Why You Should Build an Online Portfolio in College

In the modern workforce, almost every job features an online component, either for branding purposes or as a part of their business operations. This is also true during the hiring process. Gone are the days where you can just walk into a company to meet the manager in person and hand-deliver a resume. In an increasingly digitized and automated world, it’s important to stand out. Many hopeful workers are building their own personal online portfolios to do just that, and they’re starting in college.

A bearded man smiling towards the camera showing off his computer with his portfolio on display.While some careers already require workers to curate a portfolio, it‘s something all students looking for internships or about to graduate should consider. A digital portfolio is a perfect addition to your resume, allowing you to show what makes you unique while also controlling your digital narrative. A digital portfolio helps you create the narrative in a positive way. It showcases what you’re capable of and highlights work that you’re the most proud of producing.

Online portfolios aren’t just for creative careers. They can be useful for just about any career field, from teachers to construction workers. A link to your portfolio in your resume allows hiring managers to become familiar with your work easily before an interview. Here are three things to consider while building an online portfolio:

1. Show off your skills

A student in the library working on her computer and taking notes of something.The benefit to a portfolio is that it can be both universal in scope and incredibly specific for an audience. Not every job is going to require the same thing, so your portfolio should highlight all of your skills. Think of your portfolio as an extension of your resume, as well as a trophy case of your best work. Portfolios are great for showing, not telling. Photos, short descriptions, and organized sections are perfect for highlighting the things that show how well you do each skill. Remember to keep it neat, as visual as possible, and easy to navigate for potential employers.

2. Build off your resume and define your narrative

Employers are not looking for descriptions of the previous job you had, they want concrete evidence of what you can contribute. Portfolios can be the perfect exclamation point to your resume by offering several examples of what skills you possess. The best examples of what you can do come from college assignments and even activities that you’ve been involved in. Did you help coordinate an event? Did you participate in a big project? Did you have an assignment that you aced? These papers or projects show off your ability to understand instructions and perform desired tasks, the keys to a great worker. A resume highlights your accomplishments in school, at a job, or internship. Use your portfolio to give better context to those highlights. 

A student working on her computer, building a resume.Portfolios are also a great way to market yourself. A portfolio can help build that narrative by offering extended contact information or access that can show how you operate in the professional world. Copying your LinkedIn URL or a dedicated Instagram page to your work can help show your ability to be professional even when outside of the work environment and linking to your online portfolio from your LinkedIn account will give potential employers further insight into your talents.

3. Be Creative

An online portfolio is meant to help show people who you are and how talented you are. Do not be afraid of making it unique. There are plenty of free online platforms that will assist in creating a website. Even free to use sites can allow for customization to really let your creativity shine. A great resume catches an employer’s eye quickly by showing what makes you unique. Let your portfolio do the same by demonstrating your personality in the professional space. 

A student working on the computer building his portfolio.It’s always important to stand out in a shifting work landscape. The best way to do that is highlighting what makes you successful. Be proud of those accomplishments! They tell the story of who you are as a person and a worker. Employers want to get to know both sides of you.

If you need some examples of what an online portfolio looks like, do some research. A simple online search will show you a variety of portfolios and ways you can create a portfolio that’s as unique as you are. 

Five reasons to choose a Missouri College

1. Missouri schools rank among the best for affordability, student satisfaction, and quality of education.

College Choice ranks Washington University in St. Louis as No.17 in the nation for having the happiest freshmen. U.S. News and World Report lists Missouri Southern State University No.6 in top public schools in the Midwest, with Lincoln University in Jefferson City and Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis tying for seventh. State Technical College of Missouri, in Linn, was named the third-ranked two-year trade school in the country by Forbes. 

A student at State Tech working with some technology.

Not only are Missouri education options top-notch, they’re affordable too. Missouri State University in Springfield is listed as number two, overall in the state for affordability and the number one public university for affordability in the state. Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau is listed as the No.3 school for affordability and No.62 by US News and World Report for value in the Midwest and No.16 in Top Public Schools. Couple the affordability of most Missouri educational institutions and all of the other advantages to living, learning, and working in Missouri, and you can’t go wrong. 

2. Missouri is a fun place to live!

A sunny day at the lake of the Ozarks with a boat cruising over the water.

No matter what part of the state or college you choose, there is fun to be had close by. Missouri was actually chosen as the fourteenth most fun state in America by Wallet Hub thanks to a recent study. The organization compared states using 26 different metrics and Missouri landed as No.14. Missouri scored fifth in the nation for having the “highest variety of arts, entertainment, and recreation establishments.”

With Lake of the Ozarks in the central region of the state, Kansas City on the west side, St. Louis on the east side, Branson in the southern Region, and everywhere else over, under, and in-between, residents can find many different types of fun and entertainment. You can find waterskiing, parasailing, amusement parks, water parks, theatres, movies, wine tasting, breweries, caves, casinos, hiking, hunting, fishing, festivals, fairs, museums, bars, restaurants, zoos, and unique things to do all over Missouri.

