“What are you going to take next semester, Abby?”
“Are you still doing that minor?”
“Dude, do you think this certificate is worth it?”
With these types of questions swirling around me, the tail end of my first and second semesters at UT rushed by in a blur. The confusion of registration season is only rendered more stressful by the anxiety of choosing the next semester’s classes. Degree plans provide students with a rudimentary map of all the credits they have to complete to get their degree, but besides adhering to timelines for classes that require prerequisites, students can pretty much decide what classes they want to take when they want to take them.
I looked forward to this freedom of choosing what my schedule would look like when I got to college, but since then, I’ve found that contemplating my academic future almost immediately induces a stomachache. There’s so much going on and sometimes it seems like there’s no way I’ll be able to finish everything I need to get my degree. Four-year planning really helped me alleviate these concerns and this practice can benefit almost all undergraduates who are confused about their futures.
“[The four-year plan] definitely made me aware of all the classes I need to take to graduate on time ... and helped me visualize all my tasks,” said Kimmi Manilal, a neuroscience and allied health professions sophomore. She periodically revisits this plan she made with her academic advisor during the first semester of her freshman year. “I still have it and I look at it every now and then to make sure I’m on the right track,” Manilal said. An academic advisor will help you fill out a form that delineates all the classes you’ll have to take each semester, but you can make your own in Excel or Google Sheets with the help of an upperclassman or a friend.
For some students who haven’t decided on their major or their specific plans for their four years on campus, four-year planning may seem counterintuitive. Why box yourself into a plan you feel you have to follow when you’re not sure about what you actually want to do?
However, making a plan of action with an in-depth analysis of all their choices can help uncertain students find their footing.
“Since I’m in between pre-med and pre-PA, it was helpful to break down those differences onscreen and then put it on paper,” Manilal said.
Additionally, this is a tangible resource that students can refer back to which means that it will help them budget their time over their semesters. “I definitely recommend having some sort of four-year plan ... especially if you’re a little unsure about your major because it’ll keep you on track to graduate on time,” biology sophomore Julia Wasson said.
It can be daunting to sit down to map out the next four years of your life. And maybe what you decide on now could be completely obsolete within the next few months. But having a framework in place ensures you’re not walking through your time at college blindly. Consult your academic advisor or even an upperclassman in your major to make sure you’re making the right choices and you’re on track to graduate when you want to. Get your four-year plan ready so the next time someone asks you what you’re going to do next semester, you’re not afraid to answer.
Dasgupta is a neuroscience sophomore from Frisco, Texas.