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Four Great Summer Portfolio Projects

Ah, the Internet. The source of so much stuff we dislike: bullying, trolling, false information, and material that’s just plain objectionable. But there’s a lot of wonderful content out there as well, and the really great thing is that young people can add to the good stuff all on their own. At the same time, creating something special can create a valuable online presence for young people headed for college. The following projects, once completed, will turn up as top results when someone performs a web search of their creator’s name. This will raise their profile not just for college admissions officers but future employers too.

1. Write and self-publish a book

“Write a book? Me?” Yes, you. Not every book is a high-level work of literature. There are collections of short stories, or short novellas, or of course non-fiction, in areas like self-help, photography or countless other areas. Perhaps your youngster is passionate about sketching, or scrapbooking, or has an idea for a kid’s book. Or maybe it’s a novel! The Outsiders was written when S. E. Hinton was still in high school in Oklahoma. The best part is, once you’ve got it together, you can just put it into a word processor like Microsoft Word, create a snazzy cover using free design sites like Canva, then upload it to your favorite book retailer for sale as an eBook. It doesn’t matter if it sells or not, you’ll be able to say you’ve got a book out there! How cool is that?

2. Create a short film

It’s completely wrong to say that movies can’t be made without access to a towering pile of very expensive equipment. Not true! First of all, excellent, pro-level movies are now routinely being made with single hand-held cameras and no lighting -- some even recording video with smartphones. The Red Baron once said, “It’s not the plane, it’s the man inside the plane that counts” and this is very true in filmmaking. If you can come up with a good idea and shoot it in a unique way, you can definitely make a movie that would be a great portfolio piece. A basic laptop would have enough horsepower to edit your film, and the project would be a great way to learn tons of film skills, from writing to storyboarding to transitions and even computer generated imagery (CGI). Once done, you can upload it to the web, and even get yourself an entry in the Internet Movie Database. Remember that film is a group effort, so don’t try to tackle it alone. Use your friends, they’ll be glad to help with something this cool!

3. Record and sell an album

The music industry can be difficult. You’re expected to work away, sometimes for years, performing live, honing your sound and writing songs. At the end of it, if you’re lucky, you’ll get a recording contract and then cut an album. But why not just record an album yourself? All you’ll need are your instrument(s), some basic recording devices, and a basic computer -- and there is great audio editing software available for free. If you’re a solo musician, you can learn how to perform different parts in the same song, but in any event the hard part will be writing your songs. Once you’ve got them all done, you can upload them to aggregators, which will then place your album for sale in all the top online retailers like iTunes and the Google Play store. Rock on!

4. Start an online magazine

Print magazines are very difficult and costly to manage. Thankfully, an online-only magazine can be set up for free and run with little or no money. A young person could create a website using any number of free services like Wordpress, including a unique URL and a simple but attractive layout -- no programming or design skills required. After that, posting to local classified sites for writing interns will get you tons of writers more than happy to write articles for your site. It might help to just use locals in your community, including classmates. Once the site is up and running you could even run ads and make a little bit of money (let’s be honest -- probably a very little bit). You’d be helping inform your neighborhood while raising your online profile at the same time. Win-win!