Let me first say that you are responsible for your child’s education. You need to make sure you are following your state’s laws concerning graduating high school. You need to seek out the expectations of any college your child might attend for what they will accept on a transcript and if they require a state-issued diploma or other credential. You can use this program and get a state diploma (my daughter did), but you have to learn how to do that in your state. I will give general guidelines, but every state, school district, and college is different.
Note: Most states do NOT have laws concerning graduating homeschool students from high school. There are a couple states that allow you to pursue a track that results in a state-issued diploma, but most states do not issue diplomas for homeschool graduates. In most states, the homeschool parent issues the diploma when their child meets the requirements that the parent has decided on. Accountability groups (umbrella schools, cover schools) often provide diploma, transcript, and graduation services, but that also is unique to states that allow for that kind of third-party regulation of homechoolers.
Below you can find a blank transcript that I made to use with my own children. There are also links below about CLEP tests, which will give you college credits that some schools will accept. I put a link to the related CLEP test on the individual courses. I DO NOT teach to the test. Students will still need to get test prep materials and study, but the courses will give them a good foundation. Not every college will accept these tests for credit, but at the very least they give weight to your child’s grades. Here’s more that I’ve written on places where you can get low-cost college credit online while still in high school.
When planning out your high school, you need to learn your state’s requirements for high school. They might differ from what’s required for lower grades.
You also need to decide your goals. One thought is to aim high. Aim for college. Aim for a full course load. Your children may change their minds about what they want to do. You want them to be prepared for anything. Plus, if they have no further education, you likely want them to have learned as much as possible. That said, there is a lot of room for taking different paths in high school.
Your child may want to cook and sew for a home economics credit. Your child may be able to find someone to work alongside of in the community as an intern or apprentice and earn credit that way. Your child could take dual enrollment courses at your local community college. There are a lot of possibilities. My daughter didn’t need to take the SATs for her college. For math she was years behind, but we decided it was more important for her to understand than to just move forward while totally not getting it. For science we allowed her to do subjects that supported her art. She did anatomy and spent the year drawing bones and muscles and labeling them. She did light one year for science which was an emphasis she had in her art that year. She read about light and looked at light and wrote a research paper. She will be getting her BFA at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts on a full scholarship. (She used only EP for English and history, as well as some other extras.)
You should also look into the admissions requirements for any college you are interested in. They are all different. They are also different as to what they accept in terms of CLEP test, AP, etc. If you have no idea what school or schools you are aiming for, plan to make sure your child receives a state-recognized diploma (different from state-issued). Most schools will probably want something official to prove your child has graduated high school. Not all require that though, so if you know what you’re aiming for, start asking questions.
A special note on the NCAA: They don’t pre-approve curriculum, so I can’t say that your EP courses will definitely be accepted. I have talked with them and written them, so they should have on file that we are a curriculum. Someone had run into trouble before because they labeled us a virtual program. They do have a hard time understanding what EP is. You are in charge of grading your child’s EP courses. The online graded quizzes are really like an answer key in the back of the book. You are the one writing the grade down and giving your child each grade. It’s important that you describe your use of EP as if it were similar to a textbook. There’s something to read and questions to answer and answers provided, but you are the teacher (even if your child works independently) and you are in charge of grading and transcripts, etc. If you say you aren’t the teacher, you can’t get the credit awarded. You ARE the teacher. There is no other teacher interacting with your child. They will ask for books used; you can list the site. Don’t list something like Georgia Virtual. That will just confuse them. I would say something like more than 350 links were used, rather than trying to list anything specific.
How Does My Child Get a Diploma? While you can just issue your own diploma, in some states you can get a state-issued diploma if your child meets their graduation requirements. You need to know if that exists in your state and what the requirements are. Some colleges and employers accept a “homemade” homeschool high school diploma but many do not and ask you to provide a verified transcript/diploma or take the GED to prove you’ve earned the equivalency. The HSLDA has helped some homeschoolers get past such an unfair requirement. There are also homeschool associations that can issue official diplomas if your state doesn’t issue diplomas to homeschoolers. Those would be unique to each state though, so I can’t give you information on those. You will have to meet their standards for what’s needed.
