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Supplementary Materials and Portfolios: Are They Necessary?

Updated: Jul 8, 2021

If you didn’t think the college application process could have enough requirements from essays to letters of recommendation, many schools have optional supplementary portfolios to consider. These materials can range from short five-minute performance videos to research paper submissions depending on the school and individual programs. The major questions to think about are whether you have a strong enough talent worth sharing beyond the normal application and which (if any) talents are relevant to showcase.

What are the options?

Supplementary portfolios are typically geared toward art, dance, music, writing, or creative activities. Sports reels and athletic performance videos are almost never included as portfolio options. For performing arts like acting, dancing, singing, and playing musical instruments, schools will accept short videos (usually under 10 minutes) of your best performances from recitals, competitions, and regular practice. Sometimes with the video, they’ll require a short essay about the history of your craft, why it’s important to you, and how you’ll continue it on campus. For works of art and photography as well as written academic essays and creative stories/poems, schools will usually ask you to submit 3-5 pieces that best represent your talent along with a summary of your artistic practice of what these pieces mean.

Should I submit one?

For schools that don’t accept supplementary materials (much like extra letters of recommendation), the answer is clearly not. For schools that do accept these portfolios, you need to ask yourself whether your performance, artwork, or written pieces are strong enough to make a difference in your application. If you’re applying with an intended major in theater, music, art, or English, faculty from those departments will most likely review the portfolios and make a recommendation to admissions based on how talented they believe you are. If you’ve been dancing competitively for 10 years, it would probably be beneficial to demonstrate that talent. In contrast, if you’ve only danced for 6 months, your skillset won’t be as strong.

For more guidance on supplementary portfolio materials or any aspect of the college application process, sign up for a 1-hour consultation.

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