English Literature
  • Humanities

Science and Mathematics

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Natural Sciences
  • Calculus
  • College Algebra
  • College Mathematics
  • Precalculus


  • Financial Accounting
  • Information Systems
  • Introductory Business Law
  • Management
  • Marketing

World Languages

  • French Language 1 and 2
  • German Language 1 and 2
  • Spanish Language 1 and 2
  • Spanish with Writing (includes a writing section)

DSST and CLEP are not exclusively for incoming college students. Because they may allow students to earn credit for skills and knowledge they may have learned during military service or internships or individual studies, adult students and military personnel may take these exams, too. 

CLEP is FREE if you get a VOUCHER Since 2018, the non-profit organization Modern States has awarded CLEP vouchers for FREE to everyone who takes the free prep course. To use Modern States in your homeschool, simply have your teen take the Modern States course when they finish their high school course. To get the voucher, your teen needs to pass the quizzes with 70% or higher. We suggest that you wait until your teen’s high school course ends. If done that way, your teen can zip through the prep course in under a week. Get a Voucher

CLEP is offered year-round and cost $89 (or FREE with Voucher)
DSST exams cost $85 (plus registration and any practice materials)

Both affordable and convenient ways to earn credit.

Pros of using credit by exam

  • Available for most general education classes
  • Great for strong test-takers- it’s great for self-motivated students with strong study skills.
  • Pass/fail exams or broad passing range and they can be retaken.
  • Backed by ACE accreditation, transferable to hundreds of colleges and universities.
  • Affordable
  • Most exams can earn 3 college credits per exam.
  • Helps avoid core level classes.
  • You can start at age 13.
  • You can continue CLEP through college.
  • Minimal prep time
  • No grade assigned.

Cons of credit by exam

  • You probably need to use a study guide and they typically run $25+.
  • If you fail CLEP, you have to wait three months to retake it.
  • Not all colleges accept credits- CLEP approx. 76% of colleges accept, DSST approx. 50% of colleges accept.

ACE – American Council on Education

Both of these tests are backed by ACE (American Council on Education) accreditation. ACE is a third party credit evaluator that evaluates all types of learning that happens outside of a college.   So it’s actually not guaranteed credit.  Instead, you earn an ACE recommendation for credit. It’s always up to the university how much of (if any) ACE credit they’ll allow your student to transfer in.

There are also some subscription-based learning platforms that offer ACE credit. Some non-college course providers like, Sophia, Straighterline, and Saylor Academy, advertise these kinds of college credits. Some certifications or licenses are also ACE credits. 

ACE credit traditionally does not transfer well. They advertise that there are 1,500+ colleges that consider ACE credit, but really this credit should only be used when you plan to use one of their partner colleges.


One of the best resources that we recommend for this is the ‘Homeschooling for College Credit” website and book by Jennifer Cook-DeRosa.  We’ve mentioned her book/website several times and that she also has state specific resource pages.

Homeschooling for College Credit by Jennifer Cook DeRosa

She and her incredible staff of moderators and admins are constantly putting additional work in to make sure they provide the best and most current resources for homeschoolers.  Be sure to check out her website in our show notes and look for your state group on Facebook.

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023. High School Documents

homeschool transcripts


High School Documents

How do you keep homeschool records?
How do you write a transcript?
What is a Counselor Letter and School Report?

Tune in this week while we discuss these topics and more!

homeschool transcripts

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Show Notes

Homeschooling high schoolers isn’t necessarily any harder than homeschooling younger grades, in fact, some think it is even easier because you become more of an administrator or facilitator than a teacher. Homeschool record keeping is part of the job of being a homeschool parent but keeping track of those records doesn’t have to be overwhelming. 

As a homeschool parent of a high schooler, in addition to often being the teachers, you wear many additional hats:

Provide documentation
Record keeping, registration and administration.

Help student identify and evaluate colleges
Find sources of information for student (e.g. scholarship search, test options)

Project Manager:
Understand the process
Provide scheduling guidance

Academic Counseling:
Help student with course selection, schedule modifications
Credit acquisition
Help student tailor academics and activities to goals

This is all part of that awesome benefit to homeschooling, where we get to handcraft a custom educational experience for our child.  It does not need to feel overwhelming or hard with a little bit of organization and help.  

