Given the number of great website builders for portfolios available online nowadays, it’s never been easier to showcase your skills and expertise. This is particularly relevant for students because it allows you to announce to the world that you’re here and you’re qualified to do good work.
But what is a good student portfolio, and how can it help you in your professional life? In this article, we’ll answer these questions, taking you through what a student portfolio is and how best to use it. We’ll also share some great student portfolio examples as well as some top tips on how to create your own.
A student portfolio is a curated selection of your best work that’s presented in one place online so that others can easily access it. The best student portfolio will showcase both the breadth and depths of your talents. And when done right, it’s a chance to be memorable and stand out from the crowd.
If you’re interested in creating an online portfolio but don’t know where to start, check out our guide, How to Make an Impressive Online Portfolio, for step-by-step instructions.
What Is a Student Portfolio Used For?
Why go to the effort of making a student portfolio? Well, one of the great things about them is that they’re useful for a lot of things:
- Job Applications: Job markets can be competitive, so the better your student portfolio, the better your chances of standing out. Because not every candidate will have a portfolio website, you’ll give yourself an advantage by displaying a good range of your work in one place for employers to easily access.
- Personal Reflection: As a student, you need to see how you’ve grown – it’s good for the soul! But it’s not just that. Although the student portfolio can help you reflect on what you’ve learned, it can also help you identify where you need to go next.
- Graduate College Admissions: If you decide to further your education, a good student portfolio will let admissions teams know where your skills stand.
- Freelancing: If you decide to become a freelancer, a good student portfolio is key. Freelancing opportunities can come at any time, so having somewhere to send potential clients so they can check out your work is incredibly useful.
- Collaboration: Collaborations with influencers, brands, or fellow people in your field can help you and your reputation grow. A good portfolio will show off your skills and personality so that you attract the right collaborators.
However, it’s important to note that not every industry requires a student portfolio. There’s no point spending a lot of time building something if it’s not going to bring you any value. Below, we’ve listed the main industries where a student portfolio is essential.
- Education: Portfolios for student teachers can display teaching philosophies, lesson plans, special projects, classroom interactions, and anything else that shows off the best examples of teaching experience. This would be especially useful if you ever decided to move out of the classroom and into private tutoring.
- Design: Portfolios for design are a must because they’re concrete proof of your creative abilities (and aesthetic choices). Design is a broad umbrella but it includes architecture, graphic design, interior design, and fashion design to name but a few.
- Journalism: Often, journalists are freelancers which means their portfolio is a record of all their previous work. Portfolios showcase articles, the investigative process, blogs, broadcasts, and videos that show off writing and reporting skills.
- Arts & Entertainment: These types of portfolios are responsible for showcasing the talent involved in events, performances, and wider work associated with art, dance, theater, comedy, film, tv and online content-making.
- Technology: When it comes to technology, student portfolios allow you to show off technical experience and problem-solving in fields such as coding and web development.
When you create a good student portfolio, it can be a powerful tool to demonstrate what you have to offer. But what is a good student portfolio? Let’s dive into the specifics of how to create the best student portfolio possible.
1. Define Your Purpose and Audience
Figuring out your audience is an important first step because this will affect how you design your student portfolio and what you put in it. For example, a student portfolio aimed at a college admissions board would be very different from one submitted for a job interview at an unusual creative collective.
Think about what you want to say about yourself and your work and who you want to say it to. When you know your audience, you can better resonate with them.
2. Organize Your Portfolio
After you figure out your purpose and audience, then you can organize your portfolio. This will involve choosing the content that’s the most relevant to what you want, and then choosing how to categorize it in the way that best shows it off.
The way a portfolio is organized is a great way to show off your creativity. You have the freedom to think a little outside the box, add multimedia elements, and add some interactivity. As long as it makes sense and doesn’t overwhelm visitors, the (student portfolio) world is your creative oyster!
3. Showcase Your Growth and Development
The beauty of a student portfolio is that it gives you the space to present your very best work alongside your earliest stuff. This will demonstrate how much you’ve grown over the years. A lot of companies, collectives, and individuals value growth, especially if your growth in ability has been self-taught because it shows off your passion and commitment.
One caveat – if you decide to include earlier projects in your portfolio, make sure that they are clearly marked! You don’t want a potential employer to land on a page that shows off early skills that you’ve now left in the dust.
