The IBDP is a time-consuming endeavor. But, there’s no need to be afraid of it, as it will also benefit you greatly in the future. However, for most universities, just doing the IB is not enough. You have to present a portfolio — some might call it your resume — in order to get acceptance from universities. To help you get started, here are 5 ways to boost your portfolio:
1. Extracurricular activities
Extracurricular activities are definitely a ‘‘must’’ if you are going to apply to university! Universities would like to see your abilities and social skills in addition to your academics. They love active, passionate individuals who are interested in activities that will help the students enjoy campus life, learn, and grow. Think of your portfolio as a gift: you wrapped the first layer with academics — you caught their attention. The second layer is the extracurricular activities which will define you socially and tell universities what you can bring to the table aside from your grades. This layer will definitely set their thoughts about you (It is important to note that this might not be the case for all universities, so be sure to do your research).
Extracurricular activities can be divided into three main groups: creativity, activity, and service, meaning that you can essentially kill two birds with one stone in doing CAS and boosting your portfolio. For this section, the focus will be on creativity and activity, while service will be highlighted in the next section about projects. Employment and personal commitments can also be included in this, but the most common and easy to find are these:
Creativity: Examples for extracurricular activities that contain ‘’Creativity’’ are arts and clubs.
- If you have talent and will, the arts is a great choice for you. Maybe you’ll even find out that you want to pursue a career in this line! My suggestion for this is to go to an art lesson (e.g. music lesson, sketching workshop, improv class) or maybe to do research about the history of arts and engage with more of a theoretical side of it. Going to a museum and finding ideas there or pursuing a project in this field can be great activities too.
- Schools tend to provide a lot of club options for students. These may include projects or competitions on their own that will help you prove your involvement. Choose one that you are interested in and grow into that topic! My suggestions are MUN, Debate Clubs, or Entrepreneurship clubs. Joining clubs like these communicate to the universities that you have interests outside of academics and that you are taking the initiative to explore them. You can start your own club if you want to. Starting your own might be a great way of showing that you are not afraid of taking responsibility too.
Activity: Doing sports is a common love for many students
- Some play team sports, some do individual ones… Taking a sports license in a field that you are interested in, joining your school’s team (maybe later thanks to COVID-19), or taking part in competitions will be a great way of showing this and supporting your Activity experiences too.
This is a very general field, and your CAS project fits into this category. Projects show that you are a team player, passionate about community building, can act on an idea. Service projects are the most popular, but just creating a project that will help, educate, or entertain people is enough. I suggest giving lessons to younger students, organizing a school night that will entertain students, or helping out elders once a week. These can easily be turned into projects with good planning and research. It is up to you what to do, but projects are great keys to opening the lock of ‘‘I’m aware of my responsibilities and going to use my creativity for good.’’
Internships are valuable assets to your portfolio. These will show that you have work experience even when you are young and you’re disciplined. It also communicates that you are willing to spare your free time to educate yourself and demonstrate your commitment. It is important to emphasize that you don’t have to do it at a megafirm. In fact, having any kind of work experience can be enough to set you apart. Show that you are willing to try and experience. But, don’t forget to document your involvement. Evidence is important (like it is in CAS), so you have show that you actually did the activity you told them about.
4. Summer schools
This is not a necessity but would be good to mention in a university application if you take part in one. Participating in these will show that you are willing to take action and educate yourself when you become interested in something. It will also help you show the universities that you are knowledgeable about the major you are going to apply for; it proves to them how serious you are about it. There are various types of summer schools: language, career, extension courses, or even exchanges (For more information on how to participate in summer programs, check out our articles on free academic summer programs and university summer programs.) Most of the summer schools will give certificates to demonstrate your achievements.
Don’t be afraid! I’m not saying you have to publish a book or write for a large publication. Having small-scale publication of your writing in your school’s newspaper, publishing a little book of stories you’ve written so far, or participating in a writing competition to share your story can be examples for this. I would say that it is good support for your communication skills in the eyes of the universities.
I admit these seem a lot, and they are, but the benefits are definitely worth it! The key is to combine these with IB via CAS. Everything I wrote here can either be taken as a CAS experience or a project. By doing so, you can boost both your career portfolio and diversify your CAS!