We’d like to again thank Mary, Shari, and some of our other homeschool friends who have helped us along the way and specifically to craft some of the documents we are going to be talking about today.

Document and Records Guide

To go along with this episode, this 24-page High School Document and Records Guide will walk you through everything you need for homeschool high school recordkeeping.

Homeschool High School Document & Records Guide

This guide will walk you through step-by-step as you begin to create your own documents and records. It includes Checklists and Easy to Understand Examples for everything! You will be guided through all your responsibilities as your student’s guidance counselor:

  • Creating your homeschool portfolio
  • Writing the transcript
  • Writing the resume
  • Creating your school profile
  • Writing your counselor letter
  • Creating course descriptions
  • Ensuring great letters of recommendation

Save yourself all the confusion and set your student up for success with the confidence this guide will bring you. You will learn how to create and keep track of all your documents and records while homeschooling high school.

The most important thing to consider when we talk about record keeping in homeschooling are your state requirements.  We are in Texas, where we do not have any kind of record keeping requirements and so up until high school, we generally don’t do a whole lot with that. I keep a single envelope per child per year that may have some examples of work or artwork, ticket stubs, programs, mementos from field trips, and a single sheet with what classes they took, places we visited, shows we saw.  It’s really more of a memory thing for us, rather than something representative of our schooling.

I tend to be a little bit more rigid on recordkeeping. I keep an actual portfolio -some states actually require this, but not here in Texas. My student’s portfolio is a three-ring binder detailing academic years with course information and materials, resumes, first day pictures and questionnaires, year and review, extracurricular, clubs, volunteer hours, awards, field trips, etc. I really keep all of our projects, samples of schoolwork completed elsewhere in a bin in the garage that I add to every year. Typically, at the end of the year, I will purge a majority of it and keep my favorites. Look up your state’s homeschooling laws and requirements

How do you keep homeschool records? (7:43)

Staying on top of homeschool organization is a good idea and will make your life as a homeschool parent so much easier and efficient. So, even if you have younger students, I encourage you to start making a habit of recordkeeping-even informally. Just a synopsis of what your child has done through the year on a one- or two-page document is sufficient in those younger years. Making recordkeeping a part of your homeschool routine and keeping up with it regularly will ease the burden when you need documentation for graduation, college admissions, and more.

If your student is college bound, there are 5 things that top colleges are looking for: 

  • Intellectual Curiosity
  •  Initiative
  • Leadership
  • Social Consciousness
  • Commitment

You can showcase these qualities by taking classes with increasing rigor, participating in extra-curricular and community service activities, showing consistency & depth in extracurriculars, and developing leadership skills.  We will have another high school series episode where we focus on extracurriculars and community service in this series. 

Meanwhile, there are 4-5 documents you will want to keep that you will need for college admissions that will help you illustrate these qualities. A transcript, a resume, a school profile, and counselor letter. 

In addition, some colleges are also going to want to see course descriptions.  It’s up to you if you want to prepare these.  Frankly, they are a lot of work and not every school is going to want to see them.  If you have mostly homeschooled at home, or used non-traditional sources, you may be asked for more information to back up your transcript.


A resume is a one-page document that provides an overview of your experience, skills, and other relevant information. A strong high school résumé gives potential employers and colleges a quick, but detailed and accurate snapshot of who you are and why they should be interested in getting to know you better. The primary goal of a resume is to sell your abilities to a hiring manager, making a resume is your first step toward finding a job. Colleges often want to see a resume, as well, and these can be uploaded in the Common App or whatever application program you use.  They are a great place to showcase your child’s accomplishments or special skills that aren’t necessarily educational or class type things. 

Writing a resume is fairly easy, there are many templates out there to help as well as blogs and articles to guide you. The basic items you want to include on your resume are:

  • Name and contact info, phone number, email
  • Summary

1-3 sentences emphasizing the experiences and accomplishments that best define you. If you are looking for a job, you might want something job specific in there, but keep that pretty broad for college applications.  And often, when looking for a job, specific job details will be in your cover letter anyway.

