Top universities are always on the lookout for well-rounded candidates who are academically gifted, and have good involvement in community service, research attachments, internships, or essay competitions. They should also demonstrate leadership qualities and a keen desire to learn and excel.


1. Demonstrate academic rigour and a keen desire to learn
2. Demonstrate leadership qualities
3. Involvement in research, internships, or attachments
4. Involvement in relevant competitions or independent learning projects

We suggest building one’s portfolio from ages 14-17. Beyond that, students should focus on graded coursework and prepare for the final high school examinations. Depending on one’s desired course of study, some of the ways to build up the portfolio include:

  1. External competition(local and International): Olympiads, science competitions, hackathons, essay writing

2. Attachment: jobs, internships, clinical attachments(For example, if a student is interested in neurology. We would advise him/her to write to the Alzheimer association to do volunteer work and write to the National Neurology Institute for a research attachment.)

3. Research projects: Extended essay, independent essay competition(Essay writing- Marshall Society Essay Competition, Royal Economic Society UK)

4. Community projects/Volunteer work in related sectors

5. School activities: Relevant clubs and society(math club, computing, science club)

6. Non-curricular activities/Personal Interests such as hiking, martial arts, long distance running

7. Leadership roles: executive committee, organising committee of clubs or external groups(Animal shelter, Food waste recycling)

8. Academics: Relevant research papers for individual subjects (Internal Assessments or Extended essays or self directed learning)

In summary

1. Understand the admissions criteria
Different colleges look for a diverse range of candidates. Do your research and understand what it takes to succeed in your desired major. While most UK universities look for academic rigour, many US colleges look for well-rounded candidates who have holistic attributes like leadership positions or achievement. Think of how to stand out from your competitors- for instance most Singaporean students have some form of involvement in Science competitions, and you should go beyond that to participate in self directed learning projects.

2. Review, refine and reflect

With the different activities you have done, it is now time to build your portfolio. Your portfolio should represent the best of your work – so cherry pick and organise your portfolio to differentiate yourself from the others! Only include pieces you are proud of instead of putting together a thick portfolio of mediocre work.

Show your strengths by presenting your best, recent or most relevant work first followed by the rest. Your portfolio should show clear evidence of your capabilities to present your ideas logically and consistently.