If you do end up needing a portfolio–for a summer program, contest, scholarship application, or anything else–there is nothing worse than facing a stack of college admission applications... and realizing you haven’t kept track of awards, projects, or even well-written English and history papers. Having concrete examples of student work and accomplishments easily on hand will make your family life much less stressful, especially if you aren’t having to hunt through boxes in the attic to meet a last-minute deadline.
You can start by asking yourself:
- Was your student honored as Student of the Month, or Scholar/Athlete of the Week?
- Was your student given an award for record hours volunteering with the local river clean-up?
- Did your student design and implement an unusual project either at school or in the community?
- Does your student have a particular talent unrelated to what they plan to study, which they could highlight to indicate the breadth of their interests?
All of these can be highlighted in a portfolio or can act as examples to supplement an application.
Or, what if your student is an excellent writer, but has a less than perfect standardized test writing score? One way to offset that score is to submit a graded paper with the college application, especially if it is a paper from an Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate course. Or, if your student is a particularly creative writer and has published some work, submitting a writing portfolio can enhance that score as well.
The best approach is to start in the ninth grade building a portfolio, preferably online. Yes, you can keep hard copies of everything, but the chances are that those hard copies will get damaged or lost. By saving work digitally, you are more likely to maintain pristine copies.
The online portfolio can be built in a number of ways:
- DIY: Set up a Google doc file in which you save scanned copies of all possible pieces for the portfolio. In the summer before senior year, scan through what you have saved to see what is relevant to your student’s applications. You can also look for themes in your student’s accomplishments through high school that can demonstrate a passion, a commitment, a talent, or a strong interest.
- Use an online portfolio site: Two popular sites that have all the bells and whistles are (1) PortfolioGen: Portfolios For Students, Educators and Professionals and (2) Pathbrite.
- Then, there is ZeeMee: Helping Students Get Seen, which is relatively new to the college admission scene, but it is being used by a growing list of competitive colleges. This platform, however, is more like social media and is video and image heavy.
By starting in the ninth grade, you will build a solid file of potential supplemental work. It will allow you to look at your student’s high school career as a whole. It will make it far easier to provide evidence of accomplishments, to write a resume, to look for themes that emerge. And, most importantly, you and your student will not be caught short when you need that concrete example to illustrate an all-important point.
As always, planning early will alleviate the potential stress of last minute searching for just the right document at just the right time.