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The difference between accredited and official transcripts

August 26, 2013

Have you ever wondered about the difference between an “accredited” and an “official” homeschool transcript?


Sally discovered that her son could play on a private school baseball team – IF he entered that school’s Independent Study program.  The school says he needed an accredited transcript from his 9th grade year to prove that he was in the 10th grade this year.  She was under the impression that his work was accredited basically by her.  The school disagreed and said that could review his transcript from last year for $50 per credit hour.

Sally asked: What does accreditation mean?  How does a homeschool student get “accredited” transcripts without paying $300-400?

There is a difference between an “accredited” and an “official” homeschool transcripts.  Homeschool credits are official, and our transcripts are official.  Homeschool transcripts are usually NOT accredited, however.  Accredited transcripts are provided by certified programs, which independent homeschoolers aren’t. (Please note:  a certified program is not necessarily better than your homeschool program.)  So the school is correct,  our homeschool credits are simply not accredited.  Our homeschool credits ARE official – just not accredited.

There are other programs that can accredit your transcript.  North Atlantic Regional High School (NARHS), Family Academy, Clonlara…. and others I’m sure.  They are usually about $50-$100 per credit.  It adds up quickly, and it can be VERY expensive in the long run.  At one point I calculated that a whole 4-year high school would be $2000-$5000 just for a piece of paper that says “accredited.”  It wasn’t worth it to me and apparently didn’t matter too much to the colleges.  They gave us two four-year full tuition scholarships based on my “mommy-made” official transcripts.  The accreditation agencies make a lot of money this way, though.

Accreditation programs generally come with some strings attached.  You have to enroll with them, and use their curriculum and programs.  Try to find a baseball experience that allows you to homeschool independently, without giving away your flexibility to homeschool your child the way that fits.

Strangely enough, you may have better luck with a baseball team associated with the public school.  You can ask them about playing on their team, and see if they will allow you to access that under part-time enrollment, without going to school there at all.  I know other homeschoolers have done that, but I don’t know much about the process.  You can also search for other baseball experiences in your area.  Try contacting Run To Win, located in Seattle, and see if they have some suggestions.


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  1. J W says:

    I knew a high school gal who had a blast in city league basketball, so check with parks & rec.

    Hmmm… What do these agencies have to have in order to rubber-stamp someone’s transcript? I could use a little pocket money (snicker, snicker). Meek, mild-mannered homeschool mom by day, but by night… ACCREDITATION LADY (insert superhero theme music here).

    October 22nd, 2008 at 7:58 am

  2. Lisa Headley says:

    I’d love to say we could utilize the public school sports that way in VA, but the school system is totally off-limits sports-wise to homeschoolers. They voted specifically to exclude us – how is that not discriminatory? Oh, well. They must not have heard about Heisman Trophy-winner Tim Teebow!

    May 4th, 2009 at 1:38 pm

  3. Dora Villanueva says:

    Our son wanted to play football and baseball his freshman year. Our local public school was more than willing to have him play. He was joined by other homeschoolers and some kids from the local Christian school that didn’t have teams either. They were able to initiate a prayer/devotional time before every game. I believe it has given my son a burden to pray for the kids in the public schools who don’t have the privilege of being homeschooled and don’t know the Lord.

    May 22nd, 2009 at 8:11 am

  4. Dora Villanueva says:

    Wow, I just realized I addressed sports rather than the transcript stuff. Oooops!

    May 22nd, 2009 at 8:14 am

  5. Lee says:

    Hi Dora,
    I really appreciated your comments about sports, though. When we lived in a different county, we participated in a Christian sports league and it was wonderful! Like you say, we prayed before practices and games, and the teams had a weekly devotional on sportsmanship. When we moved, and were exposed to some of the behavior with other sports teams, it was pretty shocking. I think it’s great to try to find positive role models in sports, when you can.

