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Articles / Applying to College / Can I Send My Entire Writing Portfolio to Admission Offices?

May 24, 2009

Can I Send My Entire Writing Portfolio to Admission Offices?

Question: I know that there was already a question concerning supplemental writing samples, but I feel my question is slightly different. I would really like to submit a smaller version of the writing portfolio I have put together on the advice of several teachers, with one piece of writing from each category. Is this a good idea? I feel that my writing talent is very strong, but I don't want to seem like I'm trying too hard by submitting it. Help!

You won't seem like you're "trying too hard." Don't worry about that. If your portfolio torpedoes your admission chances, it will probably be for other reasons. ;) How many pieces will there be altogether? Unless you're applying specifically to a writing major or program, it's unlikely that admission committees will do more than skim several of your submissions. Of course, if your writing is really engaging, it's certainly possible that the admission folks might get "hooked" and read everything.


The biggest danger I've seen when students send a lot of writing samples is that, typically, a couple of them may be strong but the rest are weaker. This detracts from the overall collection. So if you plan to send more than one, two, or--at the very most--three unsolicited samples, ask those teachers who are encouraging you to tell you if they feel there are some "weak links" in the portfolio. If yes, I suggest that you not submit those, even if it means that some "categories" won't be represented.

Also, make sure that your writing is on standard 8.5 x 11-inch paper with no elaborate bindings, covers, etc. Admission officials will probably want to put your portfolio right into your application folder, and if it's too big or bulky, they'll not only be annoyed, but also they may stick it elsewhere--like on some out-of-the-way shelf in the bathroom where it may not get read at all.

Hope that helps. Good luck with your applications.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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