I had a really great week. I received an early admissions offer to Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University, a nomination letter from Senator Jon Kyl for a U.S. service academy, and an email stating that I was awarded a 4 year scholarship in the U.S. Air Force ROTC program. A couple weeks earlier I had received nomination letters from Senator Jeff Flake and my Congresswoman, Kyrsten Sinema as well. MePlusMore has asked me to detail how I used my digital portfolio during high school to help with the college and scholarship process that led to these outcomes, and in other areas that helped me during high school or on applications where I am still waiting to hear a decision.

Beginning the first semester of my freshman year I set up my portfolio and categorized my summer travel, Boy Scout meetings/camping, volunteer activities and cross country practice & meets that I had participated in. I would log in every 1-2 months throughout high school to categorize the prior months’ worth of activities as well as add any new awards or achievements. I logged on more frequently to update my portfolio my junior year and into my senior year.  Freshman and sophomore year was really just staying organized which became incredibly important beginning junior year.

In the second semester of my sophomore year I had the opportunity to start touring colleges. On most of these tours I met admissions officers who provided their business card. After returning home I would send them a thank you email and include a link to my digital portfolio in the message. I followed up with each once or twice since my initial visit to provide an update on my activities and express my continued interest. Many replied that they appreciated me visiting their campus and commented on my activities. I’ll point out that the name on the early admissions letter to Barrett was one of the admission officers I had updated.

I also started sending emails with a link to my portfolio after my sophomore year to teachers who I really liked and did well in their class. It was a genuine thank you note from me but I also wanted to make sure they knew about everything I was involved in outside of class. I had some of the same teachers my junior year and there were new teachers I bonded with as well. In all cases I updated the original group and provided the new teachers with a link to my digital portfolio at various time throughout the year.

Junior year was really where having a digital portfolio paid off. I applied for and was inducted into the National Honor Society. In addition to the application I provided the club’s sponsor a link to my digital portfolio so she could see supporting data for the volunteer hours I was listing. At the start of the second semester I had to fill out applications and write essays to my state’s U.S. Senators and my district’s Congresswoman for service academy nominations. These are very much like college applications. I referenced much of the information from my digital portfolio to add to the application as well as to support the details I included in the essays. There were also opportunities in follow-up communications to share my digital portfolio directly with contacts at the Senate/Congressional offices. For these applications, I also had to request letters of recommendation from teachers, organizations I was involved in and community leaders. For all of these requests I included an updated link to my digital portfolio. For those that shared their recommendation with me I feel like the relationship that I built early on was reflected in what they wrote about me. A similar set of steps was required for applying to each service academy I am interested in attending.

The second half of junior year and into the summer also involved applying for ROTC and other non-merit type scholarships that had a very similar set of requirements as the service academy nomination and admissions applications. Again, being organized helped me fill out the information requested but having a sharable portfolio gave me tool for follow up conversations and is what I believe set me apart in some situations. Finally, I provided a link to my digital portfolio on the application for a summer internship. I was the only high school student selected to work on the gubernatorial re-election campaign in Arizona. My coordinator stated that having access to all of my high school activities and achievements was a factor in being selected.

In the first couple of months of senior year the cycle opened for early admissions followed by regular admissions applications, as well as for additional scholarships. There wasn’t much variation in the process I previously highlighted. There was also a solid template to modify when I once again had to request letters of recommendation for colleges. At this point teachers were getting flooded with requests and having nurtured my relationships helped get great recommendations. Having gone through process beginning my junior year certainly made the process very familiar, but being organized and having the tool that was a sharable portfolio was key. In the last couple months I’ve seen my classmates express frustration when trying to remember the details of their extracurricular activities to add to their ‘brag sheet’ or when trying to do the same with the resume tool in our school’s college prep application. At our school you are required to have this information to share before asking teachers for letters of recommendation. Most felt they were thin on details or very 2 dimensional and not a reflection on how hard they worked.

I’ll finish by adding that throughout the application process there were a number of instances where the college or scholarship application allowed for ‘digital content’ to be included. I was able to create custom reports that highlighted a specific activity (like all Boy Scout activities or volunteer hours) and include a unique URL on the specific electronic application. Once I decide on which college or program I’ll be attending I’ll be focused on identifying the scholarship opportunities that exist at that institution. I’m sure I’ll be using my digital portfolio once again for these applications.

I’m still waiting on word from the bulk of the applications I have submitted which won’t come until the first few months of next year. I also still have 1 more college application to complete before the end-of-year deadline but I’m not stressed given that I’ve done much of the work already. Below is link to my current digital portfolio that include all of the activities, awards and achievement from high school.