Friday, September 27, 2013

Portfolios: It's Never too Early to Start Yours

Most colleges want to see a homeschooler’s portfolio of high school records, coursework, experiences, and accomplishments. While creating one in a week is possible, it is much easier and will yield a far more complete portfolio if you begin compiling one as soon as you start high school level work. For the harried, disorganized homeschooler, it’s easy! Simply designate a drawer in which to drop all the required documents, then put the portfolio together when you need it. Keep in mind that each college will ask for the portfolio and will not return it. So make sure to copy everything, keeping multiples of each document.

The Binder

Your portfolio should be organized in a large three ring binder with page protectors and tabs. The tabs should be labeled: Records, Achievements, Extra Curricular Activities, Community Service, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Foreign Language, Sports, Electives, etc.

Colleges want to see what you have accomplished over and above the average student. Tabs are a good way to organize and highlight this information. Rather than learning you were just a member of the Mock Trial Team, they want to see that you received the Outstanding Attorney Award. Colleges want to know you were Captain of the football team and not just a team member. This is why you need to have both an Achievement tab and an Extra Curricular Activities tab. Separating out your actual achievements from the activities themselves specifically highlights your accomplishments. Community Service is its own tab because it is increasingly important to colleges as well. Include several pages that list the service activities you have participated in and the hours you’ve completed (photos are nice here as well). Remember that volunteer work at church counts toward community service, too. 

The Content

Below are some things you should begin to compile and save for your portfolio. You can use a manilla folder to represent each tab, placing the correct documents inside. This will help with organization when it’s time to put your portfolio in the binder. 

Records: Transcripts; your birth certificate; immunization records; test scores; resumes; letters of recommendation

Achievements: A cover page with all your achievements listed; a dedicated page describing each achievement with photos; awards; letters of recommendation; samples; anything else you deem applicable

Extra Curricular Activities: A cover page with all your extra curricular activities listed; any supporting documents or photos

Community Service: A page for each project indicating hours spent, type of work done, and what you accomplished; letters of recommendation from the volunteer organizations

Coursework: A description page for each course including grades, dates of completion, booklists, videos, projects and hours, textbook table of contents, work samples (usually two sample tests or papers are sufficient), copies of lab pages and photos (to prove labs were done)

*It’s okay to include information, activities, or awards in several different tabbed sections of your portfolio if they apply. 


  • The more complete your portfolio, the better.  
  • You can create courses based on the eclectic work you have done. Create a course description listing the hours spent, books and films studied, projects undertaken, assignments completed, and field trips taken. Here are some examples of courses:
  • Citizenship 
  • Home Economics 
  • Drivers Education 
  • Computer Literacy 
  • Physical Education 
  • Health  
  • Fine Arts 
  • Civics 
  • State History  
  • Literature 
  • SAT Prep Course
  • 1 Carnegie Unit  = 1 Credit Hour = 120 hours of time spent on coursework 
  • Don’t pad your portfolio with too many samples of coursework. Select a few quality samples, your mid-term and final exams, photos of projects, and important assignments. 
  • Find a sponsor for the Presidential Community Service Award if you are very involved in your church or community. Be sure to turn your hours in regularly.
  • Most colleges require three letters of recommendation from teachers that know you in and outside of the classroom. Ask them to include information about your academic achievements, accomplishments in the class, and a few things about your character. These will be extremely important additions to your portfolio. It’s best to ask as soon as the class is over, rather than waiting until you need it.
As you complete your student’s portfolio, enjoy the evidence of God’s faithfulness and the fruit of your homeschooling efforts!

Jeannie Fulbright