Ninth Grade Parents: Have Your Student Build A High School Portfolio

briefcase with documents placed on table
Anne MacLeod Weeks
Anne MacLeod Weeks

Anne has worked in college admissions for four decades and has published extensively on all aspects of the process. She taught AP English, consulted for the College Board, and was a leader in various educational initiatives in independent schools.

If you do end up needing a high school portfolio, you’ll wish you already had it made. There is nearly nothing worse than facing a stack of college admission apps and realizing you haven’t kept track of your successes. This includes awards, projects, or even well-written English or 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!

Portfolios support your applications in a variety of ways. Whether for a summer program, contest, scholarship application, or anything else, collecting your work along the way is useful. So let’s dig in!

You can start by asking yourself:
  1. Was your student honored as Student of the Month, or Scholar/Athlete of the Week?
  2. Was your student given an award for record hours volunteering with the local river clean-up?
  3. Did your student design and implement an unusual project either at school or in the community?
  4. 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 high school 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. This proves especially credible 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 your high school portfolio, preferably online. Yes, you can keep hard copies of everything, but the chances are that those hard copies will get damaged or lost. In other words, saving work digitally means 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, read through it 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.

Take the time now, as opposed to putting it off. Instead, later, you can spend that time looking at your student’s high school career as a whole. It is far easier to provide evidence of accomplishments, to write a resume, and 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. Book a consultation with our team if you need help. The Empowerly community supports students in a variety of ways. Talk to us to learn more.

Questions? Let us know!