3. Missouri currently has the 12th lowest cost of living in the nation

Cost of living is an important factor when considering where you should live, learn, and work. Missouri scores nearly 10 points below the national average overall. Groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, and health care costs less here, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center. The housing cost index in Missouri scores 82.1,  just over 18 points below the national average.

To compare, take a look at Illinois’ largest city, Chicago, and Missouri’s largest city, St. Louis. The median cost of rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Chicago is $1,550, according to renthop.com. Renthop.com says that the median cost of rent in St. Louis for the same apartment is $650. And what can you get for the same money in St. Louis that you would pay for that one-bedroom apartment in Chicago? The answer is at least a two-bedroom and likely larger because the top 25 percent of the market, in St. Louis, for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,100 ($400 less than the median market price for the one-bedroom in Chicago). So if you want to live off campus, Missouri is definitely affordable.

The arch at sunset with the STL skyline in the background.

4. Missouri offers lifestyle and living options for everyone!

A person silhouetted by the sunset at Elephant Rocks State Park

Missouri offers lifestyle and living options for everyone from the city lover to the quiet country enthusiast. For those looking to begin learning or working in the big city, St. Louis and Kansas City both offer great learning opportunities between colleges and technical schools. Living in these two big cities is extremely affordable as well.

If you’re interested in urban living but for a more mid-sized city situation, St. Joseph, Springfield, Columbia, Jefferson City, or Joplin might be just what you’re looking for. Great colleges can be found in all five of the places mentioned and all are affordable options for living, learning, and working.

There are even rural options and small-town living for those who are interested in the beautiful views and outdoor lifestyles available in rural Missouri – check out communities surrounding Rolla, home to Missouri S&T, or Cape Girardeau, home to Southeast Missouri State University.

5. Missouri's star is on the economic rise.

Missouri is moving through the ranks from 42 in job growth to 22 in the last five years. The future is looking bright and only keeps getting brighter. Two Missouri cities have been named in the top three cities in the nation for recent college graduates.

St. Louis has been ranked No.2 in the nation for recent college graduates, promising a median income of around $48,000 per year, according to a report from Self Financial. The median income is even higher when cost of living is considered because St. Louis has a cost of living nearly 10 percent below the national average. Taking the cost of living into account, the median earnings of recent college graduates is $53,274 in St. Louis. This is just an average and is dependent upon factors such as career field and type of degree.

Kansas City, Missouri, came in at No.3 on that list of best cities for recent college graduates. KC boasts actual median earnings of $49,000 per year, with an adjusted salary of $52,802, thanks to a cost of living that sits at 7.2 percent below the national average. Both cities have plenty to offer college students as they work towards their chosen degrees, knowing that the post-graduation future is looking pretty bright.

The plaza fountain in Kansas City

This information is accurate as of December 16, 2021.

5 Reasons to Apply to Multiple Schools

a girl reading a piece of paper she received in a large manila envelope.

Going into my senior year, I had everything mapped out. I visited Truman State University and immediately fell in love with the campus and atmosphere. There was no other place that I wanted to go. Later that spring I found out about William & Mary in Virginia, the school Thomas Jefferson went to. It was a school that seemed so perfect there was no need for a back-up plan. I only submitted one application because there was only one school I felt I should go to. Problem is, William & Mary did not agree and I got the rejection letter in the middle of April without time to apply to a different school.

Nearly 37 percent of all college students will transfer schools at some point in their educational journey. That was the case for me when I eventually made my way to my first dream school, Truman State, after spending two years at a local college. Millions of students across the country feel the same as I did, lacking other options when their main plans did not work out. As a student who went through this struggle and as a former college advisor, I’ve learned that one of the biggest keys to academic success is feeling some investment in your school, which is why most students only apply to their top choice.

Today I want to talk about five reasons you should apply to multiple schools. Hopefully, this will help you as well!

1. Circumstances change.

A lot can happen during the course of your senior year. Your relationships will change, you’ll gain new interests, etc. I was someone looking for a small school with a rigorous academic focus but chose to go to a school close to home instead. Likewise, there are plenty of students across the country whose priorities are constantly changing. To counter this, it is crucial that you apply to more than one school.

If you’re undecided on a major, a community college might be a better short-term option where you can get your general education credits out of the way before deciding on your path. You may also consider getting your associate degree or a certificate first, then if you decide you want to do more, you can stack those credentials by getting your bachelor’s degree later.

Applying to two universities, differing in demographics and campus, can provide a chance to have two styles of campus. When I was a College Advisor, I had a student who was offered a volleyball scholarship after she played in a spring tournament. This changed her options drastically and she ended up choosing a school she never considered before. It’s not always a bad thing!

Applying to at least three schools gives you a buffer if there is a major change that occurs outside of your control as well.

2. Other schools might offer more money!

Did you know that you could be accepted to multiple schools at the same time? Before you register for classes at your school of choice, it is a good option to apply to multiple schools and send them your FAFSA information. When filing your FAFSA you can indicate that you want your information sent to over ten universities. Each will give you information on how much financial aid they can provide. Remember, circumstances can change drastically during the year, so it is always important to see what the best financial option might be.

By looking at their multiple financial aid award letters, one student of mine was able to figure out exactly what ACT score they would need to achieve to make their top school financially viable.

