As university applications become more competitive, academic grades are no longer the only consideration for scholarships and admissions. In fact, many universities are setting aside up to 10% of their places for discretionary admissions, that is, admissions based on students’ achievements besides grades.

In an effort to create a more holistic admissions process, schools are placing more emphasis on each applicant’s portfolio and his or her extracurricular talents. A strong portfolio is crucial in ensuring applicants are well-rounded and can contribute to the student community. For example, leadership positions, outstanding contributions to community service,  notable research attachments and internships, can be the key to setting an applicant apart from another.



Any activities that demonstrate your motivations and interests
Your potential to experiment, imagine, and explore ideas and techniques.
Any involvement that shows that you are trying to better yourself in a relevant area of interest.

3 points to consider in portfolio-building

1. Understanding the criteria

This is an important step to make sure you include everything that the Portfolio requires. Try planning your pages/slides of your Portfolio so that your headings or subheadings have terms from the criteria. Keep in mind the page limit and plan accordingly.

2. Delivering your ideas and intentions

Concept is in other words the meaning behind the work and intention is what you wish the viewer to feel or to gain from your work. Make your concept and intention clear, then move on to brainstorming, idea development and more.

3. Review, refine and reflect

When you have completed your work and explained the process, reflect and review your work. Are all the intentions you previously wished for there? Blowing your own trumpet will not get you marks here and therefore you have to be very objective and critical. Show your brainstorming on the same page if you think you can do better. If necessary, show some experimentation and critical investigation. Re-make your work and reflect on it. Reflection does not need to be very long – a small paragraph will work. Have at least 1-2 works that you have re-done completely, and 2-3 pages of reflection with resolved work.

There are 8 elements that should be in your portfolio:

External competition(Local and International)

Olympiads, Science competition, hackathons


Jobs, internships, Clinical attachments( For example, if a student is interested in neurology. We would advise her to write to the Alzheimer association to do volunteer work and write to NNI for a research attachment.)

Research projects

Extended essay, independent essay competition(Essay writing (Law or Economics- Marshall Society Essay Competition, Royal Economic Society UK)

Community projects/Volunteer work in related industry

School activities

Clubs and society

Personal Interests

Hiking, Martial arts, external societies

Leadership roles

Executive committee, organising committee


Relevant research papers for individual subjects (internal Assessments or Extended essays)

Sample of good portfolio