i agree with etui with self motivation. its all about not slacking off to watch a tv show, but spent that time trying to realize your ideas on paper. (which is what i didnt do, and i regret a lot). and following the instructions and knowing what they want is very important, why? my character design obviously lacked the creativity and liveliness they wanted ,so i got bad marks on it.
and i actually spent the same time as etui, starting from christmas. its actually a bit late, as i couldn't bring anything to national portfolio day to see if they approve of it. I really recommend starting your portfolio in the summer and go to the portfolio day!!!
heres my partial portfolio, im too embarrassed to post my character and storyboard: