Planning your college courses from the start of a degree all the way to the end is quite a task; it requires looking into the future and choosing a path. Although it can be a daunting exercise, this road map helps make sure you’re on track to accomplish all you’ve set out to do. It won’t provide all the answers—that’s what your academic advisor is for—but this guide can help get you started.
- Take general education requirements. General education requirements are made up of the same subjects as your “core” classes were in high school. Think: math, science, English, and history. Get them out of the way so that you can focus on courses for your major once you decide what it will be (you usually can’t decide until your sophomore year).
- If you took AP or IB classes in high school and did well on the associated exams, you may have earned some college credits for your scores. These credits may take the place of some of your general education requirements, but other times they can only be applied toward electives. If your school applies AP or IB credits toward your general education requirements, you essentially have a free pass to take something else in their place. Consider taking an elective or two in a topic you’re interested in.
- Start browsing some majors you may be interested in to see what their requirements are. Most colleges list the specific course requirements for each major on their websites and you can use that list of courses plus the registration list to start mapping out your degree. Look at when required classes are offered and find out whether you’ll have to take any prerequisite courses before signing up for them. You may find that you’re locked into a particular class at a particular time.
- Finish up any general education requirements including math, English, history, or foreign language. You want to get these courses out of the way so you can focus on those required for you major and those on topics that you’re interested in learning more about.
- Take electives in topics you’re interested in and use these to explore subjects you’re considering for a major or minor.
- Consider whether you want to study abroad or complete an internship. Internships generally happen during the summer, but you need to start applying early if you want to ensure you’ll have a position. Study abroad programs are commonly offered during the school year, meaning you’ll need to be on top of your course planning, especially if your desired program isn’t in the same field as your major.
- Choose two to three majors (or minors) you are leaning toward and look more closely at the graduation requirements for each. Note whether any are particularly tough or have requirements that may necessitate special planning (like a co-op, volunteer work, or undergraduate thesis). Most schools will require you to declare your major this semester.
- If you already know a professor that you like in your major, ask if you can request them to be your academic advisor.
- Take elective classes or core requirements for your major or minor.
- Start taking the core requirements for your major or minor, if you haven’t already. If there are any requirements that are prerequisites for another required course, take those first; you won’t be able to register for a course without completing the prerequisites.
- Plan out any study abroad, internship, research, or thesis project activities. If you need to submit applications, get them done earlier rather than later.
- Take classes that fulfill the prerequisites for upper-level core requirements for your major.
- Take elective classes, if you haven’t finished them already.
- Finish the core requirements for your major (or minor).
- Finish up any required courses that you have left. You may only need credits, not specific courses, to fulfill your degree requirements. If this is the case, take something fun! College is your chance to explore, and the second semester of your senior year is your last chance to try out that underwater basket weaving course that you’ve had your eye on.
Having an established plan for your coursework will help keep you on track in college. However, it’s important that you don’t get so focused on your major that you forget to take some courses you enjoy (outside of your major) along the way! Learning about a variety of subjects makes you a more well-rounded person and may even benefit you later on (many graduates end up working in fields unrelated to their major). Plus, you may discover a new passion or hobby!