Definition of a Personal Portfolio

A personal portfolio is an evidentiary document designed to provide qualitative and quantitative information. It is different from a resume in that its intent is not to summarize, but to expand upon and provide evidence relating to accomplishments, skills and experiences, in the classroom, workplace, and community in which you live.


A personal portfolio can display in print or electronic format. While both include the same information, the target audience, along with how you intend to use your personal portfolio, will determine the best format to use. In general, a personal portfolio in a print format is more formal than an electronic portfolio. You can also decide to use both formats and create a more formal print, and a less formal electronic version.


Unlike a resume, a personal portfolio is not a document you sit down and create in an hour. A good personal portfolio is always a work in progress. Keep in mind the portfolio can span a period of five or more years in your life. As an example, high school students creating a personal portfolio for college admission typically include a period of four years, while college students will include all four years of college and may choose to include significant prior achievements as well.


The process of developing a personal portfolio includes information gathering, organizing, assembly and a final check before submitting to any reviewer. Information gathering is the longest and most involved part of the process and is integral in maintaining the portfolio once you complete the initial document. Organization and assembly is easier if you establish and work within an outline similar to the table of contents you will use with the completed portfolio.


The objective in assembling a personal portfolio is to provide the reviewer with as much relevant information about you as possible. Typical portfolio categories include educational accomplishments and activities, work experience and community involvement. Examples of documents commonly included are report cards and grade transcripts, academic awards and evidence of participation in school-related activities, such as sports awards, a verification letter from a coach or a newspaper article.

Work-related documentation could include both paid and non-paid work, such as an internship, and include an up-to-date resume, letters of recommendation and a list of references. Community involvement documentation can include personal references, certificates of recognition, photographs or a written summary of your experience.


The layout for a personal portfolio should be organized and consistent. A more formal portfolio will not require decoration or a creative design, while you may want to add some decoration to a less formal portfolio. Include a cover page with your name, a photo and a portfolio title. Numbered pages and a table of contents is a good idea to assist the reviewer in navigating through sections.

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