The Importance of Creating a “Portrait of the Graduate” Statement for Your School

Vol. 15 No. 8

advancement eletter Vol15 No8 graduate

Successful private-independent schools take their mission statement one step further by creating a “Portrait of the Graduate”: a series of five descriptors that define a school’s mission in terms of student outcomes.

In essence, a school’s Portrait of the Graduate should capture the core values the school strives to instill in each student. It typically consists of five action-oriented phrases that describe how students face challenges they will encounter in the outside world.

A few examples of these types of phrases include:

  • Committed to lifelong learning
  • Committed to advancing the fine arts
  • Eager to engage diverse communities

Your Portrait of the Graduate should be reflective of your school’s core beliefs, competitive marketplace stance, and overall mission. However, it shouldn’t include every positive characteristic of your school's graduates. Instead, focus on the qualities that make your graduates unique and primed for success in today’s competitive world. It should set your school apart from—and above—the others.

Your Portrait of the Graduate is a vital part of your school’s marketing and communications efforts. It illustrates your school's story. It serves as strong evidence that families make the right choice by sending their children to your school and the school's mission falls in line with donors' values.

ISM Consultant Amy Riley provides a detailed step-by-step process for creating a Portrait of the Graduate statement in a Quick-Tip podcast. She includes who should be a part of the creation process, how to structure your ideation session, sample activating questions, how to operationalize your finished statement, and more. Click below to watch it in full.


The Portrait of the Graduate is an integral part of a school’s overall mission statement. Faculty and administration who understand what their mission looks like in terms of student outcomes will be better able to provide the support, education, and direction their students need to achieve success.

Additional ISM Resources:
The Source for Advancement Vol. 14 No. 9 Three Ways Graduating Students Support Advancement

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 31 No. 7 Purpose and Outcome Statements: Portrait of the Graduate
I&P Vol. 32 No. 3 The Portrait of the Graduate: Three Good-to-Great Examples


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