The hardest place to get your credits accepted is your local high school. Don’t consider homeschooling high school three years and then going to high school the senior year to get a diploma. That is not a good idea. They don’t have to accept your homeschool credits. Look into accredited homeschool programs in your state that issue diplomas if that’s your biggest concern. They will likely already be familiar with EP. We’ve had kids even take finals (and pass with flying colors) to prove they had learned the course material and get their EP homeschool credits accepted at their local high school, but it’s not an easy route. Don’t choose it on purpose!
A lot of my high school information comes from The Home Scholar by Lee Binz. This links to a list of her articles. Use the freebies tab to find more. Two of those freebies are directly below.
Webinar on Transcripts (warning: the last half of this is an advertisement – stop the video)
Webinar on Records (warning: the last half of this is an advertisement – stop the video)
Blank Transcript (Word document) Work on filling in your transcript every year in high school. Don’t wait until they are juniors or seniors. Every year write in their courses and grades.
Sample Transcript (alternative) Course Record Sample (samples from Lee Binz of thehomescholar.com) You should also have your course records done every year. Don’t wait! Hopefully we can pool together and make records for all of the courses on this site.
CLEP/DSST study links, practice tests
CLEP study plan
One of the main online colleges where you can get your degree from home using CLEP testing is Thomas Edison State College. I think things are moving more and more in that direction though, so maybe more colleges will be offering those types of choices.
Andrea Shapland wrote me with this walk through of how to go about PSAT, SAT, and ACT testing and the college application process:
“It may be a good idea to make contact with the local high school where you want to take your PSAT in the Spring *BEFORE* you want to take it. This could save time/headache/heartache in the fall. Some high schools are more open to allowing homeschoolers in than others. At the very latest, you should get in touch with them in the first couple weeks of school starting. You may have to pay an admin fee in addition to the basic test fee. See here for more information on registering for the PSAT. The school has to order materials, so the earlier you register with them, the more likely you are going to be able to take the test there.
For typical four-year high school students, the PSAT is taken junior year, in the fall, possibly always in October?…. See here for more information. (For less-than-four-year students, reference the schedule here When to take the PSAT/NMSQT ). It is highly recommended students take the PSAT as a practice in Sophomore year, because they only get one opportunity to get into the National Merit Scholarship program, and that opportunity is when they take the test in their second-to-last (usually Junior) year (if they take it in their final (Senior) year, they are not eligible for National Merit scholarships until the year AFTER they start college). Their PSAT score should be an indicator of the score they’ll likely achieve on their SAT in their Senior Year. It is quite common for PSAT scores to increase the second time, so if they can take that practice test in their sophomore year, it really can make a huge difference!
Here is the link to the entry requirements for the National Merit scholarships.
It is vital that homeschooled students don’t “get fancy” when filling in the bubbles of their personal information when they take the test. Some who started high school level courses in 8th grade or earlier feel like they are doing five years+ of high school, so they might put down that they are in their 4th year of high school, which could feasibly disqualify them from, or cause a delay in, earning a potentially huge scholarship straight out of school. I have one at Auburn University right now on a full ride scholarship who did that very strange thing with her personal information, but she was in a public school the last three years of high school, so there was a guidance counselor who caught the error in time and had it fixed … phew!!!
I loved that guidance counselor – she was truly amazing – I credit her with all that I know now about getting the rest of my kids ready to apply to colleges.
You’ll want to be 100% sure that your student at minimum takes the PSAT in their “Junior” year, and the SAT in their “Senior” year.