  • Experience 

For high school students, you probably aren’t going to have a long job history or even any at all. But you can emphasize the skills and knowledge you’ve developed in your studies, internships, community service, or part-time work. So it’s fine to include volunteering, babysitting, dog walking, tutoring, odd jobs, summer jobs, temporary jobs, and internships if you don’t have much in the way of real work history yet. 

  • Education

This is where you can put the name of your homeschool if you have one, any dual credit information, etc. You can also add your expected graduation date here. Not all states require you to name your homeschool.  We have a name we picked out when we did have to have one, and it looks good on paper- probably most people guess it’s a swanky private school.

  • Accomplishments

For the jobs or skills you listed in the experience section, you will want to clarify the responsibilities you had, the tasks that you successfully completed, and the outcomes with bullet points. Be specific but brief. We suggest using lots of action words such as: assisted, built, created, designed, drafted, installed, maintained, presented, programmed, repaired, served, and so on.

  • Skills

Here is where you can include any other pertinent information and accomplishments from home, school, or community, test scores, relevant coursework, non-credit courses taken, academic honors, special projects, leadership roles, extracurricular activities, hobbies, clubs, athletics, scouting, community service awards, scholarships, certificates. This is where things like specific computer programming expertise can go- fluent in Word, Excel, typing, etc.  Are you CPR or First Aid certified?  Maybe your student has Lifeguard or Babysitting certifications? Proficiency in a musical instrument.

We later also use this resume for work or as a base for creating a future job resume, so it is a great thing to start early and then revise as you go.  

Course Descriptions

Course descriptions are details about individual courses and may be required or accepted by colleges.  You may want to check the admissions website or with the admissions counselor to see if these are necessary.  

There are 5 parts of a quality course description.  You are going to want to format it in a way that’s clear and easy to read.

1. Header: Your header should include the course name, instructor and/or course provider, semester/year class was taken, # of credits, grade received, and your texts and resources.

2. Description: Next you will want a good course description that will describe the class.  What is the purpose, the content, the experience.

3. Methods of Evaluation: Here, you will explain how the student was graded. Discussion, quizzes, tests, assignments, essays are some commonly used methods of evaluation. Many homeschoolers use a mastery approach, and this is where you can list that, as well.

4. Materials Used: List the main resources used in the class. This can be textbooks, plays, essays, online resources, newspapers, journals, lab materials. Some people include book lists for the year.  

5. Test Scores: If your homeschooler took Subject Tests or AP exams following this class, you can add them here, too.

If you are struggling writing these descriptions, keep in mind that you do not need to recreate the wheel. You copy and paste directly from the course catalog or website for community college or online courses.  Textbooks often have a summary listed on the publisher’s website.  If you used a tutor or other private class, you can ask the instructor if they have a course description or if they can write one for you. Also, if you have designed your own course, you may want to look for similar courses online and just use description as a guide while writing your own, or you may have already had it written out when you crafted the course. 

Lastly, if you have a student that is an artist or designer or maybe an actor or dancer, you will have different requirements.  We do have some friends who have walked this path and plan to have some guests on our show at some point that can talk about their students’ experiences in applying to specialty programs and we can hear about the audition or other admission processes they have been through. In some cases, students may need to build an artist’s portfolio in addition to or instead of traditional application materials.

How do you write a transcript? (19:06)

What is a transcript?  

Your transcript is a document that ensures that base admissions requirements are met, determines the student’s readiness to work at a college level, and showcases course load and rigor. Every school that your child attended in high school will provide a transcript for college admission.  For us, that meant we sent one both from the community college and from our homeschool.  Some students may have another from a public or private school that needs to be sent in.

When Will I Need a Transcript?

  • College admissions
  • Scholarships and contests
  • Internships
  • Certifications
  • Job applications/security clearances
  • Transferring to a public or private school
  • Military enrollment
  • Insurance companies (good student driver discount)

Your transcript should be a single page.  It should obviously be accurate.  You want it to be easy to read and easy to skim. And you want it to be professional and attractive.  I prettied mine up by printing on parchment and I ordered gold stickers with my school’s crest on it.  You don’t have to go all extra like that, but you can!

