Q: I am a sophomore in high school. When it's time for me to apply to colleges, would it be important to list if I had a website? Is that something that could help my application? Also I enjoy writing short stories in my free time. What can I do to show the colleges my writing, if I do not have a portfolio?

A: You are asking two excellent questions. Let's start with the second: You should start to set up a writing portfolio now. Add a story each time you finish one, and also keep a list of ideas you get for stories. Please remember to back up your files—it's heartbreaking to lose creative writing!

As you explore your college options, look for those that have creative writing programs. Those colleges may require applicants to submit an online portfolio. While it is NOT a good idea to send unsolicited stories, poems or writing samples with an application, the common app does have a box at the bottom that says "use this space to tell us anything else you want us to know." There you could talk about your writing, and include a link to your portfolio. Know that unless it's a small school, and unless you are applying to a writing program, admissions officers may not read it.

Even if you do not wish this to be your major emphasis in college, schools might have scholarships that acknowledge writing talent. In addition, plan to enter some of your work in competitions while you are in high school. One prominent contest you don't want to overlook is the one run by Scholastic. Check it out here: www.artandwriting.org.

As for your question about websites: Unless you are applying to a program that has a place on its application for you to list your website, or to an IT program, I'd skip this. Back in the day when websites were a novelty, it might have been a good idea to have one that you personally designed and set up, and show it off. You would be seen as an innovator. But today websites are so ubiquitous that it really doesn't make a difference. Frankly, college admissions offices are under so much pressure to read and assess the applications themselves, that readers do not have the time to look up websites and analyze them too.

Also, colleges want you to follow the directions as given in the application. So unless you already have a website by the time you apply to college, and there is a place on an application for you to give the URL link, do not bother. If you want to talk about your achievements and talents, you will have plenty of opportunities to do this within the boundaries of the actual application.