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Sophie Kerr Portfolio Guidelines

If you are a graduating Washington College senior and plan to present a portfolio for the Sophie Kerr Prize, your submission should adhere to the following guidelines:

Introductory Materials should include:

  • A coversheet that includes the date, your name, a current contact phone number (cell phone preferred).
  • A table of contents.
  • The Honor Code statement.
  • An introduction.

    The introduction can take many forms; it may be a straightforward presentation of the materials included in the portfolio, an explanation of your development as a writer, or it may be a more creative document that discusses the portfolio in a nonlinear, imagistic way. Whatever approach you choose, try to create an introduction that addresses or embodies your strengths as a writer.

The Portfolio should include:

  • Examples of your strongest writing. This may include critical essays, creative nonfiction, poetry, fiction, journalism, stage plays, screenplays, blogging, graphic novels, or other hybrid forms.
    • The Sophie Kerr Prize is awarded to the student who has “the best ability and promise for future fulfillment in the field of literary endeavor.” It is not a creative writing prize. Therefore, if your strength as a writer lies outside of creative writing, you should not feel compelled to submit creative work. Select writings samples that demonstrate your potential to contribute to “the field of literary endeavor.”
    • The Sophie Kerr Prize is not limited to English majors or to creative writing minors. However, all portfolios should have a literary focus.
    • Some previous prize-winners have submitted portfolios whose strength lies in their ability to work in many different genres. Other prize-winners have won based on highly focused portfolios which demonstrate their skill in one, particular genre. Construct a portfolio that contains your strongest work, whether your work falls into many literary genres or into only one.
    • Work chosen for inclusion in the portfolio should be considered and arranged with careful deliberation. The demonstration of the breadth and depth of the writer’s “promise for future success in the literary endeavor” should be evident not only in the individual pieces presented, but in their choice and arrangement. Portfolios should be complete in their demonstration of promise, but it should be noted that quantity by itself does not contribute to quality. The length of the  portfolio, then, is a consideration when, in the judgment of the committee, the presentation of more material than is judged necessary weakens rather than strengthens the over all value of the portfolio.
    • Successful portfolios have been as few as 25 pages.

Also include:

  • In preparation for the announcements of the finalists and eventual winner of the 2020 Sophie Kerr Prize, the Office of College Relations needs a brief biographical statement from all applicants. Please include the following essentials:

Cell phone/ contact number:
State (if not evident):
Portfolio Description:
Plans after Graduation (if known):


Please then incorporate all above details into paragraph form. See the sample below:

J. Smith, an English major from Baltimore, served as president of the Writers’ Union, was on the sailing team, and achieved distinction as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Smith’s writing portfolio includes a collection of personal essays and short stories, many focused on athletics and family history. After graduation, Smith plans to intern for Sports Illustrated.


  • All creative writing pieces should be collected into a single Word document, and placed in their proper order as listed in the table of contents. (Ideally, the portfolio will be in Word. Students including images may use PDFs, if necessary.)
  • The biographical statement should be submitted as a separate Word document
  • Insert page numbers in the portfolio itself (but no page number on the cover sheet).
  • Spell-check and proofread portfolios carefully before submission.



Step 1: Print one hard copy for submission to the English Department. They must be in binders or good, 3-ring notebooks. These must be delivered to Jennifer Kaczmarczyk’s office in Smith 224 before or by 4:00 pm on Friday, April 17, 2020. 

Step 2: Submit a complete electronic copy (final version) of your portfolio and your biographical statement by e-mail attachment to englishdpt@washcoll.eduon or before the deadline. Please direct any questions about the electronic portfolio submission to Julie Armstrong. 


Sophie Kerr Prize Selection Process

  • Once students have submitted their portfolios electronically and in hard copy, the Prize Committee begins its review.
  • The Committee is made up of full-time faculty in the English department and the President of Washington College
  • Portfolios are not submitted or reviewed anonymously.
  • All Committee members read all of the portfolios. Before meeting as a group to vote on the winner and finalists, each member submits a ranked list of approximately 6-10 names to the Chair of the English department.
  • When the Committee meets, the short lists are tallied, in order to determine which portfolios have received the most votes. The Committee then discusses all portfolios, considering each student’s potential for “future fulfillment in the field of literary endeavor.”
  • The Committee performs a series of votes and discussions, until a group of finalists and a winner have been determined. The Prize is awarded to the student who has the most potential “for future fulfillment in the field of literary endeavor.”
  • In addition to the winner, the Committee selects 4-5 finalists to recognize.

Important Reminder: Plagiarism is a serious academic and professional offense. Any Sophie Kerr prize submission found to contain plagiarized material will be considered in violation of the Honor Code and will be reported to the Dean’s office. The consequences for plagiarizing may include expulsion from Washington College. Washington College has contracted with, a web-based plagiarism prevention service. Portfolios submitted for the Sophie Kerr Prize may be submitted electronically to