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Monday, March 17, 2014

College Crash Course Part 13: Portfolios for Peace of Mind


Years ago, when homeschooling was new, colleges required personal interviews and thick portfolios outlining every detail of the homeschooled student’s high school coursework and experiences.

Now that homeschooling is more mainstream, portfolios are no longer requested or required. However, they are still a good idea. Why? There are three reasons your child should consider keeping a portfolio:

1.  Colleges might have some questions about a course or two on your child’s transcript. For example, they may want more information about the biology course your child took. If you have a well-organized portfolio, you can easily flip to the science section and access that information.

2.  It will offer you great peace of mind to have one place that details your child’s high school accomplishments and activities, as well as their coursework. You would be surprised how easy it is to forget that your child volunteered at the animal shelter or that his team was featured in the newspaper. An organized portfolio with everything listed will enable him to create a more thorough resume and will help when it comes time to fill out college admissions forms.

3.  Many scholarship opportunities and honor societies require a portfolio and a lengthy list of the things with which a student has been involved. A friend of mine recently filled out a scholarship form that required a list of all the volunteer work her child had done. After the form was completed and sent, she realized she neglected a very important service activity. If she had kept a portfolio, it would have been easier to not only fill out the form but also ensure every activity was accounted for.

At the beginning of this College Crash Course series, I suggested you designate a drawer in which to put everything your child does in high school. That was so you would have everything in one place when it came time to put together your child’s portfolio. Now you see why it’s so important!

If you are naturally organized – unlike me – you may want to add certificates, papers, tests, newspaper articles, and the like to the three ring binder portfolio immediately. However if you are like me, you’ll toss things in the drawer and once a year – usually in the summer – you’ll spend a few hours organizing everything into the binder. 

So how do you create a portfolio? What would you include in a portfolio and how would it be organized?

You’ll need:

A large 3-ring binder  
Divider tabs
A package of page protectors

Your tabs should be labeled with the following:

Transcripts/Tests/Letters:
  • Include your home-made transcript (we’ll discuss this in another post) as well as any transcripts from coursework your child takes online or locally.
  • Include SAT/ACT/SAT II or CLEP test records.
  • Include any copies of Letters of Recommendation you may have received (if you did receive a copy).


Volunteer Service:
  • Include a list of all the volunteer work your child has done. If you can, get a letter from the agency validating your child’s time.
  • Include any certificates of service. If your child has received the Presidential Volunteer Service award, put the certificate here.


Awards/Certificates/Honors/Scholarships:
  • Include any awards or certificates your child receives for participation in activities, competitions, and courses.
  • If your child has been offered scholarships or has been nominated for honors/scholarships, include the letters here as well.
  • Include any news articles and such featuring your child or his group/team.


Extra Curricular/Work:

Include anything your child does/has done outside of school. For example, my daughter worked as a columnist for an online newspaper. We printed up some of her articles and put them here.

The rest of the binder will be designated for actual school work. For each course taken include on a cover sheet this information: Your child's name, course name and description, assignments and topics covered, time started and finished, first semester grade/second semester grade, all texts and books used, as well as several samples of your child's work/tests.

Language Arts: 4 credits

Science: 3-4 credits. Credits should include physical science and biology. Some colleges require chemistry as well.

Social Sciences: 3.5 credits. Credits should include American history, government, and economics.

Foreign Language: 2 credits. Some colleges want to see 3.

Math: 4 credits. Credits should including algebra 1, algebra 2, and geometry (include final exams).

Health and PE: 2 credits. Keep a log of your child's workouts and physical activities. My daughter’s ballet was credited as PE as well as performing arts.

Art: .5 credit is typically given for each year long course. Performing arts/photography should also be listed here. 

Electives: Anything that’s not included in one of the areas of above will be put here. You can include anything your child does as a hobby as well (birding, woodworking, movie making, gardening).

Putting together the portfolio can be really encouraging for your child. Even if he never shows it to a college admissions counselor, he can look through it and be proud of his accomplishments and the character he demonstrated in attaining his goals. Most importantly, you and your child can give thanks and glory to God for His faithfulness and leading along the journey.