5 Steps to Create the Best Writing Portfolio for College - Knovva Academy
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There are plenty of reasons to consider creating a writing portfolio as a high school student. Maybe you’re applying to a competitive college and want to include something in your application to make you stand out. Or perhaps you’re looking into different writing scholarships that require a portfolio to apply. 

Whatever the reason, creating a writing portfolio can feel daunting if you’ve never done it before. This guide will help you put together a portfolio you’re proud of in five simple steps.

Writing Portfolio - stack of writing

What is a Writing Portfolio?

Let’s start with the basics. A writing portfolio is designed to showcase your work as a writer. Your portfolio can display your growth as a writer – perhaps by including multiple earlier drafts and a finished work. It can also highlight different writing styles you’ve practiced and mastered – maybe you’ve dabbled in poetry, prose, and persuasive essay writing. 

Your writing portfolio is a selection of your work that you feel encapsulates not only your technical skills as a writer, but also your own personal voice. Writing portfolios vary in size and structure, but one thing remains constant: it should be a reflection of who you are and what you have to say as a writer.

Writing Portfolio - person writing in notebook

How to Construct a Writing Portfolio

1. Look at the requirements of the specific program, scholarship or college. 

Typically, if a college or scholarship requires a writing portfolio from students, they will include specific instructions as to what they want you to include. One example of such an essay contest is the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. The Portfolio Scholarship requires students to submit a portfolio of six different works “that demonstrate versatility as a writer and diversity in writing techniques and styles.” 

Conversely, another portfolio scholarship might be based specifically on poetry, and ask you to craft an entire portfolio of that type of work. Make sure you read the instructions carefully, as this will inform your decisions as you put together your portfolio.

Writing Portfolio - person writing in notebook

2. Craft a personal statement.

A personal statement or ‘writer’s statement’ is a piece of writing that gives the reviewers insight into your process as a writer. Carefully consider what you want the portfolio judges to glean from your pieces of writing. Think about the choices you made as a writer, and how those choices are reflected in your work.  

Even if the scholarship or college you’re applying to doesn’t specifically require this, it’s still a good idea to include it. Think about the last time you were at a museum and looked at a piece of art. Was it accompanied by a plaque explaining the artist’s vision in creating the piece? Or perhaps there was an audio tour included that gave you some more insight? This is the purpose of the writer’s statement. It can provide valuable context into your mindset and decisions, and it can help the portfolio reviewer to fully appreciate and understand the point your work.

Writing Portfolio - computer on desk

3. Decide what to include. 

Refer to the specific instructions of each application for the best chance of success in this area. Generally, a good rule of thumb is to include a diverse series of pieces. For example, some of the categories you might want to consider including in your portfolio are: 

  • Creative nonfiction (critical essay, argumentative essay, speech writing)
  • Poetry
  • Playwriting or screenwriting
  • Analytical writing (like a literary analysis)
  • Fictional works (creative writing, short story, a chapter of a novel)
  • Personal essay or memoir
  • Journalism

Some students choose to hone in on one or two categories of writing and display diversity when it comes to subject matter and writing style, while others might show diversity through the inclusion of a wide variety of writing types. Neither approach is wrong; consider your strengths as a writer and what you want to show to the judges.

Writing Portfolio - person writing in notebook

4. Choose a web platform to host your portfolio.

Nowadays, almost all writing portfolios will need to be submitted electronically. The best way to do this is to create your own writing portfolio online and send out the link. This allows you to have control over how the reviewer navigates through your submissions, and it gives you the opportunity to infuse more personality into it with unique themes and design elements. 

Some websites offer free versions of their services, while others are low-cost. Here are some platforms you can use that make it easy to create and publish your own writing portfolio: 

Writing Portfolio - JournoPortfolio

5. Review, review, review. 

The final step in crafting a stellar writing portfolio for college is to have someone help you with it. This can be a trusted teacher, mentor, parent, or friend. Even better is to work with a dedicated writing professional, like the ones we have on staff here at Knovva Academy. 

Knovva offers a series of writing courses for students to help them hone their writing skills. From Short Story and Poetry to Personal Essay and Op-Ed to Persuasive Writing and Literary Analysis, whatever piece of writing you have that needs work, we can help with. Our courses are led by world-class educators who have experience teaching students that have gone on to win writing contests and attend elite universities. 

Even if you’ve worked extensively with your favorite English teacher to hone your writing, a fresh set of eyes can never hurt. We encourage our students to review the work of their peers, while still having plenty of one-on-one time with their educators. If you’re ready to bring your writing portfolio to the next level, check out our roster of writing classes built for high-achieving high school students like you.

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