3. There are ways to pay for application fees.

two people comparing numbers between a calculator and a piece of paper.

A big reason most people only apply to one school is application fees. They can range from low ($20), to medium ($60), to high (over $100). That can add up fast if you are applying to multiple schools. But there are ways to make it cheaper to apply to more colleges! First, if you are a student on free and reduced lunch or Pell eligible, you qualify for a national application fee waiver. Talk to your high school counselor about getting a fee waived. There are no limits to how many waivers you can fill out. If you do not qualify for a fee waiver, the university itself might be able to help. Many universities will waive application fees for students who come visit the campus or have talked to an admissions representative. Not only does that make the application cheaper, it gives you a chance to go visit schools.

There are also many schools that do not require an application fee for applying. All community colleges have a free application, meaning you are guaranteed at least one additional application that you will not have to pay for.

4. It makes the college process less stressful.

There is no denying that picking a university is a difficult choice for a high school senior. Especially if there are certain requirements you need to pass before you are officially accepted. The biggest of these obstacles for most students is standardized tests. The ACT and SAT can, not only decide if you can afford to go to the school of your choice, it can determine if you even get in at all. My ACT score was too low to get into William & Mary, but was good enough for Truman State. Some schools are even moving away from the standardized test score altogether. When you apply to multiple schools with different requirements for acceptance, it makes this score less impactful.

5. Don’t let rejection bring you down.

a teen writing things down in a notebook.

April of my senior year I was out of time and options. The only school I could see myself at did not accept me, and I did not finish the application to the only other school I visited. I eventually attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City for two years before transferring to Truman State. UMKC is a GREAT school, but I never felt personally connected with my choice. A lot of that was because I was judging it compared to the school I really wanted to attend. That attitude hurt my grades and my morale. The only solution was to go somewhere else for a fresh start.

This year, students across the country will get the same bad news. They did not get into the school of their dreams. But that should not be the end of your educational journey! By applying to multiple schools that you enjoy, you save yourself from feeling defeated. The main key to success in college is having an investment in your studies and that comes from being invested in your time at school. There is no such thing as a “safety school,” just other options you might enjoy if the first one does not work out.

Four things to consider as you start your college career

You just graduated high school. You’ve chosen which college or university you will attend. Maybe you’ve explored the food and housing options at your new school. It’s an exciting time in your life. Right now, it probably seems like there’s so much you still need to do before you step on campus in the fall. Getting to campus is one thing – succeeding in college and finishing your degree is another! Here are four things to keep in mind that will improve your college experience in the long run.

You have options when it comes to which math course you take

Most colleges and universities require students to take at least one semester of math. For some of you, that sounds perfectly fine. You like math, and you’re good at it. For others, the idea of taking precalculus is not only terrifying, it does not match the work you’ll be doing in your field of study.

However, Missouri’s public institutions offer alternative entry-level mathematics courses that are most effective and beneficial to each academic major. For example: A journalism student doesn’t have much use for precalculus; however, a solid background in statistical reasoning can serve a journalist well throughout his or her career. So, make sure to know your options, when it comes to math pathways, and take advantage of them.

How many hours should I take? Think 15 to Finish!

You will hear the term “full-time student” fairly often in college. A full-time student, according to financial aid and the vast majority of colleges and universities, is a student enrolled in at least 12 credit hours per semester. But don’t think that means you can take 12 hours of class and still graduate on time.

You should strive to complete at least 15 credit hours a semester to put yourself on track to receive an associate degree in two years or a bachelor’s degree in four years. If you just can’t swing 15 hours every semester, consider taking summer courses to stay caught up.

This is important because additional time in the classroom comes at a steep price. An extra year in college can mean paying an extra year’s worth of tuition, fees, and housing, and missing out on that first-year salary!

Corequisite Courses can help you finish faster

Depending on your ACT/SAT scores or your GPA in high school, you may be asked to take remedial courses before enrolling into a credit-bearing course. These courses are meant to prepare you for difficult coursework in upper-division classes.

Students who must complete prerequisite remedial courses before they can enroll in credit-bearing courses often have to spend an extra semester or more in college, and are far less likely to graduate. The additional time in school can also increase college costs and result in more student loan debt.

Corequisite courses, on the other hand, allow students to earn credit toward graduation while they complete their remedial coursework. Corequisite courses provide additional academic support which may include tutoring, mentoring, labs, and workshops. Students take the corequisite course in conjunction with their credit-bearing course so they get the help they need simultaneously. Ask your advisor if your college offers this type of course. 

Things to consider if you’re already planning to transfer

If you do decide to move from one school to another, you deserve to see the credits from one school transfer to another.

To simplify the transfer process, Missouri’s colleges and universities have worked together to establish the CORE 42, which is 42 credit hours of lower-division general education courses that can be transferred seamlessly from one Missouri higher education institution to another.

To give yourself optimal flexibility, take care of your lower-division general education courses first. If you know you’re going to switch schools at some point, use our Course Transfer Tracker to check out how the courses you’re taking now will transfer to the schools you’re considering.