Include writing in your admissions portfolio with these 7 tips

An art portfolio can include far more than you thought.

You’re eager to start your creative career at an art and design school. You’re putting together your college application, and you see you need to submit a portfolio of work. This is your opportunity to have a little fun figuring out which samples of your original work you show us. For students who feel they don’t have much experience or who think they might pursue the literary arts in their undergraduate career, you can build your portfolio with your favorite pieces of writing.

When we look at portfolios, we look for your original ideas and your artistic range, as well as your unique personality. You can showcase this creativity and talent by including written works alongside visual art. Plus, you can use the versatility of words to compose almost anything, from short stories and poems to song lyrics and screenplays.

Below are our top 7 tips on how to assemble or enhance your portfolio with written work.

1. You can include just about anything

Get creative! In high school, you probably wrote poems, essays, and maybe even a short story or two. Think about your extracurricular activities. Maybe you’re a budding filmmaker who has written film scripts. Look over your work and pick out some of your favorites to add to your portfolio.

Like visual art portfolios, we like to see your creative range. You may have written both poems and speeches or even comics and news articles. If you feel confident about your work, include it.

2. Be sure to check college admission requirements

For CCA portfolios, first-year applicants should submit between 10 to 15 individual pieces of work. Transfer applicants need to submit 15 to 20 pieces of work. You can include—and are highly encouraged to do so—both visual art and written works. You can also make a portfolio of entirely written works if you think you’ll pursue writing, literature, or art history in college.

Other colleges may have different portfolio requirements from those at CCA, so be sure to check before you assemble your work.

3.Choose strong excerpts not novels

Be sure to limit each piece of writing to your strongest examples, preferably those that are around a page or so or about 500 words. Choose excerpts that could possibly stand on their own. They might have a clear beginning, middle, and an end, or they have a logical progression which comes to a conclusion. You might also instinctively know it’s your most compelling sample of writing.

Choose quality over quantity: We’d rather see a few pieces of your best work over work that needs to be developed.

4. Make your work legible and presentable

We need to be able to read what you wrote. Choose a commonly used font and a legible font size. Look at the spacing between lines and on the margins and make sure the text isn’t squeezed too tightly.

At an art college, we care very much not only about what you have to say but also how you style it. Some of the work you’re submitting could blend both text and visual art, like a handmade book, a photo poem, or a zine. For any submission, think about how your writing and its visual presentation complement one another.

5. Think across mediums

At CCA, we encourage work that blends the creative disciplines. For example, graphic novel pages or cartoon strips with dialogue combine writing and drawing. A script can show us how you think about character development. Perhaps you wrote an expressive poem; you can take it a step further and bring it to life by staging a reading with music or other background elements.

6. Review and edit your work

Self-editing is very important. Take time to look over your existing drafts and get feedback. Even if you think you got it just right after only one draft, you may have skipped a plot point or missed a key piece of information that reduces the strength of your argument. Take one of the pieces you’re going to submit and read it out loud. This will help you catch common errors or missing ideas.

7. Show us your point of view

When you look at your writing samples, choose pieces that show us your voice and convey who you are. We want to see how you make your ideas and stories come to life with the words you choose, the punctuation you use, and your overall tone toward your piece. Your authentic voice comes out most often when you write about something that excites you or motivates you. Try choosing pieces that communicate your passion or enthusiasm.