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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Study abroad: Relevance of student’s portfolio for applying to premier overseas universities

A student portfolio is a prerequisite for all students aspiring to study at any premier overseas university, experts believe.

Written by Sakshi Saroha | New Delhi |
Updated: March 7, 2022 9:11:48 am
Study abroad, Student portfolioIn many cases, students are also guided to change their schools from CBSE and CISCE-affiliated to IB. (Representative image)

Every overseas university has a different eligibility cap for foreign student admissions, ranging from high GPA and competitive exam scores to extracurricular and social activities. All the Ivy League universities in the US and some of the premier universities in the UK, including Oxford, Cambridge and London School of Economics (LSE), consider a student’s portfolio to be the one deciding factor to consider their admission application.

V J Melograno, the author of Designing a Portfolio System for K-12, says, “In a student’s portfolio, a limited number of items are selected to exhibit growth over time and to serve a particular purpose. Usually, only the student’s best works are included. Portfolios are supposed to contain five to seven examples of the students’ best work during the school year and scores are supposed to reflect optimum performance.”

Yatharth Gulati, the co-founder of Rostrum Education and LSE alumni, said that a portfolio is a prerequisite for all students aspiring to study at any premier overseas university.

“Building a strong portfolio for college applications is as similar to presenting a case with all facts and figures. Not just a consistent academic score, but other intellectual initiatives like research papers, thesis or journals written in their field of specialisation, also counts while applying to foreign universities,” said Gulati.

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When is the right time to begin working on the portfolio?

Praseeja Nambiar, a study abroad counsellor, said that an aspirant should begin working on their portfolio as early as class 9 and latest by class 11.

“Not just focusing on the consistent academic scores but also participating in extracurricular activities can be included in the portfolio. This is the time when instead of keeping their interests as mere hobbies, students should engage in related activities to get experience which can be a part of their application,” Nambiar explained.

Anushka Singh, a class 12 student at Stonehill International School, Bengaluru, has been accepted into the University of Cambridge to study English Language and Literature. Sharing her experience on the knowledge about portfolio making, Singh said, “I wasn’t aware that my hobbies and interests could play such an important role in my university applications. It was only in class 10 when I shifted to an IB Board school, I was introduced to the concept of portfolio writing. It was one of the major factors for my acceptance at Cambridge.”

In many cases, students are also guided to change their schools from CBSE and CISCE-affiliated to International Baccalaureate, which is considered at par with advanced placement (AP) scores.

Veona Cutinho, a Class 12 student at Stonehill International School, shifted from Chikmaglur to Bengaluru to study at an IB boarding school. “I was committed to studying at an overseas university for undergraduate studies. However, many of my previous school teachers guided me to switch to an IB school to gain better exposure on the prerequisites of applying to any premier foreign university,” said Cutinho.

Cutinho has been accepted into Imperial College, London, to study Biology, a course she is deeply interested in.

Important factors to consider while writing a portfolio

While the fundamentals of what should be included in the portfolio are different for both the UK and the US, the common factor is presenting one’s best.

Rostrum Education’s Gulati said the Ivy League universities in the US give more preference to thematic applications. “More than just the academic score, these universities are more focused on a student’s personality and interests. An application to any university in the US should have a unified theme that includes information on social activities, internships, non-subject related activities a student participated in. Meanwhile, the essay should largely be based on a personal experience and not be rhetorical,” he explained.

“For premier universities in the UK, portfolio and grades play an equivalent role in application acceptance. A candidate’s portfolio should largely reflect academic excellence, for example, the names of books read, online courses attended, research papers published among others,” he added.

As a student is not allowed to switch subjects during the undergraduate programme in the UK, a student must be sure on which course they want to take and build their portfolio around it, he also said.

Cutinho, who is all set to study Biology at Imperial College, said her portfolio largely talked about her interest in the subject. “I wrote a research paper at the undergraduate level on a topic very close to the course I applied for (molecular biology and genetics). The research was on the comparative analysis of the risks and benefits of the latest therapeutic advancements in the treatment of cystic fibrosis. I also included my interest in animal protection and highlighted the experience when a piece of my writing on animal cruelty gained the President’s recognition,” she said.

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