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Quick Advice for College Forms & Transcripts

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By Beverly S. Krueger

It's been a hectic week for me. To the routine mix of chaos caused by homeschooling four independent and unique kids has been added the extra fun of prepping college admission and scholarship forms. If you've never been told by an experienced homeschooler to keep track of all the major and minor accomplishments of your high school aged children, I'm telling you now. Do it! I'm glad I had been working on my record keeping from the start.

Even with all the proper records, it can be a scramble. You'll find pleasant little surprises along the way. For example: to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for Fall of 2003, you need to know how much income you earned in 2002 and how much tax you will pay. We usually wait to file our tax returns until April 15. This year, we had to get them started before we'd even received all our W2's and such. The FAFSA must be filed by February 1st. You can file it with estimated information, but you must update your information once you file your taxes.

My daughter has been filling out forms for every scholarship for which she possibly qualifies. A word of warning! Online scholarship essay forms will tell you that you can use a set number of characters. If you write the essays in a word processor that gives you a word and character count, you'll find that your 900 character essay won't fit in the 900 character essay field online. Word processors do not count the spaces between words as characters. Online forms do count them. This was another surprise we hadn't counted on. She had to crunch an already crunched essay into an even smaller space.

But the best piece of advice I've saved for last. Homeschoolers often do not fit the set of requirements created by a scholarship or university admissions department. You probably won't be the first homeschooler they will have had to assist. Still you may run into absurdities from time to time. I discovered that most bureaucrats are happy to argue with you about a point if you continue to present opposing reasons. I also discovered that some bureaucrats see the absurdity of their position if you require them to defend their policy. Case in point: The university my daughter has chosen to attend requires an accredited transcript mailed from the institution attended. They have a policy set up for homeschoolers like my daughter who do not have an accredited transcript. It allows for evaluation of a transcript prepared by the parent. After filling out the online application, I called and asked if I could fax or drop off the transcript I had made. Oh, no. It had to be mailed to be considered an official transcript. I responded by saying that it wasn't an official transcript any way, but one that I had created on my own. The response, well, yes, but you can't fax it because it wouldn't be considered official unless it was mailed. Now, I could have gone on arguing my point and received the same response, but I turned the tables and just asked "Why not?" (Note: a tone of bafflement is far better than a tone of anger.) Whereupon the nice woman living inside that admissions office bureaucrat realized she was defending an absurd requirement. She didn't know why we couldn't fax, since it was already being handled under special circumstances any way. So, I faxed the transcript. Will you always have that kind of result? Not necessarily, but I learned something from a friend who is a former admissions officer. Most admissions officers are chiefly concerned with making sure all the boxes on their checklists get checked. The more you are able to help them fill in their checklist, the more likely they are to let the absurd things, which don't really matter, slide.

We've had a sample transcript available for download for a couple of years. We've updated it, so that it now is an Adobe Acrobat fillable PDF form. That means you can fill it out in your browser window at your leisure by saving the pdf file to a folder on your hard drive and opening it later from your browser. If you sit down twice a year to add new items to the transcript form, you'll have a complete record of your student's academic and extracurricular activities. This is the format I've used to create the transcript for my own daughter.

Blank High School Transcript - Use your browser to fill out this form.

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