Making Your Four-Year Plan

Tara Kenna, a pre-medical, biology major with a minor in chemistry, worked on a project with a professor and some fellow Honors College students to research the functions of glial cells in the neurological system through the use of planarian flatworms.

Create Your Four-Year Plan with Wednesday Workshops Your First Year

Throughout your first semester, you'll attend Cook Honors College Wednesday Workshops, where you'll outline your college goals and build a plan for how you'll get there, step by step. We call this the four-year plan.

Think of it as a guide to help you figure out what dreams you have and how, bit by bit, you can turn those dreams into something realistic. In the Wednesday Workshops, you'll learn about opportunities—like studying abroad, research, competitive scholarships, and internships—and how to apply for them.

We know most freshmen don't know what they will do as a senior. The idea here is to look at what's out there and how you can fit it in. You don't want to be the senior at the Cook Honors College exit interview who says, "I thought I was going to study abroad when I came to college, but somehow it just never happened."

After the First Year—Living Your Plan

There are no Wednesday Workshops for upperclassmen. You are now progressing through your four-year plan. We still provide you with tools like the resource links on our website, or other upperclassmen, or your professors, or help from Honors College staff members, but the main driving force has to be you.

After your freshman year, we place your goals in your hands. The ongoing planning process requires a willingness to imagine, research, reflect, and revise. Perhaps your four-year plan evolves into you becoming a teacher, an artist, a physical therapist, or a biochemist. It also might lead you to graduate school, medical school, or law school.

Freshman Year:

  • career exploration, begin developing real relationships with profs, especially your advisor
  • add extracurricular activities as they interest you. Be truly involved.
  • make sure your community service choices are meaningful and relevant to your goals
  • keep up your grades

Summer thereafter:

  • summer school (here or abroad)
  • internship or volunteer work if you can afford
  • if you must work, look for a meaningful job were you will learn useful skills or try to work at night and volunteer during the day

Sophomore Fall:

  • if a science major, applications for Goldwater scholarship
  • look into study abroad and internship programs
  • for some majors, spring of the sophomore year is an ideal time to study abroad
  • consider a Boren scholarship
  • by now you should know your advisor or some professor in your major who functions as your mentor/advisor very well

Sophomore Spring:

  • finalize study abroad and internship plans
  • good times for on-campus jobs which are career related
  • make a point of getting to know at least two or three professors in your major so they know you well enough to help you and to write informed recommendations for you

Summer thereafter:

  • internship, career-related employment, summer institutes, study abroad or summer school
  • gather info listed during junior semesters if you will be studying abroad during junior year

Junior Year Fall:

  • applications for Truman, Goldwater, Boren, Pickering, and Udall scholarships.
  • make preliminary arrangements for your undergraduate thesis or inquire about a senior research project in the sciences.
  • search for and apply for summer internships.
  • attend conferences and submit papers for publication.
  • on-campus jobs should be career-related.
  • Study Abroad

Junior Year Spring:

  • finalize arrangements and begin work on undergraduate thesis
  • gather and begin work on applications for Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright , Mitchell, Gates-Cambridge and other scholarships
  • take one part of the GRE, begin prep for LSAT, MCAT or other exams
  • attend conferences and submit papers for publication
  • on-campus jobs should be career-related
  • Study Abroad
  • education majors should inquire about student teaching abroad

Summer thereafter:

  • take second part of GRE, take LSAT and other exams
  • grad school search
  • prep for all applications
  • attend the late August HC Career Workshop

Senior Year Fall:

  • Applications! for all major post-grad scholarships, for grad and professional schools, for jobs
  • last chance to retake exams if scores were low
  • register for a very light load if applying for grad/professional schools

Senior Year Spring:

  • take synthesis course if not a student-teaching ed major
  • a good place to take required courses outside your major that you have been dreading or postponing
  • follow up on applications

Summer thereafter: Varies widely. Grad students may want to start graduate programs now to complete the masters in time to apply for following PHD admissions cycle in March.


  • study abroad
  • community service
  • conferences
  • publications
  • internships
  • meaningful work
  • extra training - skills
  • extracurricular activities, but only if you actually made real contributions
  • tough, upper-level courses outside your major
  • competency in at least one foreign language
  • competent writer
  • critical thinking skills
  • actually producing something you can show them
  • undergraduate thesis
  • public speaking skills
  • connections! (personal and affiliation with nationally known organizations)