16 May 2013

The Overlooked Portfolio

Most students prefer to concentrate on the all-important academics, and tend to oversee the fact that the portfolio is becoming increasingly important. When adequately prepared, the portfolio can be the key to setting you apart from the other university or scholarship applicants.

As the student population becomes more competitive, academic grades are no longer the only consideration for scholarship and university applications. In fact, local universities are setting aside 10% of their places for discretionary admissions, that is, admissions based on students’ achievements besides grades.

Scholarship applicants are also expected to showcase their portfolios during interviews. As such, for those who have not prepared your portfolio, it’s time to get started, and here are some tips on how you can do it.

Starting from School

The first method to beef up your portfolio is simple: Get involved in various school activities. It can range from joining CCAs, interest groups and competitions to volunteering at school functions like sports day and carnivals. If nothing interests you, start a CCA with friends who share similar interests, or organise a community involvement project (CIP) for something you are passionate in.

Taking the initiative to start up something can help you exhibit your leadership and organisation skills. Spending more time in these activities doesn’t mean that you stop meeting up with your friends; on the contrary, doing CIP together allows you to spend more time with them in a meaningful manner.

Although only school-related activities will be listed in your CCA records, you may consider including independent activities into your portfolio. This ranges from voluntary work and part-time jobs outside of school to music lessons or skills workshops and courses that you are taking on your own. You could have represented your community centre in sports activities, or been a cell group leader in your church – anything that can display your special talent, personality and interest.

Using Personal Connections

Meanwhile, teacher referrals are often a part of an application for scholarships or universities, or can be used to a bonus to boost your application. You can also get someone - your supervisor at work, or volunteer leader – who oversees your outside school activities to write a recommendation letter.

However, do note that sometimes, there is a limit to the number of testimonials that you can include. When picking your referee, get someone who knows you very well. They should have ideally spent a lot of time around you and witnessed your contributions and developments when engaged in these activities.

Importance of Packaging

Finally, make sure the activities included in your portfolio clearly illustrate your strengths. For example, highlight how taking music lessons demonstrates your ability to commit to an activity for a sustained period of time. Emphasise how it requires good time management skills to balance both your studies and your interests.

While non-academic achievements are assets to help you gain university and scholarship opportunities, your academic grades are still one key factor which you are considered by, and should not be neglected. Ultimately, you should always strive for a balance between academics and non-academics.