We see this question a lot- a college wants an official high school transcript and people freak out.  You know what makes it official?  Simply typing the words “Official High School transcript” across the top.  Later, when you send the last one after graduation, you will add the word Final. The top line of the document should make it clear.

So your transcript should have these basics:

At the top- Student Information

• Name

• Contact Information- your student’s, not yours.  We include address, email, and a phone number.

• Birth Date

• Other (sometimes optional) a SSN or xxx-xxx-last 4 digits.  They will be using this number a lot once admitted- now is the time to learn it!

There may be multiple students applying with the same name as your student, so you definitely want to have them identified as well as possible.

Graduation information

• Date of Graduation (actual or anticipated) and a start date (optional).  If you did something creative, like count 8th grade coursework, or have a super senior year, you may want to leave the start date off.  Again, it is up to you.

School information

• Name of School- not all states require this so you may not have one or maybe you are making one up now.  Some people get creative with this, other people use their last name or street name in the title.  

• Contact Information- this is where your parent info goes- I just put my name and email.

Course List

  • You are going to list both full and partial credit courses.
  • You will want to include courses taken elsewhere (dual credit, other schools)
  • Courses taken before 9th grade.
  • Courses that are honors or AP
  • You can designate these as separate from your homeschool courses done at home with an asterisk or other indication.
  • You will want a key and legend on your transcript that clarifies that information.
  • Also, you can put classes on your transcript that your student is currently taking or will take next semester (this is important for seniors applying in the fall for the following school year).  We just put IP (for in progress) on the transcript without a grade.

Credits and GPA 

You want a spot on your transcript to show the number of total credits completed and your GPA.  When it comes to Grade Point Average (GPA) there are several options for this.  You just want to choose something that is simple and easy to understand and that is consistent.  You want to list a cumulative GPA calculated for all completed courses.

And you can choose Weighted, unweighted or both. Grade-weighting is the process of increasing grades from more challenging courses when calculating the student’s GPA. Grade-weighting rewards students who take challenging courses. For example, common weighting is honors = +.5, college level (AP or DE) = +1 point.  Again, just make sure weighting clearly marked.

How to calculate GPA

1. Multiply each grade by the number of credits awarded to get the grade points.

2. Add all the grade points.

3. Divide the total grade points by the total number of credits.

In your key, where you may put clarifying information and a legend, you can indicate where courses were taken, your grading scale and your weighting formula.

Test Scores

You may also want to include test scores. PSAT, SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests, AP, some people do CLT.


Lastly, you want a spot for your signature and report date.

If your students won any awards or notable activities, you may want to include these on the transcript.  Some people are adamant about these being showcased on the resume or other part of the application, I have mine on the back of our transcript. This may include prestigious awards, volunteer work, leadership or specialized training or Internships.

Which leads us into what format of transcript should you use?  

This is very personal, and you have a lot of options here.  There are so many transcript templates out there.  Look around at several.  Some people like to list by year/term.  This is the most familiar to admissions teams.  It is easily organized and showcases increasing rigor from year to year.

Some people like to list by subject.  This can be an easy way to de-emphasize unusual timings (gaps, fewer/extra years) high school classes taken before grade.  We use it because my kids took many shortened semester classes and it looks weird to have several in one year. Super senior years.  This can also showcase passion/focus.

What is a Counselor Letter and School Report? (31:04)

A school report or school profile is a document that provides information about a school within the context of its students and its community. It gives an overview of the academics and opportunities offered. College admissions officers are typically familiar with the schools in their assigned region. They usually already know the quality of academics and the quality of the students who graduate from that school. As a homeschooler, you need to provide that context by providing evidence that your homeschool is also a quality one – rooted in strong academics and unique learning opportunities.

The school report/profile is about your homeschool, not your homeschooler. Up until this, all of the varying documents have highlighted your student.  Obviously, there will be some overlap, but this is the place where you can really highlight your academics and your academic choices and homeschool philosophy. The school report/profile is not a part of the transcript, but can add or provide context.  Not all schools will request or allow a school report, but some will, and this will come in handy especially if you are using a general admissions website, like the Common App.

Here are some items you want to cover in your Homeschool School Profile/report, aside from your school name and contact information.

