By Patricia Hutchins
For those of us who are homeschooling our children through high school, or those of us who are
looking ahead to those fun and exciting years, here is a friendly reminder to be working on
course descriptions for each high school course!
In contrast to a high school transcript, which is a one-page document briefly listing course titles,
credits, and grades, course descriptions are paragraph-length explanations that include details
about the course. Each course should have its own course description. Here are some of the
particular pieces of information to provide in a course description:
- the title of the course
- the year the course was completed
- a list of texts or materials used
- a few sentences describing what was covered in the course
- an explanation of how the grade was calculated
(Also, a piece of general advice - create a header that includes your student’s full name and place
it at the top of every piece of paperwork that may be submitted to a college, university, academy,
scholarship committee, or workplace.)
To help with the section that describes what was covered in the course, check the table of
contents or the chapter/unit headings of the textbook (or other academic material) that was used.
You can simply list the scope and sequence from the table of contents as your explanation of
what was covered.
Some of our high school courses may not require textbooks or other traditional academic
materials; examples of these classes may include physical education, musical education, and fine
arts. Or some of us may choose to take an out-of-the-box approach to some or all of our high
school courses, without using textbooks. This is perfectly alright! Simply describe in narrative
sentences what was covered in the course and how the subject matter was approached.
Emphasize skills that the student obtained and progress that the student made.
A course description is an opportunity for us as homeschooling parents or facilitators to
communicate about the unique positive aspects of our student’s homeschooling curriculum. We
can convey relevant details about our student’s academic experiences that will strengthen the
college or scholarship application. You know your student best! Think of course descriptions as
a way to translate your student’s strengths and abilities into a language that admissions offices or
scholarship committees will understand.
Not every college or university will require course descriptions, although I will note that both of
my sons, who are currently university students, did need them. It’s a good idea to work on
course descriptions each year of high school as the courses are being completed; it’s far easier to
remember the details as we go, rather than needing to come up with course descriptions all at once at the end of four years of high school work! And if you don’t need to submit them to a
college, university, workplace, or scholarship committee, your course descriptions will serve as a
succinct and practical reminder of all that you and your student accomplished in high school!
Trish is a veteran homeschooling mom from the Belfast area. She is a Homeschoolers of Maine Regional Representative for Waldo, Knox, and Lincoln counties. Trish has homeschooled her sons from kindergarten through high school, and both boys are currently in college.