Developing a College Portfolio

Developing a College Portfolio

Laura G., Senior Writer

It is easy to get lost within the constantly growing pile of responsibilities when applying to college, especially when considering unusual paths, such as art school. In order to apply to any sort of art school, students are required to submit a portfolio showcasing his/her skills. However, there are so many requirements, so how does one begin?


Research, Research, Research, Stop!

The first step to building a portfolio is considering what schools you are applying to. Each school has its own requirements, thus it is imperative to carefully read through every school’s specifications and make a master list for every school.

Additionally, there are many artists who showcase their portfolios and give advice online but be sure NOT to overwhelm yourself with information. Your portfolio is a chance to further show colleges your skills and who you are, not what a video or someone else told you to do. Portfolios are your chance to shine, not to stress yourself out.


Balance & Order

Portfolios should show your best work, both personally and professionally. Consider dividing your portfolio between your personal and school work while still allowing it to flow together. Order is one of the most important variables that you have control over! Instead of simply submitting all your pieces together without a second thought, take the time to place pieces next to each other based off-color, media, subject, etc.


Stand out amongst the crowd!

Your portfolio is professors’ and college officials’ first impression of your art, so it is important to make yours stand out amongst the many other portfolios they review. Although some pieces are essential to your portfolio, such as still lifes and hand studies, make them your own. In place of drawing flowers and skulls, try mixing porcelain dolls and colorful fabrics. 


Frequently Asked Questions:

  • When should I start?

It is recommended that you begin collecting artwork about a year before you start applying, taking into consideration local portfolio days in which you can meet with art schools and programs across the US as well as receive meaningful constructive criticism on your portfolio.   

  • What should I include?

Portfolios should include your best work and while variety is important, it is essential to include what best represents you and showcases your skills.

  • How many pieces should I include?

Every college is different, but the average is 15-20 pieces. However, it is best to create more than you need, so you can pick and choose for each school.

  • How will I know what pieces to include? 

Ask your art teacher and professionals for constructive criticism, consider taking classes on creating a portfolio, or going to your closest portfolio days. However, do not forget that ultimately, your portfolio is a reflection of you, not anyone else. You have the final say in what you put in!


In summary, portfolios can appear as one of the hardest parts of college applications. However, when you put in the time and effort to research and consider how your portfolio reflects you, it can be one of the easiest. Your portfolio is just another opportunity to show colleges who you are, do not hold yourself back from shining!