Taking the Mystery Out of Academic Planning

Chances are there has been an academic plan with your name on it since the sixth grade. It would have been created by your guidance counselor, and your course work – based on your intentions after high school graduation – would have been plotted in the plan, and then evaluated and checked off upon completion. Now, as you prepare for college, you are going to become an active participant in this planning process – along with your college advisors -- by determining your course of action, deciding your major field of study, plotting your course work, and tracking your success.

Most universities now require students to create their own academic plans. The students then follow these plans like road maps, working with their college advisors to make needed course adjustments along the way, until they reach their final destination – graduation – hopefully without too many detours, and in the most timely manner possible.

By this time, you probably have a strong idea of what your major field of study will be. Logical steps leading you to that decision would have included taking an inventory of your test scores, reviewing previous scholastic records, and making an honest assessment of your academic strengths and areas that might need improvement.

You’ve chosen your college or university, based in part upon what they have to offer students with your major, but now it’s time to get the specifics. What are the courses required for a degree in your chosen major field. At the same time, research four-year graduation plans, noting which courses are taken and in what order.

Create your plan! Using all the information you have collected, write a plan that you think is possible for you to achieve, based on your individual situation.

Finally, armed with all of this information, meet with your student advisor. Discuss your goals, and how you intend to reach them. Get your advisor’s stamp of approval, and together select the coursework for your first semester. Then -- GO AFTER IT!

There are a few things to keep in mind about your academic plan.

  • Plans are NOT written in stone, and will most likely be adjusted or changed over the course of the next four years.
  • It’s quite possible that you may even change your major at some point – be sure you completed the basic required courses early on in your studies. Then write another plan.
  • There are innumerable planning tools and guides out there to help you. Do your research to make the best plan you possibly can.

Related Links and Resources

Your University’s Website

The first thing you’ll notice if you Google ‘academic planning’ is that just about every college or university has a section on the subject, so the best place for you to find details about this process will be the website for the school you will be attending. It will have the most up to date requirements, as well as lists of resources available to you on that campus.

Quintessential Planning for College

This website has all kinds of information for students headed to college, including how to select a major and then how to make an academic plan to accomplish that goal. Go to www.quintcareers.com/teen_college.htmc to learn more.


There is an excellent article available here to guide you in your academic planning process – from mission statement to tracking. Give it a look at www.about.com and search “four year academic plan.”

America’s Career Infonet

This is a valuable link containing all kinds of information to help you discover your career path. The website is user friendly and helps you navigate through career choices, related salaries and benefits, and includes educational requirements for each. There are videos, self-assessment tools, and many other resources to guide you on your way. www.americascareerinfonet.com

Career Kids

If you go to this link you will find listings of over 100 careers – ranging from judge to dog walker. For each, there are job descriptions, education requirements, a look at working conditions, and possible salary ranges. You are guaranteed to find some unusual careers on this list – some you haven’t even thought of before – and one of them just might be right for you. www.careerkids.com

Occupational Outlook Handbook

On this website – another one developed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – you will find up to date information about job duties, education requirements, projected earnings, and many other topics. The handbook is updated every two years. www.bls.gov/oco/

Surf Net Kids

This is a website designed for kids to help them through the maze of career choice. In addition to some handy tricks to help you on your way, you will find games, tips for parents, and a number of other clever ideas. www.surfnetkids.com/career