Academic Planning Guide
This guide will walk you through basic steps for establishing planning your school years and building a strong high school transcript. When you have questions, please use the the chat feature on any of our site pages to meet with a staff member. You may also be eligible for an academic planning meeting — see our Contact page for more information and to request a meeting.
If you have competitive colleges and scholarships in view and you want to to stand out from the competitive college app crowd, consider partnering your homeschool with TPS in the Diploma Partnership. TPS welcomes individual course (“à la carte”) enrollment by independent (homeschool) students taking one or more subjects — or even all their courses — with TPS as an accredited course provider. We also offer the Diploma Partnership for independent (homeschool) students who want the added benefits of partnering with TPS as an accredited school. The Diploma Partnership advantages include:
- Advising regularly to review and update your course plan for a standout transcript
- Enrolling courses with priority seating and placement, including adjustments as needed
- Providing credible first-hand recommendations for extracurricular programs, scholarships, and college applications
- Assisting and guiding in preparation of competitive college application packages
- And more, starting before grade 9 and continuing through graduation
Learn more about partnering your homeschool diploma with TPS, or continue on this page for a basic guide to building a strong high school plan and transcript.
Step 1 – Start with English.
We recommend you start by planning your English courses and curricula.
- Writing is required for success in all fields. Even Math and Science majors have to be able to write good essays and arguments to do well in their fields.
- Besides English courses, Humanities and Social Science courses also require good writing skills, so writing and analytical reading will have the the biggest single impact on college success.
- SAT and ACT and other standardized placement tests require writing.
Requirement: College readiness requires writing skills through English 4 (TPS Grade 10+).
Caution: Many high school English programs are light on writing instruction past the grade 9 level. Good writing is a skill that can be systematically taught and improved into college.
Go to the English tab to start planning your English Language Arts courses, then return to the Academic Planning Guide when you’re ready for the next subject.
Step 2 – Build a strong full-scope conceptual Math foundation.
Learning Math is about more than the equations — it’s about developing the thinking skills that come from conceptual math problem-solving.
- Analytical thinking skills are required for success in all fields.
- Besides Math and Science courses, Humanities and Social Science courses also require analytical thinking skills. The “analytical essay” or “position paper” is the basic component of education and business communication.
- SAT and ACT and other standardized placement tests require math through Algebra 2.
Requirement: College readiness requires Math through Algebra 2.
Recommendation: A strong transcript has a math course every year of high school, and includes at least one course beyond Algebra 2.
Caution: Homeschool and online math curricula tend to be reduced in scope and light on conceptual problem-solving. It is worth the extra effort to build a strong foundation with a conceptual curriculum.
Go to the Math tab to start planning your Math courses, then return to this tab when you’re ready.
Step 3 – Two high school lab sciences is a minimum requirement, not a standard.
- In the U.S., Biology and Chemistry are taught first in high school, so it is sometimes wrongly assumed that Biology and Chemistry are the only Science expectations. However, a strong transcript will have a solid science course every year, and reflect study in biological, chemical and physical sciences.
- The “lab science” requirement assumes practical training in lab procedures and methods with formal lab reports, particularly in Chemistry. These can be harder to do well in homeschooling.
- Chemistry requires Algebra. Students without a good Algebra foundation will not do well in a creditable Chemistry course.
- Chemistry also assumes the student has had basic Physical Science first — often taken before high school. Students without basic Physical Science will have a harder time in Chemistry, but can generally overcome this with extra work.
Requirement: Two lab science courses taken in high school with rigorous research methods and laboratory skills, and formal lab reports.
Recommendation: A strong transcript includes a science course every year in high school.
Recommendation: Ideally the student be able to show high school level work in all three sciences: Biological, Chemical, Physical.
Caution: Chemistry requires Algebra. It also requires lab work. Homeschool Chemistry texts are sometimes lighter on the problem-solving, and particularly on the lab work and formal lab reports. Some also may omit some topics that are expected in a college-preparatory Chemistry course.
