The Rise of STEM Portfolios

Introducing portfolios into the STEM culture of admissions can be challenging, particularly when those departments place such strong emphasis on test-taking. Of course, stories like Sabrina Pasterski’s and the White House's Nation of Makers initiative remind us that identifying a minimum entrance threshold is very different from looking at what applicants have made and finding out what’s truly special about them.

More than any data, grades, or assessment, someone's actual creative product is the best testament of his or her ability to create from scratch, to make a solution out of an open-ended problem.

-Salman Khan, One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined

Including STEM portfolios as an option within the admissions process is just beginning to take hold. High profile schools like Stanford, MIT, Yale, Carnegie Mellon, and Harvard have created a place for them in recent years. And over 150 other schools have publically pledged to expand their committement to Making, which includes accepting portfolios during the admissions process.

When pushed, most people will admit the value of seeing a portfolio. However, they can’t imagine how to incorporate it into their already complex admissions process. Readers feel overwhelmed, complex documentation takes time to arrive, and then spending at least 15-30 minutes per read fully saturates an admissions team. Is adding a portfolio to that load realistic?

Yes. The proper combination of tools, people, and process can provide a useful lens for seeing meaningful differences among applicants, without additional burden.

For example, over 100 Common App member schools currently accept a portfolio supplement with SlideRoom. They all accept portfolios through a branded site for their school, and then portfolios are routed to reviewers in different functional areas for review by faculty or others, based on their customized rules. Finally, those reviewer evaluations are exported into a primary campus system through SlideRoom's various export tools or automatically via SlideRoom’s API. This puts the portfolio evaluations into the correct applicant’s folder and updates their checklist. Best of all, the core admissions readers get additional data points for consideration while trying to choose among so many qualified applicants.

Through our exclusive partnership, Common App member schools pay no annual fee for our Standard Plan and can schedule a free consultation to learn more about accepting STEM portfolios.