What is a College Application Portfolio?

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As a student preparing for college, you want to present yourself as the best candidate among thousands of other candidates. Your application would provide lots of details about you, but there’s not so much it can do to convince the admission officers. Most applications contain large blocks of text, and admission officers may not necessarily pay adequate attention when going through them. You want to catch instant attention, and that’s where portfolios come into play. Portfolios are becoming more popular these days as an essential attachment to college applications. But, what’s a portfolio for college applications? How does it affect your chances of getting admission? We’ll find out in this article.

What is a Portfolio for College Application?What is a Portfolio for College Application?

Simply put, a portfolio for college application is a collection of material that displays the extracurricular works you’ve done in the years leading up to college. Portfolios are usually different from resumes. While a resume is a document that lists all your achievements and grades, a portfolio is best explained as an artistic statement. It is designed to show admission teams who you are beyond your test scores and essay performances.

Depending on the situation, or college requirements, a portfolio for college applications can come in different forms, including a selection of photographs, paintings, computer graphics, a collection of essays or short stories you’ve written, a video of an event you organized, etc. One common misconception among college prospects is that portfolios have to be limited to artistic pursuits. While such portfolios are great and generally acceptable, you can also create a portfolio that shows your work experiences, travel experiences, or volunteer work.

What to Include in a College Application Portfolio?

What to Include in a College Application Portfolio?

As explained above, a portfolio should give a sampling of your talent and the type of works you’re interested in. When creating your student portfolio, you should ensure that it adequately demonstrates your strengths and growth in the things you are most interested in. Bear in mind that a portfolio goes beyond test scores, transcripts, college interviews, recommendations, or an essay to show your commitment. Modern portfolios are designed to be visually attractive so that admission officers would be interested in seeing your accomplishments. A portfolio for college admission can cover different areas, including:

  • Artwork: paintings, drawings, graphic art, photography
  • Writing: essays, news articles, research, novels, poetry, screenplays, both published and unpublished
  • Musical compositions: song lyrics, scores, arrangements
  • Pictures and videos of community service and other developmental activities
  • Performance art: vocals and theatricals.

Now that we’ve covered all the different aspects of a portfolio, you’re probably wondering where to start. Here are some things you can include, irrespective of the type of portfolio you decide to create.

  • A complete artwork shows examples of your creative process and sketches of things you’re interested in where necessary.
  • Your area of specialization should include examples of various skills.
  • Cover a wide range of the subject matter
  • Pictures of you and your team engaging in your area of interest.

How to Create the Best Portfolio for College Application?

How to Create the Best Portfolio for College Application?

The whole process of creating a high school portfolio for college can seem overwhelming, especially for first-timers. If this explains your situation, this session offers tips to help get you started. We’ve reviewed countless students’ portfolios, so we know some pitfalls that affect many students. The tips in this section would help you create a portfolio that showcases your creative, technical, and conceptual abilities while separating you from other applicants.

Focus on Your Interest

We understand the need to make your portfolio as broad and detailed as possible, but one mistake we see too often is people derailing from their areas of interest. Colleges (and employers) care so much about understanding what you’re passionate about. And most of them would know when you start trying to cover things outside of your interest. If you are unsure about your interests, taking an interest test may help. If your interests are investigative, you could attend science camps or do science projects and include the process and results in your portfolio instead of including painting and music.

Create Connections

Great portfolios don’t come by accident. You’ll have to put in the effort to create a compelling portfolio. If you love science, it’ll make sense to be more science inclined during high school. You can take as many science classes as possible. Most people would even resort to taking dual-enrollment classes at a nearby community college. All these efforts can help you create a compelling portfolio that will win you admission into a top college. If you love art, perhaps it’ll make sense to take more electives in painting or sculpting. Remember that you can also use your community development efforts and extracurricular activities to bump up your engagements in your area of interest. When college admission officers see you using your area of interest to address community development works, they’ll know you’re doing it because of passion and not just to pad your college application.

