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Innisfree

Second semester senior year: too light? Plus more...

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I've been finishing dd's transcript with help from folks here and threads from the pinned motherloads, and now as I look at it I have new questions. Dd has just registered for spring semester classes at the community college. She struggled to find three that she wanted to take or would work for various reasons. 

Is three classes going to look too light for her final semester? As if she's slacking off? On the transcript, I've put the classes planned for spring semester in italics, causing them to be very visible, and three just seems like so few.

But maybe I've let her have too few classes before as well.

She has taken a full load of classes on a yearly basis, but last year (11th grade) they were spread out over both semesters and the summer. That didn't worry me too much, because it was her first year doing all dual enrollment, and I figured she was adjusting to college classes. She also has a very time-consuming extracurricular activity, so doing fewer classes per semester worked, as a practical matter. And, at the time, she was looking at a community college after high school, not four year university... But now the classes seem so light to me.😲

This fall she has had four community college classes. She's on track to finish with A's in each, so I hope that will demonstrate she can do fine with that load. In college she'll need to have five at a time, though, so maybe that's what admissions offices will want to see.

She will have completed 27 credits (27 classes) by the time her applications are submitted, and 30 by graduation. A large proportion are honors, AP, or DE. But, only 2 DE classes per semester last year, one over the summer, and a yearlong Derek Owens Precalculus class.

Other quick questions: For total credits on the transcript, I put "27 (12/15/2019)". Is that proper, or would you include the credits for classes she hasn't started yet?

 And when listing extracurricular activities, would you calculate time based on time *at the activity* or including driving time? An extra hour per day, five to six days per week, is significant as a commitment of time, but it probably won't "count" toward the total...?

Edited by Innisfree

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I think it's fine to treat DE as though it were block scheduling for high school, so 4 + 3 is fine (a full load would be 4 + 4). I wasn't sure if the Precalc was last year or this year, if it's this year, you really have nothing to worry about. 

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Well I think it depends on what type of university you are applying to. For an very competitive school that is going to scrutinize the transcript I think it could look light.

However, I am of the belief that the vast majority of schools that the vast majority of students attend just check to make sure requirements are met and look at test scores and don’t make a ton of judgements about rigor or how those requirements were met. 
 

So as long as you have all the required credits I don’t think it is going to matter that they were spread out or that it looks light.

Our local public schools do block scheduling and from how the parents talk it ends up looking the same way. Such as a student taking math/science/English/study hall one semester and then history/foreign language/drivers ed/ PE  next semester. 
That looks light to me but colleges are obviously used to seeing that kind of schedule. 
 

So I was think it is fine if she isn’t applying to super competitive schools. My kids have applied to some somewhat competitive public universities and the admissions officers concede it is just a box checking exercise on the transcripts and they are not making judgements about rigor at that point. They just take what is on the transcript at face value and make sure requirements are met. 

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23 minutes ago, Innisfree said:

Precalculus was last year.

So, if 4+3 is fine, how about 2+2+1 (plus precalc over two semesters)?

Maybe it will look better if you list the classes by subject? Will you have at least 4x4 (math, science, soc sci, English) plus 2 years of foreign language?

Edited by chiguirre
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18 minutes ago, chiguirre said:

Maybe it will look better if you list the classes by subject? Will you have at least 4x4 plus 2 years of foreign language?

They are listed by subject, yes. She has 5 English, 4 math, 5 lab science, 4 social studies,a firm three years of one foreign language, (really almost four years, but a weird sequence), and will have two DE classes of a second foreign language by graduation. She also has I think three electives and two PEs on top of the classes listed above. She has the credits, really. I'm not sure how I could fit more on the transcript. But some semesters seem light all the same.

Maybe we just need to point out that her goals were different in her junior year.

23 minutes ago, teachermom2834 said:

I think it depends on what type of university you are applying to

This really varies, she's applying to a wide range, but she'd love to get into Virginia Tech. Her scores put it in a very reasonable range, though nothing is guaranteed. William and Mary and UVA would be reaches, though based on scores and gpa, not hopeless. I think for them she would have needed more leadership and volunteer experience. There are also safeties.

Edited by Innisfree

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1 hour ago, Innisfree said:

They are listed by subject, yes. She has 5 English, 4 math, 5 lab science, 4 social studies,a firm three years of one foreign language, (really almost four years, but a weird sequence), and will have two DE classes of a second foreign language by graduation. She also has I think three electives and two PEs on top of the classes listed above. She has the credits, really. I'm not sure how I could fit more on the transcript. But some semesters seem light all the same.

 

I'd list by subject instead of by year. This is a very strong transcript! You really don't have to worry.

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1.  Extra curricular activities should NOT go on the transcript unless they were counted as credit towards graduation.  They should be listed in the EC portion of the Common App, or the school's app.

2.  Your transcript should be as east to read as possible, and as similar to schools as possible, while somehow showing clearly that she's a homeschooler.  So, NO Italics.  The class should say IP or in progress or PL for Planned.  For your total credits, you should have them by semester so they can see each semester what has been earned.  

