How to write course descriptions

Many homeschoolers like to include course descriptions in their student’s application, as the classes listed on the transcript often are ones that wouldn’t be found in a traditional school’s coursework.

If your student has followed an eclectic or unschooled approach to homeschooling, as opposed to a boxed curriculum, admissions officers might find course descriptions helpful. Courses like “Combat Robot Design” and “Rock and Roll: Roots and Theory” are ones that won’t be found in your standard high school, so an admissions officer would want to know what those courses covered and how the work was evaluated.

For more information on creating a transcript, see Transcripts.

What to include

  • A key: The key explains any notation, symbols, or abbreviations you use in the transcript (e.g., “CCC” for “City Community College”). Put it somewhere obvious on the transcript. Don’t make the admissions officer search for it.
  • Pertinent information: At the beginning of the list also include any other pertinent information (e.g., that you used strictly secular materials, that no instructor listed means the course was self-study, etc.). Add anything here that would help the admissions officer understand the courses.
  • Independent study or research (optional): You might also include a section for independent study, although many homeschoolers include independent study as coursework.

Course descriptions generally include

  • Your student’s name and the name of your homeschool (e.g., "Smith Homeschool" or "Smith Academy") at the top of the page
  • Your student’s name on every page (e.g., in the footer)
  • Course titles
  • A short description of each class, usually not more than several sentences. The description will include what topics were covered and might include how the course was conducted (e.g., Socratic discussion, self-study, seminar, etc.). 
  • For atypical classes, the method of evaluation (e.g., multiple-choice tests, essays, oral presentations, etc.).
  • Textbook(s), if any, with publication information so that the admissions officer will know the edition and date of the book, including the ISBN
  • Additional resources (e.g., books, publications, videos, workshops, online sources, etc.).
  • Provider (e.g., community college, homeschool co-op, online provider, etc.).
  • Teacher, including their credentials

You may want to include the courses in the same order as on the transcript to make it easier on the admissions officer, by year or by subject.

Where to include the course descriptions

  • Common App: On the Common App, it’s easiest to include the list attached to the back of the transcript. What that means is that you’d have one pdf, which has a one-page transcript followed by the descriptions. That pdf might also include a page for research or other items the admissions officer needs to see IF (and only if) there’s no other place for them to be listed on the application. A transcript done this way will be a multipage document (sometimes a many-paged document).
  • School-specific applications: In other applications, particularly those unique to one school, there may be a separate place for descriptions.