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How to Create an Impressive Portfolio for Architecture College

by Kevin Wandrei, studioD

Creating the perfect portfolio for an architecture college application requires demonstrating creativity through numerous media. Some applicants might be surprised that their portfolio does not have to be architecture-specific. Any way applicants can demonstrate creativity -- whether through art, video or even fiction writing -- is worth including in an impressive architecture college portfolio.

Variety of Media

One of the most easily overlooked ways that applicants can make an impressive portfolio is to include a wide variety of media. Most architecture applicants probably decide to submit only architecture-relevant materials, like CAD drawings, blueprints and designs. This, however, is a poor strategy because the point of the portfolio is to assess creativity, not competency in architecture. Penn State's Stuckeman School, for example, explicitly says that applicants should include anything that demonstrates creativity. This includes nonvisual forms of creativity, like poetry and fiction. Other schools may have more stringent requirements, but in general, few will want to see only architecture-relevant materials in the portfolio.

Sufficient Content

While individual schools will generally outline how many pieces of work to include in the portfolio, applicants should be careful not to include an insufficient number of samples. In general, students should rarely include fewer than a dozen works in their sample and should strive to be on the upper end of a school's given range. In the case of Cornell's AAP School, which advises that students submit between 15 and 20 works, applicants should try to submit as close to 20 as possible. It's hard for schools to evaluate a candidate with too few materials to consider.

Organizational Clarity

One of the easiest ways to make an impressive portfolio is to organize it in a way that makes clear sense and conveys a message about a candidate. For example, an applicant submitting a combination of visual art and nonfiction writing should be sure to present the two groups of work in a way that categorizes them by style or theme. Alternatively, students could show how they have worked with a similar artistic theme across numerous media and organize their portfolio that way. Organizing chronologically might be a good option if an applicant hopes to demonstrate improvement over time. Whatever the choice, the portfolio viewed as a whole -- not in its individual components -- should be organized with a clear purpose.

Follow Instructions

Finally, no impressive portfolio will be handed in without having followed the instructions provided by the university. This includes meeting all deadlines. Importantly, applicants should be careful to watch for statements about the return of original works. Many universities will not return originals, so students should take special care to produce adequate reproductions -- or be willing to sacrifice a piece of work. Applicants should also be careful when they need to submit portfolios electronically. Transferring works of art to a computer format can distort them, so students will need to put in extra work to minimize these problems.

About the Author

Kevin Wandrei has written extensively on higher education. His work has been published with Kaplan, Textbooks.com, and Shmoop, Inc., among others. He is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration at Cornell University.

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