Create a Long-Term Program Plan


A Long-Term Program Plan is a sketch of a semester-by-semester schedule plan that would lead to graduation. This allows you to see how you will cover your degree requirements over time and visualize how opportunities like internships, research, or studying abroad may fit in to your undergraduate experience.

Many students refer to this as a “Four Year Plan,” but we think “Long-Term Program Plan” better reflects the wide range of experiences of our students, including our transfer students. 

Should I Create a Long-Term Program Plan?

Long-term program planning appeals to many students because it seems like a way to stay “on track.” That said, changes of major direction are common and students often find ways to enhance their degree that require re-thinking their approach to scheduling classes. Because of this, creating a long-term program plan too early is not always the best use of your time. 

Suggestions for first year freshmen: If you are still exploring majors, it is perfectly fine to focus on planning your next semester instead of creating a long-term plan! If you have narrowed it down to one or two majors, focusing on a two-year plan can be a great way to map out your prerequisites for your intended major as well as one or two alternate major options. 

The best reasons to create a Long-Term Program Plan: 

  • You are changing your major or adding a major/minor and have concerns about whether you can complete it within your allowed time

  • You may need to extend your time and want to see if you will hit the unit ceiling

  • You are planning to  study abroad or participate in UCDC, especially during a regular semester (Fall/Spring) 

  • You are declaring your major, have identified the opportunities you want to plan for, and are ready to map out the remainder of your time

IMPORTANT REMINDER: How courses fulfill requirements can change over time. For example, a course may count for a breadth one semester, but not in a future semester. It is critical to confirm that a course still counts for the same requirements at the time you take the course.

Suggested Steps to Create Your Long-Term Program Plan

Step 1: Get a Planning Tool

L&S Program Planning Sheet

We find this program planning sheet is a simple and visual way to plan out your time. It’s a tool that’s familiar to advising staff across campus and makes it easy for Advisers to check whether you’ll meet unit totals (or be permitted extra time). 

You can use more than one if you’re comparing plans!

You may also use the schedule planning tool available to you on CalCentral, which has great, interactive features. 

Step 2: Plan remaining requirements for your major(s)

Major requirements require the most careful planning, so plan these first:

  1. Start with the website for your intended or declared major(s), review information about major requirements, and outline a plan you like to the best of your ability. 
  2. Next, meet with the Undergraduate Major Adviser for that department to look over your plan and to discuss any questions that have come up for you about declaring or planning for the major.

Step 3: Plan remaining general education and unit requirements

Figure out which general education (GE) requirements (including UC, Campus, Essential Skills, and Seven-Course Breadth) you have left to fulfill. (For support, check out the Assess my Progress page. You may also review the Degree Requirements page for a full understanding of all L&S requirements.)

If you think your major courses could overlap with some of your remaining GE areas, you can use to see if there are any that have overlapped in the past. Remember though, you will need to confirm these courses still cover the same GE requirements when you take the course, as how courses cover requirements can change over time. That said, doing this research can give you an idea whether overlap is likely.

Once you have outlined the classes you want, check whether your plan covers your unit requirements and add more courses if necessary. 

Step 4: Find other opportunities you want to fit in

Your undergraduate experience is made up of more than just your classes. You might also hope to plan in opportunities like research, internships, or study abroad. While you don't need to have every opportunity figured out before you meet with an L&S College Adviser (they can help point you to some good options), it can be helpful to have some ideas when going into a program planning appointment. That way, if you know you want to keep your summers free for internships, or know you plan to study abroad for your junior year, they can take that into account when helping you outline what your schedule could look like. 

Check out our Discover Opportunities and Connect on Campus page to explore options for your undergraduate experience. 

To get ideas for summer options in particular, read our mini-article, "What to do with your summer." 

Step 5: Meet with an L&S College Adviser

An L&S College Adviser can help you assess whether your plan covers college requirements. L&S College Advisers can also help you reflect on whether you have left enough time for key experiences that can help you reach your big picture goals, identify other opportunities you may not have considered, and discuss time to graduation. You also may find you have room left in your plan and feel unsure of how to fill it. An L&S College Adviser can help you consider opportunities or coursework to get the most out of your time at Cal. 

If your plan requires time beyond your allowed semesters, having your plan sketched out with units will help an L&S College Adviser assess whether this is possible within the unit ceiling or if it may be achievable through another route.