  • The history of your school. You’ll want a brief overview of when your homeschool was created and maybe why, and maybe how it has benefitted your students. Again, talk in general, not specifics.  Even if your homeschool will only ever have one student, talk as if there could be many.
  • Describe the philosophy of your homeschool. Is it interest-driven, rigorous, student-led, self-designed, classical or other popular methodology, project-based? I used this section to explain a little bit about Charlotte Mason philosophy and mastery approach.  We don’t do a lot of testing, so I explained why here.
  • Describe your curriculum and choices.  Why did you choose dual credit over AP courses? Did you opt to focus on a particular path or interest?  I also use this section to talk about educational partnerships we may have had- local community college, brick and mortar homeschool school, university model program, etc. You may want to include a brief description  and bio of each provider.
  • Describe how grading, weighting, and assessments are done in your homeschool. How do you assign credits?  Determine weight? 
  • Graduation Requirements.  Here you may list your state’s graduation requirements or talk about your specific grad requirements if you are in a state that leaves that to you.

What is the homeschool counselor letter?

The counselor letter is basically a letter of recommendation submitted to colleges on behalf of an applicant and this would typically come from a school’s guidance counselor. Since you are technically the guidance counselor, you’re responsible for writing the recommendation. In a traditional school environment, this letter would usually be evaluating a student compared with other students in that specific school community.  Since homeschoolers obviously cannot be compared in this way, we really cannot do this.  We still want to demonstrate that they took rigorous classes, had impacts on the community, were leaders socially and in their extracurriculars.  

You will have to find a balance here between proud mom and teacher while still presenting in a professional manner.  You do not want to sound like a gushy mom, but you do want to share the great qualities and achievements that you know your homeschooler has.  I personally thought this was the hardest thing we had to do for the process.  Everything else has a template out there or you can ask friends for examples.  But this is such a personal and specific document, you really cannot do that with this.

So in writing your letter, you want to think about your application process as a whole and think about what your application does NOT say.  All in all, your transcript, resume, application (essay questions) and counselor letter should say everything you want them to know about your student. Think about- Is there anything missing academically? If you feel that the transcript doesn’t show the academic rigor of higher level classes, Ap or Dual Credit grades and test scores, provide other evidence of intellectual curiosity and examples of independent projects. If you have other credentials or experience in teaching, explain this in detail. Discuss your child’s development. 

You may want to detail more about your homeschool and philosophy again and perhaps explain how this shaped your student or was shaped by your student.  Talk about what motivates and excites your student, how they show initiative, how they have taken advantage of homeschooling and the schedule and flexibility it has provided them. You’ll also want to talk about extracurriculars and socializing. While the number of homeschoolers continues to grow  and universities are becoming increasingly accommodating,there are still stigmas or negative stereotypes that go along with homeschooling.Take this opportunity to discuss their social strengths within the context of groups, leadership roles, and other activities in the community.

Colleges really want to know WHO their applicants are. What kind of person are they and what will they be at college and in the future.  Universities are specifically looking for students that are going to add to an already rich school culture.  Why would your student be a great fit?  

You can reveal your teen’s positive qualities through anecdotes and examples- don’t go overboard!  You can also quote someone else or even the student to support their character and values. Be sure to back those quotes up with specific examples.The most important thing to remember is that  this letter is about the student.This should not be a list of accomplishments or a resume- you already supplied that context elsewhere.  And  while there may be slight overlap with your school report/profile, this is really just the story of your student.

Things that should be in The Homeschool Counselor Letter: 

  • Greeting to the selection committee with words that you are writing this letter on behalf of “student name.”
  • Examples, stories, or anecdotes about your students’ positive traits or values.  Information about your homeschool journey or philosophies, quotes from your homeschooler or other leaders familiar with your student (this could be someone else who has written a recommendation for them)
  • Make sure to include Common App or Application ID#, Counselor Signature, and  Counselor Title.

This letter can be difficult to write.  It is insanely personal, and it can be a powerful and moving experience writing it.  Prepare to feel all the emotions as you think back on their childhood and homeschool experience.  Definitely allow yourself to congratulate yourself on navigating an unconventional education path and your part in creating this special being.  This really is an incredible honor to get to present and truly recommend your student in this manner.  Celebrate your child and what you have both accomplished together!

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