A portfolio is basically an organised collection of carefully picked documents written by you. The works you put into your portfolio can be of two types:
i. Response or research-based papers written by you for class or for other academic purposes during your experience as an English major
ii. Any other form of creative writing that you may have written for any other reason, including published articles, poetry or fictional pieces.
They just need to be pieces that you are particularly proud of, which bring out the best of your abilities as a writer or literary critic.
There also needs to be a Reflective Essay, which is a skeletal piece that you can use to briefly highlight how you developed as a writer or literary critic over the course of your university experience. You must use this essay to relay how the works you included in your portfolio relate to the professional and/or academic aims you set for yourself.
Why do you need one?
1. It's your personal record of every good piece you have ever written, all in one place. That's almost reason enough!
2. It will come in handy when you're applying for a job, or applying abroad for a master's degree or professional programs. Parmita Akhter, an NSU student who recently got accepted to Varendra University for a master's in Creative Writing said, “For some institutions, this is even a requirement, and it pays to keep your portfolio organised from beforehand.”
3. It provides potential employers and faculty members a means to assess how far you've come as a student of English, and how well suited you are to the kind of opportunities they are willing to provide.
4. Sending in a portfolio along with your CV is going to make you come across as someone who is organised, well-resourced and willing to commit.
What should be in a portfolio?
Here are more details on what kind of content your portfolio should boast:
The literary pieces:
The guide provided by Berry College, Rome, recommends adding at least one essay piece for each of the following types of college-level writing:
- An extended analysis/close reading of a literary work
- Poetry/fiction/ non-fiction creative prose which demonstrates awareness and proficiency regarding basic elements of craft
- Poetry or creative prose which demonstrates a sophisticated engagement with elements of craft particular to that genre
- A research-oriented investigation or argument utilising primary and secondary sources. It's extremely important that there is proper referencing.
You can also add published write-ups, such as newspaper articles and journal entries, and even writings you prepared as an intern that may or may not be classified as “formal writing”.
It would also help if you have a 'Contents' page, and all your works are numbered and organized in accordance to the time written.
The reflective essay:
A reflective essay is sort of like a cover letter merged with a summary of all your achievements and improvements as a writer so far, from your own point of view. Just like in a cover letter, you must first discuss how the major you picked and the courses you have attended are all coherent and aligned with your professional aims, and why you would be a good candidate for hiring, or for receiving acceptance as a student. Then, continue to discuss in separate paragraphs how each of the works you included in your portfolio relates to your claim, and how they represent your growth as an English major. Eastern CT State University's guide to writing a reflective essay gave an insight into the kind of tone that is suited in this section: “Imagine this: several of your professors are sitting around a table reading your papers, hearing your voice comment about your own work, and thinking about using your comments to bring about change. What kind of voice do you want them to hear? What kind of voice do you think will be the most persuasive and present you in the best light?”
That's all! Hope you succeed in compiling your own Portfolio. As a guide, here is an online example of a Portfolio, by Kyra Sawyer: https://portfolio.snc.edu/kyrasawyer/self-reflective-essay/
Susmita is a literature major who lives on tea and sweet toast. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.