    May 22nd, 2009 at 9:35 am

  6. Lisa Lewis says:

    Public and private schools are not necessarily accredited as well. Accreditation is a process by which a school has to meet certain standards all of which are set by private membership associations which set the criteria. Accreditation is not done by any government entity. Accreditation is just a fancy way to say “we’re special” and in the case mentioned above was a way for the school to either filter students or earn money for itself by asking the student to enroll in the independent study program. Homeschoolers really don’t need to worry about acceditation as most colleges and universities do not require transcripts from accredited institutions.

    May 31st, 2009 at 9:48 pm

  7. Rebecca Hardin says:

    Ok, since “most” colleges and universities do not require accredited transcripts, why are they even out there? I guess I was really leaning toward enrolling my highschooler in a program in order to have that rubber stamp, seal of approval, until I discovered that it is the SAT scores, which should reflect the grades given, that really mattered. So why would anyone pay that kind of money for something so unnecessary?

    June 5th, 2009 at 2:45 pm

  8. Lee says:

    Hi Rebecca,
    I think that people pay when they feel insecure. I know I looked into accreditation when I felt insecure. I’m sure it makes sense for some people… can’t think of why, but there are a lot of different kinds of families after all. But for us, looking at all the research I did, it didn’t make sense to me at all. Why don’t you look at the colleges you “might” have your child apply to? By doing your own research on college admission, you can really be certain! It’s a very liberating feeling!

    June 5th, 2009 at 3:46 pm

  9. Holly Craw says:

    Thanks, Lee for another insightful post.

    I looked into accreditation a few years ago just to see what all the ruckus was about. I was pleased to see that my instincts were correct–colleges for the most part are looking at the unique person who is applying, and whether he or she had the qualities the school was seeking. Many of the comments from admissions officers that I read even indicated they didn’t really care about the accreditation that public or private school students had.

    It is very liberating to know that the most important parts of a college admission are the things that our kids generally show just in the fact of being homeschooled–leadership ability, thinking outside the box, social skills with all kinds of people, as well as unique talents and experiences that have been nurtured within the freedom we have to not follow a standard curriculum.

    July 2nd, 2009 at 11:54 am

  10. Karen Kangas says:

    We chose an accredited school to keep track of the credits that my high school children completed at home. At the time that our oldest started high school, we weren’t sure which college or university he planned to attend. I did not want him to work hard and then have doors shut for him because his credits were not accredited. He chose to go to the public school in 10th grade. The public school easily accepted the credits from the school we had chosen (one on your list). If we hadn’t had that it would have been a lot of work to get them to agree with us. So for us it was really worth it. I’ve had 4 children graduate from my home school and have not regretted paying for the accreditation service. My oldest graduated from the public school. I have a cousin who made his own high school transcripts for his children and was continually going to the community college to explain how the child got the credit and what was covered. A lot of hassle.

    August 11th, 2009 at 12:53 pm

  11. Lee says:

    Hi Karen,
    Every family has a unique situation, and only a parent will know the best decision. However, in my experience, I have noticed that it is the high schools that care about accreditation – not the colleges. Here is a blog post I wrote explaining the difference in viewpoint:

    If you plan to blend back in to a public school, then accreditation may help. If you plan to homeschool through high school and go into college, then accreditation probably won’t make any difference (unless you have a very persnickety college, which is very rare.)

    I hope that helps with the decision making!


    August 14th, 2009 at 10:55 am

  12. Laura George says:

    Dear Lee,
    This is my first visit to your site and I was impressed by your article on “official” and “accredited” transcripts. Interestingly, my organization, Compass Prep, was just “awarded” the status of being “FULLY ACCREDITED” by the Georgia Accrediting Commission, an independent accrediting agency that’s been around for over 100 years and accredits public, private and now, non-traditional programs.

    My husband and I have personally home educated our own eleven children for 25 years. We have graduated 7 children so far, none with accredited diplomas, yet all who desired to go on to college were readily accepted into the collegs they chose.

    So why would I pursue accreditation for my non-profit educational program? Because it is simply a key on our keychain to open cerain locks that we might otherwise have to “pick”.

