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Do I Need a 4-Year Plan Before I Arrive?

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It’s the summer before you start Stanford, many of your friends may have already started college, and you find yourself with time on your hands. Maybe you should start working on your 4 year plan, right?


But, then again, maybe not.

What should I be thinking about before school starts?

You don’t need to arrive at Stanford with a 4 year plan or even a 3 quarter plan. But you should be thinking about the types of courses you’d like to take during your first quarter at Stanford. And, for that, there are myriad options, any of which could be the right choice for you:

There is also plenty of time to explore, and we encourage that wholeheartedly. Additionally, there is the marvelous possibility that you will surprise yourself as you transition from high school to university. It’s important to leave yourself space to become the person you are going to be and not lock yourself into any one mold right away.

There are fields of study at Stanford that you haven’t heard of, and, for some of you, these fields will become majors, passions, or even vocations. You want to leave yourself open to the serendipitous discovery of presently unknown interests and aptitudes.

If making a 4-year plan hasn’t even crossed your mind, don’t worry, you are not alone, and you are not falling behind. Some uncertainty is natural and expected at the start of an adventure as grand as this one is likely to be.

What if I still want to make a 4 year plan?

If making a 4-year plan still appeals to you, by all means go ahead. There is no one right way to map your academic career. So make a plan. Make two. Make three if you like. Imagine all the incredible pathways you might pursue. Just don’t laminate your plans (that's old school for locking that plan down). With a flexible frame of mind, plans can help show you different options and possibilities AND give you some peace of mind about the probability of completing the task at hand. Remember, a plan should be about the possible, it should not be a prison. You will change during your time here; your plan should change too. 

See also our presentation on Four Year Planning (Note you need to be logged into your Stanford Account to access the presentation).

Moving Forward

You are going to discover a lot this coming year, both about Stanford and about yourself. And you’ll have your advisors and peers to help you make sense of it all.

And once you are here and have taken a good look around, we can help you put together the plan (pardon me, the many possible plans) that will allow you to achieve everything you want to in your time at Stanford.

In the meantime, enjoy these last few weeks of summer, and we’ll see you at New Student Orientation!

See Also

Return to the Advising Student Handbook