3.  You could change things around and list  by subject instead of year but that's a judgement call.  Some readers may be turned off by the fact that it's different and annoyed that they have to take a second look...others may appreciate that it's something different.  You have to ask yourself, if you were looking at 3000 applications, printed, stapled and sitting in front of you, what would you prefer?  

4.  I think this is a very very strong transcript, and no matter how you organize it, you do not need to worry.  This is a high achieving student by anyone's standards, and she will get a second look at any college.  Also, do put her SAT scores on her transcript if they're good.

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I personally would not have wanted my similar health issues to have been addressed in my counselor letter, and when I was in high school, my counselor knew me very well and knew their were issues, but he was a guidance counselor, concerned with choosing colleges and current classes and talking about financial aid.  He was not a "mental health counselor" per se and there were other people involved at school helping me and other students with those issues.  Two different uses of the word counselor.

I think it would raise a really strong red flag to have the counselor letter be intimately acquainted with that nature of a student's life because typically that doesn't have much to do with their job.  in a great school wtih a very excellent guidance counselor the student will only see them, maybe if they are lucky twice a year, and then an extra meeting or two senior year.  In a small private school they may be more on a first name basis because a counselor might also teach a few classes,...but unlikely in any public school.  

So, I would say to leave it off. 

But if your dd wants to address that in her essays, that would be the place to do it.  (probably not the best place since they'd rather see her thoughts, creativity, goals, and something interesting...again they read literally thousands of essays and they get very tired of the same "overcoming obstacles" essays.  They want to see something unique and different and for her to tell them who she really is.  IMO that obstacle does not define her.) 

(I am not minimizing your dd's struggle at all.  It is very real and she is a strong warrior who will have to continue to overcome, think right thoughts, manage her life and all...I am just saying from the perspective of an Admissions Reader, these are what I've read and heard in my research.)

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I think because of FERPA a public school official can not disclose anything health related.  Or anything violating a student’s privacy.  While I don’t know — I would be shocked to hear this went into a counselor letter from a public school.  

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Aside from all of the above, she is a young adult now and you need to respect her wishes anyway....if you want her to have good boundaries with others (men, friendships, even coworkers and employers) it starts at home.  If she learns to assert her boundaries and they are never respected she will not understand how to assert them, will give up asserting them, etc.  But if you respect her boundaries then she will learn properly how to assert them with others. VERY important for her mental health and future success.  

Boundaries start at home.

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Thanks, everyone. I had read that the counselor letter needed to address "struggles overcome" in the context of school, and was wondering based on that. We have discussed all this a bit, but not much yet. In our public high school there isn't a separate college counselor, so I was rolling the two functions into one as they do here. Sounds like the health part needs to stay out.

Extracurriculars aren't on the transcript, we were just working on the Common App together and trying to figure out how to count the time. I should have been clearer there.

Edited by Innisfree
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20 minutes ago, Calming Tea said:

she is a young adult now and you need to respect her wishes

This is very true, of course, and your point is well taken. I wasn't sure what the boundaries were in schools, but I appreciate folks having clarified that.

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I think overcoming struggle is often going to be a humble-brag type thing where “the student learned the importance of balance after realized she should focus on being president of one club and had to lessen her commitment to her other extracurriculars.”  
 

Maybe you could say she learned the importance of taking care of herself and balancing life with her strong academics.

Thats more my impression than anything.  But I think it’s a lot more “sell yourself” than be honest about real problems.  I think the essay might be fine for that.  Or if you know it’s in the essay, corroborate it in a very vague but “fits with the essay” way.

That is just my impression, though.  I think there are a lot of honest things to say that are also vague and put a positive spin on.  
 

But I don’t actually know.  
 

I think also “overcoming challenges” means it’s a chance to say there was some difficult home situation or financial situation that may have led to lower grades or lessened ECs, but the student was working or caring for siblings or something.  

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5 hours ago, MamaSprout said:

A competitive private school on my dd’s list told us they prefer transcripts by subject.

 

This is a good point- you can make two versions, if you're the one sending them, which are arranged in different ways and just ask the target schools. By her stats I'm assuming she will apply to some schools that are on the tougher side to get into, or hope for scholarships to the more middle of the road schools....so calling a few can't hurt.

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If you're concerned, is there a reason she couldn't self-study a half credit course this spring? Something light and easy?

I can't imagine counting the driving on the number of hours. I would count the time outside the activity itself though... A lot of activities have other associated work at home. I think it's fine to estimate that and round it up.

As for the counselor letter... it doesn't sound like the transcript is going to show a significant gap or anything. With that in mind, I think it's sort of a moot point. The point of addressing challenges isn't to point out the challenges, it's to explain anything that is going to be blatant to the admissions folks anyway - a semester of fewer classes, a string of lower grades, a lower test score, a lack of EC's... They see that stuff and getting ahead it by saying a kid had a health issue or whatever is in the kid's best interest. It seems like she won't have that. So there's nothing to explain. Thus, there's no reason to draw attention to her difficulties in the first place. If I'm missing something, then I agree with Lecka and maybe there's a way to allude to a general overcoming of struggles or finding of balance instead.

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