Music, Art, Dance, Voice, Photography . . .
If you have a gift, you will want to build a portfolio. If you are applying to colleges and have an artistic gift such as drawing, painting, photography, music, dance, etc. then you should submit a portfolio with your application. If you are using CommonApp.org then you will find a place specifically to upload your portfolio. Use it. If you are using another application site, there will usually be a place where you are allowed to "share any other information that you think is useful to the application process". This is a great place to upload a resume, explanatory essay, or portfolio. In order to make a portfolio, there are a few things you will need to know about.
Format - Unless a college gives you specific parameters, you can build your portfolio in any medium using any format that you deem appropriate. You are an artist, show it. That being said, you will want to make sure you adhere to the length or size specified by each college. This is a deal breaker. Otherwise, the goal is to produce something that a college admissions officer can quickly access and review to determine if they want to know more. That means you will have to put all your best work up front.
Organization: You should organize your sketchbook, website, or presentation by project, so there's a logical order to it and it tells a story. Have a plan for each page to make it as impactful and as creative as possible.
Content: The types of content you can include are: self-initiated work, personal drawings, photographs of your work to show your creative process, drawings (observation and life), color study, photography, collages, mixed media experimentation, fabric explorations, written notes and presentation sheets. Think of your projects as visual studies that will demonstrate your creative thinking and your skills using the various media listed.
Layout: Have a consistent layout for your content either landscape or portrait. It keeps the focus on your work and won't give the viewer any unnecessary distractions.
Creative Process: Show your creative process from development of the concept to the final product - we're just as interested in development sketchbooks as we are in the final piece.
Edit: The key to any piece of work is the editing process. Make sure to edit your portfolio to only include your absolute best work.
Colleges are looking to see if you have what they are looking for so make sure to show them the range of your skills. The creativeness with which you build your portfolio will show them your diversity and passion so think it through carefully. Don't be so over the top that you don't fit in but don't just go with the flow. Make sure that every piece you include in your portfolio shows you and your work in the best possible light.
Colleges will want to see:
Creativity: Seeing unique creative projects where your individuality, interests and character shine through.
Skill: Showing great drawing or craft techniques using materials that have been rediscovered or repurposed.
Care And Attention To Detail: Seeing creativity presented with a love of your art and an eye for design.
The Creative Process: Include notebooks and sketchbooks that show your inventiveness through the exploration, experimentation
GET INSPIRED BEFORE YOU START - Research is the most important element in a portfolio so you should always take the opportunity to read up or explore examples of your particular art. Take inspiration from the world around you, regularly updating your internal portfolio. Above all, make sure that you are original and meet any published deadlines.