A portfolio is a way to showcase your hard work throughout your school years. A portfolio is often a required component of the college admissions process. Some colleges will provide a specific layout for what they are looking for from your portfolio; other colleges or programs will leave it up to you. Either way, your portfolio is a reflection of you and your accomplishments. Regardless of how your portfolio will be used, keep it professional and effective.

Gather your work. Portfolios include your current work; depending on your area of study, this can be designs, photographs or writing samples. General portfolios will include current research papers, newspaper articles about you or any activities you have participated in, along with presentations, projects or studies. Also include a copy of your transcripts, testing scores, any awards and honors, as well as scholarships received.

Ask for references or letters of recommendation. If you excelled in a certain class, ask the teacher for a reference. The same goes for any coaches, mentors, leaders or employers who can attest to your skills. Give them enough time -- approximately two or three weeks -- to write your letter.

Type up your resume; a standard resume includes any work and volunteer experience, as well as any club or organizational involvement. Typically, at this point in your life you won't have a lot of work experience. Therefore, it is important that you have volunteer experience to put down. Include any advance placement or higher-education classes. If you have attended any conferences or workshops, include these as well.

Prepare your work. Do not include any original work that has been worn or torn. If you do not have another copy, re-type it. Keep the format and font simple.

Organize by categories; some ideas are Education, References, Resume, Current Samples and Awards. You can use tabs or dividers with clearly written titles.

Place papers in a three-ring binder. A simple white or black binder will suffice. You may want to place your portfolio papers in clear sheet protectors to create a professional feel. This isn't required but often encouraged.