    I have students in our program straight from public school who want to join the military. The particular recruitment office we are working with does not understand home education AT ALL and being able to say that we are “accredited” speaks a language that I would have had to use sign language, flash cards and playdoh to explain what we do and how we do it. Much more labor intensive than it needs to be for the parents or organization supporting the student. For anyone who wants to know, accreditation means absolutely NOTHING as far as the quality of a program is concerned. And I’m the first to tell inquirers that fact. Part of the reason I chose to add that key to our keychain was that I didn’t have to change one tiny part of our very unique, Biblical worldview-focused program in order to receive the GAC seal of approval. So, let the buyer beware, and not be fooled. No one really NEEDS accreditation to get into college. But it can sure grease some rusty wheels and translate a homeschooler’s work into something intelligible for those who choose to believe that somehow their work isn’t good enough. We, as veteran home educators know better, but for those in the uneducated mainstream, that little gold seal goes a long way.

    September 13th, 2009 at 3:41 pm

  13. Beth says:

    In WA, you have ever bit of access to sports programs, as well as any other program in every school, as a homeschool student. You do not need to be any-time enrolled. This is known as anscillary services. You just go to your school, and there is a process for out-of-district access although it may be closed if enrollment is high, and tell them what sport or what class you would like to enroll your student in. There is no record keeping or anything. You just go to the class. I believe there will be a transcript for your student, but ask to be sure how they are keeping record of your child. Of course, the sport activity, there would be no transcript. Most schools are pretty agreeable and we are finding the stigma amongst students about being a homeschool student is fading away and usually is not a problem.

    October 16th, 2009 at 6:48 am

  14. Julie says:

    Both of my kids took advantage of music programs through the public schools – after all, my taxes pay for them too and band is a lot more fun with a group than playing alone! They were even able to take more music classes than the regularly enrolled students as they didn’t have the same time conflicts.
    My daughter also participated in sports – softball and track – at the public school – junior and senior high – and they were happy to have her on the team. The school was one in the district we lived in and would have attended if not for choosing to homeschool instead. Sometimes the school secretaries were unhelpful but there has always been a staff member who would help with the sign-up process.

    As for the official vs accredited, most colleges will accept official if there is a clear transcript and the SAT or ACT test scores back up the grades. A transcript is also needed for scholarship applications. Sometimes military organizations or schools are sticklers though and want accredited high school transcripts – won’t even accept GED.

    These have been my experiences at least. Be polite but be bold and ask!

    December 2nd, 2009 at 1:31 pm

  15. Lee says:

    Hi Julie,
    recently the military academies have been much more homeschool friendly. Since things change, always make sure to check!

    December 2nd, 2009 at 1:37 pm

  16. M.P says:

    I want an accredited transcripts because we are military, and the schools policies change between states. We don’t know what the future holds for us, or what the public schools will/will not offer or accept. I want the safety net of accredited transcripts.

    I have a question for those who transfer into public school. If you used an accredited transcript, did the public school also accept the grades, or just the credit hours?

    I have friends whose children’s class rank is affected because, while credit hours were honored, grades received were not (they had official, not accredited transcripts). In some states, class rank can make the difference in whether you are accepted to a state school automatically, or not.

    February 13th, 2010 at 9:02 am

  17. Lee says:

    Hi MP,
    Public high school policies vary, so I don’t think having one person’s experience with grades will help you or not. Again, while colleges are pretty accepting, public HIGH SCHOOLS generally are not. For more information, see the information that public high schools in Missouri say about their public high school that is NOT accredited:

    What Happens When a School District Becomes Unaccredited?


    February 13th, 2010 at 10:33 am

  18. Christine Hebert says:

    My daughter will be swimming this season at the local public school. I was required to submit a physical from her doctor okaying her to swim and an order for her inhaler in case she needs to use while there. When we get closer to the season I will have to submit a report card and they have asked that each day she bring a note from home stating she participated in school that day. The total cost: printing supplies at home and a few minutes of time. Since she is high school this year, I am keeping grades with software that will create a report card and calculate GPA.

    October 29th, 2010 at 4:30 am

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