Colleges’ opinions of digital portfolios

Leesville students made digital portfolios this year with the expectation that they showcase their best work for colleges. However, most colleges do not require a digital portfolio. (Photo courtesy of Marie Cox)

This year at Leesville, and across Wake County, students have had to create digital portfolios. Students design them to submit as a part of college applications, but do colleges really look for them?

Leesville hosted a College Fair Night on October 7 with attendees like NC State, UNC Willmington, and Meredith College. 

The Mycenaean asked each booth what role digital portfolios play in their admissions process. No school present required a digital portfolio, and some didn’t have a way to submit a digital portfolio during the admissions process. 

NC State College of Education does not require or strongly recommend a digital portfolio. However, everything you submit to them during your admissions process gets reviewed. So while digital portfolios aren’t expected, you can submit them as supplemental material. Colleges that allow you to submit supplemental material does so via a URL in an online submission. 

Among most universities present, digital portfolios took the role of supplemental material. So when, if ever, does supplemental material actually matter?

Supplemental material is usually only examined if your application is lacking in some aspects. Meaning, if your test scores aren’t high enough for the university’s standards but your GPA is, the supplemental material provided gets reviewed to aid in the decision of your admission. 

“I’m honestly not that surprised that digital portfolios don’t play a big role in the admissions process,” said Lauren Weiss, junior. “It’s a lot of work that one person would have to look over for every student, but it’s still a good concept.”

Weiss noted that while she supports digital portfolios, she doesn’t think every student needs to complete one. “Not all students are college-bound, and I don’t see why a digital portfolio would matter if [you’re] entering the workforce,” said Weiss.

Leesville student’s sentiments seem to pair with various colleges’ opinions of digital portfolios: they don’t take the forefront of your application and therefore aren’t extremely important. So why did Wake County mandate them?

“The digital portfolio initiative is part of the Balanced Assessment section of the District’s Vision 2020 Strategic Plan that was developed in the spring of 2014,” said Chris Heagarty, the School Board Superintendent for District 7 (including Leesville), via email. “The program has two main goals, to help students develop career/college readiness skills and to ensure a quality classroom experience.”

As established earlier, digital portfolios don’t play a serious role in admissions, but according to Heagarty “many colleges and universities review student portfolios as part of the admissions process.” 

Beyond college admissions, “students are engaging in a variety of collaborative learning activities, using educational technology with intentionality, reflecting on their learning, setting goals for future learning, and working to understand the concepts of digital citizenship and digital footprints,” said Heagarty. 

Heagarty notes that while digital portfolios have these goals, actually meeting them is entirely dependent on the school. “Individual schools and school teams ultimately have control over how many artifacts are added to portfolios and how often this takes place.”

It seems that Wake County and colleges have different opinions about how important digital portfolios are, and Leesville students and Wake County have different opinions on how digital portfolios will serve students. Whatever student opinions are, Heagarty welcomes any feedback from Leesville students about digital portfolios. Students can contact him via email at


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