Would you try to construct a building without a blueprint? Would you attempt a 3,000 piece jigsaw puzzle without looking at the picture on the box? Do our Retrievers march onto the soccer field, rugby pitch, or baseball diamond without a game plan?
Similarly, you know that UMBC has specific requirements you must meet in order to claim a degree and a diploma. And, you know what your goal is—to enter law school, get a job as a Math teacher, or successful entrepreneur. So you need a plan (blueprint) that meets both the UMBC requirements and your life goals.
By the way, you can bet the folks who built the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai (pictured with this article) had a very detailed plan! At 2,716.5 feet, It is the world’s tallest building.
GETTING YOUR BLUEPRINT DOWN ON “PAPER” AS A DEGREE PLAN
Step 1. Start by reviewing your degree audit and making note of all gaps in general education courses, university requirements, and all courses needed for your major, minor, certificate programs, etc. Find your degree audit by logging on to your myUMBC account and clicking on the topic "Advising and Student Support."
Step 2. Download a degree plan template from UMBC’s new four-year academic pathways site. While you are there, review the academic pathway for your chosen major or for majors of interest if you are still deciding. The pathway is not a prescription, but an illustration of how a degree can be built, course by course, to complete a particular major in four years.
INSIDER TIP: Notice that every degree pathway includes ENGL 100 Composition and a MATH course within the first two semesters. That is because UMBC requires these two courses be completed right away.
Step 3. Begin filling in the blanks with courses you KNOW you need to take for your major. Take into account whether these courses are offered every semester, only in fall, only in spring, etc. when you slot them into your plan. Also take into account prerequisites and course sequences. The degree pathway for your major will help with this.
Step 4. Then fill in courses for minors and certificates, and finally general education courses. It is fine to put “upper level AH course” or “Writing Intensive course” as a placeholder if you have not settled on the specific course yet. Also include any electives you would like to fit in. As you build your future schedules, remember not to load up with too many super difficult courses, too many courses with heavy reading, too many science courses in any one semester. Strive for a balanced list.
Step 5. Make sure the credit total for each semester is a reasonable number. A 15-17 credit schedule is good for most full-time students with jobs and extracurriculars of 15 hours/week or less. If you have a substantial work commitment, long commute, or big family obligations, then scale back the credits. For more assistance and “reality checking” regarding schedule planning, consider using our new UMBC time donut.
HOW TO GET USEFUL INPUT FROM YOUR ADVISOR
Make an appointment to meet with your academic advisor to review your long-term plan. You may want to e-mail your plan to your advisor in advance. When you come to your appointment, be ready with a list of issues such as:
• Courses you may want or need to repeat
• Plans to take certain courses at another institution
• Strategic use of summer and winter sessions
Although your advisor may give you excellent suggestions to refine your blueprint, it is ultimately up to you to be sure that it is complete and realistic.
THE PLAN CAN BE ADJUSTED
And yes, you need a plan even if you know that later you may switch concentrations within your major, or drop your second major down to a minor, and you may want to add a certificate. The process of building the plan will help you assess the feasibility of these changes! It is even more important to have a solid written plan if your academic career is in flux. And if you want to see how your courses might fit into a different major altogether, take a look at the “What If” degree audit on myUMBC under “Advising and Student Support.”
Although your college education is a work in progress right up until your final credits are posted, it should be unfolding based on a blueprint you designed. A frequently updated written plan or blueprint is a powerful tool for making sure you are meeting all the university’s demands and achieving your personal goals as well.
MORE RESOURCES TO HELP YOU BUILD YOUR PLAN
Peer Advisors in the Office for Academic and Pre-Professional Advising
BONUS RESOURCE FOR STRATEGIC ACADEMIC PLANNING
7 Secrets of Savvy Students by Donald Asher
Window Cleaning the World’s Tallest Building, a BBC One Video
EXTRA CREDIT FUN POLL
Which advising tools have you used for academic planning at UMBC? Please select all that apply.