4. Incorporate Reflective Elements
This is a particularly important tip, and a lot of people don’t use it. When you show off your work, explain a little about it. What was the brief? Were there any ways you were challenged? Did it cause you to learn something new? Was it hard because you didn’t have a lot of resources? Did the work earn any special praise or awards? Did it serve as a stepping stone to something bigger?
When you give concise and thoughtful context to your work, it demonstrates your thought process and problem-solving. The added explanation is also helpful for the people viewing the work and ultimately makes it look and feel more impressive.
5. Ensure Consistency
Even if your work is varied and across multiple mediums, it’s important to keep your format and aesthetics consistent when designing your website. This helps it to look more professional.
Although we recommend using a website builder to create your student portfolio, you might prefer to use a Content Management System (CMS), such as WordPress. If so, you’ll need to pick a hosting provider before you can start building your portfolio. Check out the best web hosting for students to get started.
Here are several examples of student portfolios to inspire you.
Kayla Padilla used Squarespace to make her portfolio. Though it’s very simple in design and targets the banking and finance world, it still shows off her personality. She includes information on her personal projects, her hobbies and passions, and even has a link at the bottom of the homepage that shows off what song is currently playing in her head.
This gives a great idea of who she is as a person, what inspires her, and how she differs from other people. Our particular favorite feature is her page on press coverage, which also includes information on her personal projects.
Kayla Padilla: Portfolio Highlights
Human and Computer interaction expert Onye built this portfolio website using Webflow. The design is very minimalistic but it’s extremely dynamic. It has beautiful moving text that reacts to cursor movement, showing off her creative skills with Adobe, Figma and other platforms.
We love the excellent context she gives to her projects so that a reader can see exactly what was expected, what she did, why, and the outcome. She’s also (very patiently!) included an FAQ section to answer things like how her name is pronounced.
Onyekachi Nwabueze: Portfolio Highlights
Conceptual and scientific design student Eva Zaharakos used Webflow to make her student portfolio. It’s very clever in its design because not only is it beautiful, but it shows off her aesthetic and how she (and her family) have always walked between the scientific and creative fields.
Our favorite thing about Eva’s website is how it makes the most of her five internships. She mentions them on the landing page, and then gives them dedicated pages to give the reader more information about her responsibilities and roles.
Eva Zaharakos: Portfolio Highlights
So what do you have to gain by creating a student portfolio and why is it important for your career trajectory?
Because it follows one of the most important rules to live by for success – show, don’t tell. What that means is you’re a lot more impactful if you show what you can do, versus just talking about it.
But that’s not the only reason student portfolios are so important. Take a look below at some other reasons why it’s a good idea to have one:
Holistic Representation of Your Skills and Achievements
A traditional resume can’t show off what your work looks and feels like. It can only serve as a snapshot of your experience. A student portfolio demonstrates who you are as a person and the range of your talent and experience. It’s like a good online dating profile that reveals who you are as a person.
Evidence of Learning and Growth
Your portfolio is evidence of your learning journey because it showcases not only where you are now, but the steps you took to get here. It gives a clearer idea of your capability and the way you grow much more than a list of your grades can.
Preparation for Academic and Professional Opportunities
Having a well-organized portfolio can prepare you for future academic and professional opportunities. Whether you’re applying for college, interviewing for a job, or pitching to potential clients for freelance work, a portfolio allows you to present your best work engagingly and professionally. It can give you an edge over other candidates and increase your chances of success.
Showcasing Valuable Soft Skills
“Soft” skills (like critical thinking, problem-solving, flexibility, and good communication) are often more important than technical skills because they take a lot longer to develop and are more useful for work. When a student portfolio shows off these skills, you boost your appeal as a candidate.
Showing Off Your Personality and Point of View
As you step into the work world, you’ll hear a lot more about being a “good fit” for a particular company or project. There’s a lot of time wasted in constant resumes and emails and messages that give no hint of who you are as a person and what your work is like. But a student portfolio puts who you are and how you think out there from the beginning so that people know whether you are potentially right for their company culture.
Making an impactful student portfolio is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your career. It involves:
- Identifying your purpose and audience
- Organizing your work strategically
- Showcasing your growth and development
- Incorporating reflective elements
- Maintaining a consistent design
When it’s well curated and considered, it will give the viewer (whether they’re an academic group, a company, or a potential client or collaborator) a much better view of your skills and achievements because they will see the evidence of your skills and your growth.
A student portfolio not only announces to the world that you have arrived, but who you are, what you can do, and why you stand out from other people.
And that’s exactly the tool you need to progress to the next exciting stage of your life. Have fun!