Everyone knows that a high school transcript is a must these days, whether your student is heading directly into the workforce, going on to college, or joining the military. A transcript is also essential whether your student attended a public, private, or home school.

Here’s what you might not know: A student portfolio is also a necessity, or at a minimum a big benefit, for many college applications.

What is a portfolio?

In case you’re not familiar with the term, a student portfolio is simply a compilation of academic work. Think of it as “showing” admissions departments what your student has accomplished rather than “reporting” them, as a high-school transcript does.

For example, if a student is active in theater arts and has written and produced a play, or is a gifted writer who has received writing awards, the transcript would list the information. The portfolio could contain the script of the play or the award-winning essay.

While a portfolio is actually required by many colleges, particularly in the arts or other specialized fields of study such as architecture, any applicant would do well to submit a portfolio with his or her application. A well-done portfolio is an asset regardless of what course of study you plan to pursue, as it helps to show what makes you unique and helps you to connect more personally with the application committee.

Many homeschool parents I meet have the same three questions about a portfolio:

  • Under what circumstances might you need to submit one?
  • What information does a portfolio provide that a transcript doesn’t?
  • How can a portfolio complement my student’s transcript? 

Read on as we explore 6 tips for creating a portfolio.

1. Follow directions

It’s important that you follow the university’s requirements to the letter for what to submit in a portfolio. Not following instructions is a prime reason for rejections and you may miss a deadline while you are correcting your mistakes. 

2. Provide the best examples

Beyond following the instructions each college provides on portfolios, you want to be sure that your student is supplying the very best examples of work, whatever that is. Include their most outstanding writing samples, best artwork, or a video of their best dance performance. You want to show why your student will be an asset to the university. Particularly in this coronavirus pandemic year, when many universities are not looking at SAT or ACT scores, your student should try to stand out from the pack.

3. Go visual

There is an app called ZeeMe that can assist you in providing short videos about yourself and generate a link that you can provide on your application. It’s free to students and there are a growing number of colleges who use ZeeMe in the application process. 

4. Take advantage of online resources

Coalition for College is another useful portfolio tool that is available to students as early as ninth grade that assists in the college planning and application process. This website has free resources for students, parents, and educators. Coalition for College offers the MyCoalition Locker, which is a repository for a student’s work throughout high school. The Coalition for College website states, “Students even have the ability to attach materials from their Locker directly to their Coalition applications, making applying to colleges easy and efficient.” 

5. Begin early and plan ahead

Planning and executing a good portfolio and transcript takes time. When your student enters high school, that is the best time to start compiling information for these two hugely important pieces that will accompany his or her college application. You will thank your future self when the college application season hits hard and heavy during senior year.

6. Don’t forget about your transcript!

It’s important to remember that building a strong transcript is always the first step you should take. The portfolio can showcase a student’s interests and offer insight as to who the student is in a way that the transcript alone cannot. Together these two specialized components of your child’s high school career offer a powerful statement that can propel their college application to the top of the field in a competitive arena.

Wrapping up: Make a transcript the easy way

A transcript service, like Transcript Maker, will make what can be a burdensome process so much easier. We offer a 14-day free trial that allows you to tinker with the app before committing to a plan. Try it out now!