Do You Need a Four-Year Plan before You Start College?

    When it comes to college, you commonly hear one of the two diametrically opposing points of view concerning an optimal approach to planning your academic career. One states that college is a time of self-discovery, freedom, and independence, and planning it in any way means ruining this wonderful spontaneity. Explore, look what is best for you, try out different things, and eventually, you will find your way. Another believes that before you set your foot in college, you should already have a four-year plan detailing every course you have to take in each semester in each year in college. Only this approach guarantees that you think things through beforehand and complete your papers and other assignments on time. You won’t suddenly find yourself with insufficient credits with no time left to make up for it.

    Both approaches appeal to different types of people, but which of them is actually better? Well, we believe that a four-year plan is a good idea; trying to follow it no matter what – perhaps not so much.

    Why Do You Need a Four-Year Plan?

    When you start your academic journey, it may seem that you have plenty of time for everything. You can let yourself laze off and explore a bit, and the college atmosphere is conducive to this viewpoint. However, this initial stage of exploration has a tendency to continue indefinitely, only for you to suddenly discover that you don’t have enough credits, and those you have are all wrong for your intended purposes.

    A four-year plan allows you to chart out and visualize your academic journey. It shows you what is required of you at every stage of the way. You understand better what classes you should register for and how to spread them out in a way that makes it possible to achieve your goals in time.

    A Four-Year Plan Should Be Flexible

    However, it would be wrong to believe that once you compile your four-year plan, you are contractually obligated to follow it to a letter. Nothing of the kind. The beauty of the plan is that gives you the flexibility you actually don’t have when you forgo the plan in the first place. It does not even have to be a four-year plan at all – if you plan to spend more than four years in college or less, you can change it to accommodate that.

    For example, you initially decide to major in business. However, after two years of writing and editing paper after paper and essay after essay related to this discipline, you decide that you are less enamored with it than you used to be. You decide to change your major. All you have to do is edit your plan accordingly, taking into account your newly chosen direction. There is no chaotic scrambling about – you simply adjust the plan and move on in an orderly fashion.

    How Do You Make a Four-Year Plan

    After you decide what majors and minors you want to pursue, you get a list of all the courses for your degree. Using it, you can compile your plan. You can find a number of templates for it online; there are even services that can do it for you, creating an optimal schedule based on your requirements. Such a third-party plan may need a little proofreading before you can use it, but delegating part of your work in this way can be useful. Many colleges offer something similar to this service themselves and offer their own plan outlines.

    Many universities schedule the courses in each semester two or three years in advance – it is very convenient, but you can do just as well without it. How you organize your courses doesn’t really matter – or, rather, what matters is whether your chosen way works for you. You may organize them by difficulty, or combine interesting and uninteresting courses to balance them out or do something else entirely.

    Creating Multiple Plans Can Be Useful

    If you are not sure about your final decision, you can try creating multiple plans reflecting multiple possible majors. This will help you see whether some courses just don’t work together or overlap so that you can combine some parts of them. For example, if you major in business, some writing-centered courses can come in useful to help you with your business papers editing and writing.

    Finally, don’t shy away from looking for help. You can find dozens of online resources centered on the best ways to make four-year plans, both offering active help and providing guides and instructions. However, probably your best helper is your academic advisor – he/she will not only assist you in creating an optimal four-year plan but also provide information about the time certain courses are offered, what is the expected workload for each of them, and so on. If you ever decide to switch your major, make sure you talk to a professor or an advisor in the relevant department to make sure you understand what this switch will entail.

    A four-year plan is not a useless chore. It is used to take some stress off your starting point in college. Don’t neglect it.



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