The ACT is sometimes considered optional, but not really so much anymore – if they CAN take it – they should. The ACT score can feasibly be increased by taking it multiple times as many of the questions are more “common sense” issues than “absolute knowledge” – the more comfortable you are with that particular test style, the better you will do…within a certain parameter, of course. If your student takes it three times and doesn’t go up at least one point overall, it’s probably not worth it to take it again. My daughter is an over-achiever and took it five times. Her score increased each time except once, so I let her keep going. She ended up with a 36 – so she stopped. 😉
The SAT can also be taken multiple times, but ALL the scores will be revealed to colleges, not just the highest score, so there is some debate about how many times it makes sense to do it. In our family, we are currently feeling like the SAT should be taken twice without question and only a third time if the student REALLY feels like they could do better.
Another reason for taking the PSAT in the 10th grade is that you then get free access to “My College Quickstart” at collegeboard.com. This has great tools such as self assessments to help them choose likely career paths, as well as even more assistance in narrowing down the types of colleges to which they might wish to apply.
9th grade – general test prep
10th grade – heavy PSAT prep, possibly introducing a couple AP courses if they are up to it
11th grade – heavy ACT AND SAT prep, at least one AP course, if not more
12th grade – as many AP courses as they can handle – if they can make at least a 3 on the final exam, just the fact that they had a heavy load is good, even if they can’t use their score to skip classes in college….it may make the difference in getting into their college of choice, however there is a balance to be had, as well – between a heavy work load and extra-curricular social involvement.
If your student can have something of note on their application such as “established a new food distribution center for underprivileged families” or anything that will help set them apart from all the other high-achievers, sometimes being active and volunteering can be just as (or more) meaningful as a heavy school load. It’s important to find a balance that works for each student. Basically, if they have to stress themselves out to look good to their college of choice, it is possible they will be stressed out attending said college – does that make sense?
Students should have three levels to which they end up applying, with hopefully two at each level. Level one: easy – not likely they’d get turned down; Level two: medium – can probably get in, but they’ll have to shine; Level three: “reach” schools – these are the universities that they may not get into, but they would love it if they could, so they should try and see what happens. Also to consider in the application process is this: What do I do if I get into a school and I cannot afford to attend? A whole section on test prep could be on scholarships and other types of financial aid such gov’t, school funded, etc: where to find those available funds, how to apply, when to apply, etc.
Quite often it is much more economical to attend a small, state or local college the first two years to get the “core” classes knocked out cheaply. (Just check to make sure those classes are accepted at the colleges your student wants to attend for years 3 and 4) Then, apply to the larger (more expensive) institutions to get degree-specific classes.
On yet another note, they should always check “YES, please have colleges send me their propaganda” when they take the PSAT and it is important to READ and keep ALL of the seeming garbage that colleges send. Find a way to organize it that makes sense for you and your student. You never know when you might need something….seriously. We accidentally threw out an early-start form and never sent it in – turns out she didn’t want to do it, but by the time we found out about it, it was too late so if she HAD wanted to do that, she would have been out of luck.
Start a calendar by looking at typical college application cutoff dates (tend to be mid-fall and early winter) for the projected senior year, and then work backwards to see when scores are received for various tests to know when to schedule the testing dates…allow room for one more try on SAT and ACT just in case. By the end of Summer before Senior year begins, students should have their college choices down to a handful and applications should be started as soon as they are released/opened by the colleges. They are neither easy nor fast, usually, but some are, and your student should send their application in to as many as possible once they have taken care of their preferences. *case in point: my daughter did not get accepted to MIT or Yale as she had hoped (Thank goodne$$ – LOL), but she had, on a whim, filled out an easy application to Auburn University. She was accepted on a full ride scholarship, and that is where she is today…they had THE BEST offer out of all the colleges to where she was accepted, but she hadn’t intended to even apply there originally.
It takes a lot of dedication on the part of Mom in the absence of a guidance counselor, but as adults, we can wrap our heads around this stuff better. It’s still a lot to learn, though – this is not quite the same ‘ballgame’ we played when we were in high-school.”