Posted in HS4CC

Parent Question: Should I send course descriptions with my teen’s college application?

Course descriptions are NOT standard and should NOT be sent in unsolicited!!  In the event that your teen’s target college asks for them, you’ll want to present them with a professionally-created document.  (Why not? Keep reading.) A high school student takes anywhere from 24-50+ classes, so this document needs to be well done.  Follow these 3 steps if you need to generate course descriptions for your teen’s college application.

STEP 1: Consistency

Course TitleKeep it short, simple, and clear!
Number of CreditsIf this is a high school course, indicate the number of high school credits. If this is a college-based dual enrollment course, indicate both the number of college credits and the number of high school credits.
The first sentence says it all!The first sentence should be very concise and uses keywords. (see keyword chart below)
6-8 sentences to elaborateIdentify the major themes or topics of the course in sentence form.  
TextbookList the textbook(s), software, fiction, videos, etc. that were used in the learning process.  I highly suggest using to put your resources in APA format

STEP 2: Use good models

  • Catalog of High School Courses & Descriptions from Howard County Public Schools (156 pages)
  • Catalog of High School Courses & Descriptions from Colton Joint Unified School District (178 pages)
  • Catalog of High School Courses & Descriptions from Liberty County Public School (76 pages)

STEP 3: Bloom’s Taxonomy

Understanding Bloom’s Taxonomy may seem a little “above and beyond” what you need to know, however, every college that is asking for course descriptions most certainly understands and takes Bloom’s Taxonomy very seriously when they build their own courses. So trust me, this will help!

Benjamin Bloom created a taxonomy of measurable verbs to help us describe and classify observable
knowledge, skills, attitudes, behaviors and abilities.  By using the right verbs in your description, you indicate explicitly what the student did (and did not do) in the class.  Well-constructed courses build on each other, so the words you choose either demonstrates that or undermines it.  

The downloadable Bloom’s Taxonomy Guide includes a LOT of excellent measurable verbs.

Why not send these beautifully and carefully constructed descriptions unsolicited?

There are 2 reasons you shouldn’t do this.

  1. When you send in unsolicited paperwork, your teen will be evaluated using different standards than the rest of the applicants. Don’t make the assumption that providing “extra” is an advantage- it can backfire in a big way. What if the college doesn’t like what they see? What if the staff assigned to your teen’s application hasn’t been trained to evaluate course descriptions? Rather than sending extra paperwork (high risk), give extra effort to helping make their application as strong and complete as possible within the parameters the college asks for.
  2. You’re not following directions. Popular colleges and universities may receive tens of thousands of applications each cycle. Following directions on a college admissions application is crucial as it demonstrates a student’s ability to pay attention to detail and adhere to established procedures, traits highly valued in the academic environment. Rather than frustrate the reviewer with extra unsolicited paperwork, keep your application on point!


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit