What Should a College Application Portfolio Include?

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You might be applying to colleges and thinking about what exactly it is that can make you stand out. Applying and getting into colleges is not just a matter of excellent grades or test scores.

Colleges are interested in so much more in addition to your academics. Your extracurricular activities, volunteer work, sport, and internships contribute to your application and outline how you might fit into a specific college and its values.

While creating a portfolio really could be time-consuming, you should learn to build a solid one that will immediately grasp someone’s attention. To find out how to do so, we will tell you, in detail, everything you need to know about creating a portfolio.

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

A portfolio is a compilation of work that exemplifies your skills, qualifications, beliefs, experiences, education, and training. It is an amalgamation of who you are, what you are passionate about, and the dedicated work into what matters to you.

A college portfolio application highlights your most relevant skills and experiences quickly understood and organized. This is proof for universities regarding your organizational, communication, and tangible career-related skills.

Do Colleges and Universities Require Application Portfolio?

Do Colleges and Universities Require Application Portfolio?

Previously, application portfolios were required for specific academic programs such as the performing arts, fine arts, architecture, film, and other visual or auditory mediums.

However, in recent years, to make the admissions process more integrated and fair, several colleges and universities have encouraged students to submit materials such as papers, artwork, or photos and videos showcasing extracurricular talents.

The Coalition Application, which is used at 135 top schools, has been encouraging students since 2020 to include these materials in a digital “locker.” Furthermore, ZeeMee allows its users to share their unique stories and skills with admission officers through short videos.

Below are some essential pointers you should consider while applying to colleges:

  • Most art programs in colleges require the submission of an art portfolio for college application.
  • Each college/program has its own requirements. These can vary significantly, so you should carefully sift through your desired program’s requirements on each college website.
  • You should pay attention to the stated instructions regarding portfolio submission and include only what you ask. You don’t want to give your fellow competitors an edge over you.
  • If you feel like you lack materials or experience in your area of interest, rely on your grades and apply to places that emphasize academics and essays than a portfolio.
  • Including a portfolio into your application, art/ design/ film student or not, can really help benefit you by introducing your skills and talents in the form of writing samples, short videos, etc. It helps humanize you and makes you more relatable.

Therefore, while most college programs do not require a portfolio, it is highly encouraged to include one. It helps you stand out and increases your chances of getting in.

What Should You Include in Your Portfolio for College?

What Should You Include in Your Portfolio for College?

There are no limitations or rules on what to include in your portfolio as it is your own creative process. Still, you might be thinking: what should a college application portfolio have? Luckily, there are a few primary sections that can help you structure a well-organized college application portfolio. Here is what should a college application portfolio include:


This summarizes who you are and what your portfolio will entail. It is just to give the admissions office a taste of what you stand for and what you value. You can also include a cover letter of you and your school’s contact information, i.e., address, contact number, email, etc.

Education and Work Background

This section includes your education, any work experience, and internships. You should consist of the skills you have adopted, the growth you have experienced, and what you have learned.

You should also add your test scores in the order of the date they were taken by you, i.e., the ACT, the SAT, SAT subject tests, PSAT, etc.

Work Samples

This can include the writing samples you have procured throughout your freshman to senior year. You can upload articles, papers, projects, reports, and publications in science, history, literature, etc.

You can include graphics, statistics, and visual findings for further illustration.

Study abroad/ International Experience 

If you have a study abroad semester under your belt, this can help enhance your application more. This can be a brief paragraph about your cultural experiences abroad and how they added to your personal growth.

Awards and honors

This section can scan and upload all the awards and achievements you have received throughout high school, e.g., winning a competitive competition or being valedictorian. You can include details of the recognition or achievement and the process through which you achieved them.

Volunteer and extracurricular activities

Whether you are involved in sports, arts and crafts, theater and drama, music, or volunteer work, this is the perfect place to showcase your talents. You can illustrate these activities with the help of pictures or posters.

Once again, stating the struggles and growth you have experienced while dedicating yourself to this activity will help present you as a well-rounded individual. This is precisely what college admission committees are looking for.


Boost your portfolio by including feedback attained from your teachers or employees and how you are viewed by others. This allows colleges to know you better.

7 Tips for Creating the Best Portfolio for a College Application

7 Tips for Creating the Best Portfolio for a College Application

Now, for the daunting question: How to create a portfolio for college admissions? In this section, we will provide some tips on how to prepare a portfolio for university.

Start Early

Around your junior year of high school, you should start taking your college application and portfolio more seriously. It is advisable to plan out what path you intend to take for college and the amount and type of work you need to put in to emerge victoriously.

It is an excellent opportunity to decide what you are most passionate about and focus on enhancing that in your application when the time comes. If you are artistic, work on areas such as painting or music.

If you are more interested in technical details, you can participate in science projects or sign up for science camps.

Choose the Best Way to Present Your Work

To produce an organized portfolio, you should use folders with divided sections. You can also be creative in laying out your work as long as it does not look messy and complements your personality.

Be Flexible According to Your Area of Interest

For areas of interest such as videography or drama, presenting your portfolio using a DVD, USB, or a website might be a good idea. Film or animations should have a time duration of two to five minutes maximum.

Tell Them a Story

You should not just present a thick or finished piece of work. We mean that colleges are interested in seeing your work’s progress and development and how this has shaped your character.

Therefore, you must display some details and the structure you have achieved your final product.

Your portfolio can also complement your essay. For example, suppose your essay is about your concern for the environment. In that case, your college portfolio can effectively showcase you working on a local green initiative project in your city or town.

Include Written Work

You should add one or two examples of your written work. There might be courses that require you to provide proof of essays or assignments. If you have a blog, you can include the link to access your website.

Get Another Opinion                       

It is always a good idea to get constructive criticism. This can be your college application counselor at school or someone with knowledge and experience in your field of interest to help you iron out the small details.

Also, check college application portfolio examples from successful students who graduated from your college. Find out what edge they had over other applicants.

Be Honest and Creative

You don’t have to be extraordinary to be noticed by colleges. Often, admission committees appreciate honesty and self-reflection. Colleges are interested in your individuality and problem-solving skills.

Real-life situations, struggles you faced in your area of interest, and how you overcame them are valuable- whether in writing or digital format. It helps you stand out in your true essence to college admission committees and how you fit in with their college’s values.

Wrapping Things Up: What Should a College Application Portfolio Include?

The college admissions process can be hectic and complex. This is because colleges are interested in knowing who a student truly is. This can make the application process seem overwhelming.

However, you can genuinely make your application stand out with the proper guidance and dedication. A portfolio is a good representation of your values and what you are passionate about.

Portfolios can be a lot of work, but they might be the exact recipe you need to secure admission into your desired colleges. You can find portfolio for college examples online.

The type of portfolio you present will be particular to you and your interests. Therefore, it is important to not compare yourself to your peers. Instead, simply focus on your talents and spend time enhancing them in a way that caters to your portfolio.

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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