Go to the Science tab to start planning your Science courses, then return to this tab when you’re ready.
Step 4 – “World” History means the entire world.
For U.S. students, U.S. History and U.S. Government are required by most states as separate courses taken in high school. World History is expected for a strong transcript.
- U.S. History taken at the elementary or middle school level does not count toward a high school U.S. History requirement.
- U.S. History does not satisfy a U.S. Government requirement (even if you talk about Government in your History class).
- Ancient History and Western History courses do not count as World History (though Ancient History may be required by some states).
- AP World History is a great upper HS option for getting World History and AP credit on your transcript. For students who may pursue AP World History, taking HS World History prior may look redundant on the transcript. Consider taking a course in Asia History (TPS offers Eastern Kingdoms – A Survey of Asia’s History) prior to AP World History as this will boost the transcript even more and also prepare you for one of the hardest and largest topics in AP World History.
- History courses that are primarily discussion classes are hard to defend for credit. A strong transcript requires evaluated work (ample papers and tests).
- Human history is a mix of faith-based and secular influences interwoven together. Both should be studied together to consider History as an academic subject.
Requirement: Requirements vary among states and colleges, but taking high school level World History and high school level U.S. History generally meets the varied requirements. Ancient History may be required by some states.
Caution: Homeschool History courses can sometimes be too light in evaluation (papers and tests) to be creditable. “Christian” History courses can sometimes fail to cover the whole picture of History expected for academic study. Where U.S. Government is listed as a separate requirement from U.S. History, it is required to be a separate course.
Go to the History/Gov’t tab to start planning your History and Government courses, then return to this tab when you’re ready.
Step 5 – Classical languages might not count as Global Language study.
Most colleges require Global Language (i.e., spoken languages other than English, sometimes listed as “World Languages” or “Foreign Languages”) study in high school.
- Colleges generally require at least two (often three) years of a Global Language in high school. There are valid ways to credit Global Language study prior to high school or proficiency gained outside the classroom.
- Colleges might not accept Classical languages (e.g., Latin) as meeting this requirement. You must check with each college.
- Colleges generally do not accept tutoring, DVD learning or overseas experiences, unless there is also evaluation and examination (i.e., it is not enough to take a trip or listen to language lessons).
Recommendation: If you are not sure what colleges you are preparing for, the safe path is to take two years of a global language following a standard curriculum of spoken, written and cultural study. Other options may work, but will require more effort to explain on a transcript.
Recommendation: Consider taking Latin in middle school. It improves your English vocabulary and global language skills (especially for Latin-based languages like French and Spanish) prior to high school.
Caution: Failing to have two creditable years of a current global language may limit your college options.
Go to the Global Languages tab to start planning your Global Language courses, then return to this tab when you’re ready.
Step 6 – Strong Academic Electives are not elective.
Since most college applicants meet minimum requirements, it is often the non-required courses that give the colleges the best picture of the applicant as a student.
- The more challenging courses (e.g., honors courses, AP courses, dual college credit courses) a student takes and does well, the stronger his transcript.
- Taking fewer challenging courses just to keep a high GPA still looks like a weak transcript.
- Taking too many challenging courses and doing poorly in them looks like a student who can’t manage his work.
Recommendation: Take as many challenging courses as you can at as high a level as you can while maintaining a respectable GPA. Even if you don’t plan to major in some of the hard courses, they still help your college readiness and your transcript.
Caution: Listing group participation or life experiences as academic courses (e.g., co-op discussion group as a literature class or working on the car as an automotive repair course) does not present well on a transcript. Academic courses are expected to have significant formal evaluation. Similarly, listing courses as “honors” without sufficient comparative basis also does not present well. Colleges assume that an “honors” student will take AP exams and do well on them. Without that objective assessment, “honors” designations on courses do not carry much transcript weight.
Use the rest of the tabs on this page to research other courses to challenge and prepare your student with a good education and a strong transcript. When you’re ready to start searching our hundreds of courses, head to the Course Catalog where you can browse, filter, search, and enroll.