Categories: Academics

Building An Online Portfolio In College

An online portfolio in college helps with the common goal of securing a job upon graduation. It’s a way of highlighting impressive work and branding yourself. Employers offer places to hyperlink to a personal website in their applications. So building an online portfolio in college helps prepare you for that day. 

Why It’s Important

First and foremost, an online portfolio in college helps you define your personal brand. What do you want future employers to think of when they look at your application or your portfolio? What is going to help you stand apart from everyone else? That’s where your personal brand, littered throughout your entire portfolio, comes into play. 

What does a personal brand consist of? Here’s a brief list to get you started, and as you get more comfortable it’s good to do your own research.

  • Have a focus — what are you highlighting about yourself?
  • Tell a story — you’re much more than just the work you produce be sure to share that!
  • Know your audience — who do you want looking at your portfolio? What are they going to be looking for about you?
  • Remain consistent — it doesn’t have to be exactly the same throughout your entire college career, but if you decide to adjust your brand, make sure every part of your online portfolio in college matches.

Additionally, your online portfolio gives interviewers a preview of you before the interview. It encourages them to ask about specific projects you’ve displayed. It helps you feel prepared. You won’t look like a deer in headlights when they ask you about a challenging project you’ve worked on in the past or a project you’re proud of. 

Picking Your Platform

Your online portfolio in college will exist on a Content Management Platform (CMP). That’s just a fancy way of saying programs like WordPress, Wix, or Square Space. We are lucky enough to live in a time where you don’t have to know complex or even any coding to build a website. While it may seem like a daunting task upfront, it’s easy once you get started. 

The CMP’s mentioned above offer free subscriptions. It means their names will appear in your domain name unless you are ready to pay for a custom domain. That would help with higher search results in google but since you are just getting started building an online portfolio in college that isn’t necessary. Searching each site in your internet browser will allow you to explore templates that make setting up your portfolio easier. 

Choosing A Layout

Research. Research. Research. But don’t worry this is fun. Think about role models in your field, people who have your dream job, or even your favorite shopping site. When you visit, don’t just look at the content, think about how they have it laid out. Think about the design. What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it? Take their ideas and your own and combine them. 

The homepage of your online college portfolio can display a mini introduction with a picture of you smiling. Research shows smiling pictures foster better reactions from employers than the “serious face” pictures. Be sure to include some key branding words in your mini introduction. Then, think about what you’ll be including in your online portfolio in college. 

Here’s the best part about these CMP’s, they don’t limit the number of sites you can build. Try a few different templates and explore navigating them on your own. If you don’t like something try a different template for your online portfolio in college. You want it to be the best representation fo you and the most logical layout for viewers to explore all you’ve created. 

Type Of Material To Include

Figuring out your layout might help if you know what kind of materials to include in your online portfolio in college. Again, modeling your portfolio after someone you admire is a great place to start; what kind of work or material are they displaying, and do you have anything similar? However, if you can’t find anyone in your field with an online portfolio, try going to your professors. They do more than just lecture. They are a great resource and often have connections to other professionals in your field. Ask them what work you should display and what professionals in your field look for when hiring. It will help you make sure you get those done before graduation if you don’t already have them. 

A resume should always be included in an online portfolio in college. Two ways to display your resume can be by designing a custom page in your portfolio or having a downloadable PDF or Word document. Doing both is always a good option. But, you should always make sure you’re resume is updated on the document and in your online college portfolio before applying to every job. 

Other ideas of what to include are:

  • Personal information or contact page
  • Letters of Recommendation — from professional, personal, and professors alike
  • Examples of work — try to include as much variety as possible but make sure your best work is at the top
  • A more in-depth “about me” page — what do you want potential employers to know about you that isn’t’ related to your major?
  • Blog
  • Internship Experience
  • Published work

Curating to Your Major

Your online college portfolio should not just highlight you, it needs to be designed to fit your major and industry. Because every major is different, the work and content displayed reflect that. Below are a few majors and content that could be displayed specifically for that major. 

  • Journalism — writing examples, graphic design, edited clips, audio clips, photo editing
  • Engineer — sketches, architectural designs, electrical mapping, competency in specific programs, diagrams
  • Art Major — watercolor paintings,  clay models, collages, exhibits and links
  • History Major — research papers, volunteer work

Your online college portfolio should no only focus on what makes you unique but highlight the aspects that make your major unique. Even if your major isn’t a major that requires a lot of written papers, it’s smart to have a small blog portion on your portfolio. What are controversial or trending topics in your industry? Write a short piece about these topics that are reflective or give your opinion on the matter.

This matters for two important reasons. A 2018 study conducted by a Job Outlook Survey found that nearly 80% of college graduates felt proficient in oral/written communication, but employers only felt just under 50% were proficient. That’s a big difference. By including writing in your industry, you show that you are paying attention and consistently improving your writing skills. The second reason is it shows employers you care about and are involved in the industry.

See Also

Your online college portfolio should highlight the skills employers are looking for. And regardless of industry, employers unanimously agree writing is a highly desirable skill. 


The design component of your online portfolio is where you get to let your creativity shine. Be cautious because it still has to be appealing to the eye. But, if you’ve never taken a design course or are feeling overwhelmed, there are free online tools that can help you. 

Let’s say you find the perfect template for your online portfolio in college but the colors are meh. Not to worry. automatically generates color schemes for you and all you have to do is press the space bar. The program lets you lock colors you like and then continue hitting the space bar to get rid of the ones you don’t. In a matter of minutes, you’ll have the perfect five-color palette to use in your online college portfolio. It’s helpful to think about the keywords you use in your brand. Do the colors you chose reflect those words or imply the same feeling? 

If you aren’t sure, there’s plenty of online reading you can do on color theory if you want to take the time to explore. 

Having a unique logo not only solidifies your brand, but it’s also something you can display on your website to create an association. Using the logo on your online college portfolio, a business card, and a resume helps maintain consistency within your brand. If you have never laid a hand in Adobe Suite products like Illustrator or Spark, there are free applications like Canva that are user friendly and don’t require a lot of previous design skills. 

Social Media Links

If you actively post on social media, either highlighting your own work or engage with others in the industry linking to those accounts on your online college portfolio impresses employers. Whether you actively network on LinkedIn or show off your staging skills on Instagram, you’re showing employers you use social media in a productive manner. 

Social media receives a bad rap when used in the same sentence as employment. But, it can be one of your biggest assets when used the right way. Make sure to link those accounts because odds are an employer might ask to look at them anyway. 

Do you already have an online portfolio in college? Leave the link below with your major to offer up some inspiration to fellow readers!

Header Image Source:
Kayla Payette

A recent college graduate working her way into the publishing world. I love sharing stories for people, companies, and creators. I'll always have a passion for the written word even though digital marketing has spiked my interest. Thank you for reading my work and if you want to see what else I've done you can visit my online portfolio here!

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