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The Writing Portfolio – Some Advice

Lexi shares some lessons she has learned from completing the Writing Portfolio this term.

Lexi shares some lessons she has learned from completing the Writing Portfolio this term.

Spring term contains many milestones for sophomores. There is, of course, declaring your major, but there is also submitting your Writing Portfolio. It is a chance to show how much you have learned about college-level writing in your first 6(ish) terms at Carleton.

The requirements for the Writing Portfolio change slightly on a year-to-year basis; as a result, the tips offered here are very broad and generalizable. I aim to de-mystify the Writing Portfolio process from a student perspective, so that you all may feel better prepared to begin expanding your writing portfolio as soon as you get to Carleton!

Put your best effort into your writing in any course.

I know, I know, this doesn’t have to be said. Carls are extremely passionate, and it shows in the kind of advanced work they submit, no matter what it is. However, sometimes you get used to a certain rhythm and certain assignments, like discussion posts, final term essays, and lab reports, fall to the wayside a little. Instead of being an opportunity to showcase all that you know, including writing mechanics and textbook knowledge, writing assignments can feel like just another checkbox to mark off.

That’s why, in my opinion, it is really important to keep up the effort to actively grow as a writer as you move through Carleton. Try new things under the guidance of your professors! Examine ideas you have never thought about before! Learn a new style here and there! When you can keep the energy up while sitting down to write, you’ll avoid some of the effort later needed to compile a working set of documents for the Writing Portfolio.

Klara sits on a grassy hill with her laptop and bicycle
Working hard on your Writing Portfolio doesn’t mean you have to be in the Libe all day! Here is Klara on a grassy knoll outside Willis, typing away.

Go to the Writing Center.

I am not saying this just because I work there! Well, maybe a little, but there is a great reason to. Writing Consultants are trained to work with students on writing. We don’t necessarily know everything there is to know about the Writing Portfolio itself (though we did have training on that specifically!), but we can help you clarify your thesis or organize your paragraphs logically.

Throughout your time at Carleton, not just the first six terms, us Writing Consultants can be helpful resources to become better writers overall. That could definitely benefit you for the Writing Portfolio! At the very least, we can sit beside you and help you track which paper qualifies as which writing skill. We are very good listeners and note-takers, I promise.

Ilan sits in the Writing Center
See those papers behind Ilan in the Writing Center? Yeah, those are all resources that are free to borrow and use. Also, Ilan is a great help himself.


Save all of your “final” drafts in an organized and efficient manner.

Imagine this:

It is Saturday afternoon and all is quiet on 3rd Libe. I am sitting by the windows, staring out onto Lyman Lakes and some squirrels are scampering by. Suddenly, as I open my third (and perhaps final) paper that I have chosen for my Writing Portfolio, I see yellow highlighted marks. Upon further examination, I see that I had written a note to myself in the Google Docs comments, “Check this out later.” 

It was no longer quiet on 3rd Libe. My sigh of anguish scared the squirrels outside.

If you are anything like me, you too will find it bothersome that the paper you submitted to your professor is not the same exact one saved on your computer. To remedy this, I highly recommend making all of your edits, submitting the paper, then downloading a “final” draft and labeling it as such.

There are quotes around “final” because writing is a process! There is truly no such thing as being “finished” with a piece of writing, and that is reflected in the Writing Portfolio.

Klara and Lexi sit in Sayles
This photo, taken during Winter Term 2024, shows me and Klara happy and carefree. It was prior to spending several hours digging through my Google Drive.


Keep the prompts too!

Maybe this is just me, but is anybody else’s computer files a wasteland with no discernable beginning or end? Trying to find the prompts for the various papers that I’ve chosen for my portfolio turned out to be a detective hunt. I was in my email, searching up my professor’s names, tearing apart my dorm room looking for all of these prompts!

It doesn’t have to be that difficult, if you only plan ahead and save your essay prompts in an appropriate space. That being said, don’t be afraid of reaching out to classmates or professors if you really truly cannot find the prompt of a paper you would like to submit.

Don’t stress too much.

Hey now, I’m looking at you! The person reading this. Yes, you. You don’t need to stress about this. You know why? Because the intention behind the Writing Portfolio is not to figure out ways to fail you out of Carleton, but rather to check in on the second-years as a whole and see how writing skills are coming along. The goal is to identify students who may need some extra support before they mosey on up to junior year.

Emma, Thea, and Lexi smile in Anderson
Just as dentists say “brushing alone will not prevent all cavities!”, I say that “writing alone is no fun!” Here, Emma, Thea, and I sit in Anderson Hall working on various essays.

Writing is such an important skill, you see, that Carleton wants to make sure we’re all on the same page (haha!) before sending us on our way to upper-level major classes.