Tell A Story

Yes, you’ve written a significant part of your story in your college application essay, but it’s also essential to add a portfolio that reinforces your story and fills in all the gaps. Suppose you’ve told a story that shows you as an introverted student who feels more comfortable working in a research lab than being part of a sales team. In that case, you should have a portfolio that shows how you always spend your breaks indoors, writing or embarking on research projects. On the other hand, if you’ve written an essay telling of your immense concern for the planet, then it’ll be more effective to include a portfolio that shows you working on a local green project in your community.

Make Efforts to Stand Out

While it’s important to only stick to your real areas of interest and not go too far, you must also make efforts to stand out. Your application would be standing alongside several other applications from equally outstanding students, so you want admission officers to notice yours. Admission officers would naturally want to prioritize students who send additional materials indicating talent or accomplishment. If you did an exciting internship, worked with a PhD student on a research project, or excelled at an exciting aspect, include it. If the application process doesn’t give you enough space to include all, write to the admission officers asking to include your portfolio. Remember not to be excessive or obnoxious in your communication; just include what’s necessary and submit.

Keep It Brief and Update Regularly

As we’ve explained above, nobody wants a lengthy portfolio when there are so many to look at. Therefore, you must keep it brief and straight to the point. However, ensure to regularly update it and include new things you achieve. We strongly recommend following the 3 Bs when creating your portfolio to include your academic, personal, and extracurricular details.

  • Build – Focus on highlighting your pluses throughout your profile
  • Brief – Keep your portfolio as concise and engaging as possible
  • Broadcast – Remain active and continually update your profile from time to time.

Make It Visually Appealing

As usual, you want to capture admission officers’ attention from the start. Nobody would bother to look at everything you’ve done if your portfolio doesn’t catch their interest. Therefore, if you want to stand out amongst other applicants, we recommend focusing on drawing a viewer’s eyes in.

It’s up to you to find attractive methods to visually call out the information. You can use color contrast, strategic organizations, and layouts, and bold type to draw attention to your portfolio. Tools like WordPress, Canva, and even LinkedIn can help you stand out.

When Should You Start Building Your College Application Portfolio?

When Should You Start Building Your College Application Portfolio?

Usually, we recommend collecting and accumulating samples of your works as you produce them. But it’s still okay if you are just learning about admission portfolios now. You can start right away. After all, a portfolio is a final selection of what you have achieved with your talents, considering all the different things you might have tried and all the new techniques you’ve learned.

But, if we are more practical, the best time to become more serious about building your application and portfolio for college admissions is in your junior high school year. From the start of your junior high school year, start taking inventory of what you’re doing that can be used to show your commitment to interesting works. An inventory helps you keep adequate records of what you have and what you don’t. You’ll begin to see where there are gaps or where there are so many of the same kind of works. Starting as early as your junior high school year would also help you identify areas of strength that you’ve not covered so that you can pursue them in your senior year.

Apart from learning about admission portfolios in your junior high school year, you can also learn how to handle portfolio drafting and submission by attending Portfolio Day. You may not have a portfolio yet, but listening to what observers are saying about other people’s portfolios can help you get the best out of your portfolio design.

Wrapping Things Up: What is a College Application Portfolio?

When preparing for college, students often find that there are so many things to do, and the competition is stiffer than they thought. In the end, it’s not just about how detailed your application is or the amount of additional certification you have. While these are very important, some college admission officers would still want you to impress them with how well you’ve done in other areas that are not related to your academics. Fortunately, a college admission portfolio can help you showcase this.

A portfolio is an interesting addition to any student’s resume as they prepare for the college admission process. It offers students the opportunity to show off their strengths, values, and passion. Unfortunately, not many students know how important a portfolio is to the college admission process, and not many of them would invest in learning how to prepare one. We’ve provided all the information you’ll need to write your first portfolio for college application throughout this article. We’ve also provided tips to help you know the best time to start and where you should begin.

Picture of Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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