The 4-Year Plan
Implications of Not Having One for College Admissions
Planning is of the essence in high school years, especially if interested in opening doors forward. The flexibility allowed by the high school curriculum throughout the U.S. can have a downside – if we do not plan ahead what courses we will need to take in the four years of high school, we might be closing opportunities without even knowing it. The creation of a 4-Year Plan is what solves this dilemma, ensuring we know what we as students stand against, in the race for college admissions.
One of the great privileges of the U.S. education system is its flexibility towards students, leaving room for teenagers to learn about their likes and dislikes, and allowing them to begin focusing on areas of interest at an early age – precisely in the 7th grade. Middle school students already can choose and pick areas in which they have excelled, and gain selection to more rigorous courses.
When arriving to the high school years, graduation prerequisites are not even remotely close to what an average to high-performing student would want to take. They are much less so, and leave room for students to seek further development taking more than the required courses. With electives being one part of the curriculum, these courses also need to be planned ahead, to ensure that course workload will be manageable for students and also, help students to go places and thrive.
A 4-Year Plan is the instrument that will help you assess educational opportunities in high school, and also ensure you will meet requirements to enter top institutions throughout the U.S. If we look closely to institutions of the highest reputation, including Princeton University, Harvard University and University of Pennsylvania, for example, we see among their prerequisites for admissions that they ask high school students to have completed Calculus, for example, by their senior year. Have we thought about what it takes in order to complete Calculus in the senior year of high school? There is a sequence that a student has to go through in order to achieve this goal. First, the student must have completed Algebra 1, then Algebra 2, then Geometry, then Pre-Calculus, to finally be eligible to enroll in the Calculus class. Making the plan of when each course will be taken by the student is what is called the 4-Year Plan.
In the Plan, we want to understand available courses in our high school, and also, student academic aptitude. A mistake would be to just take under consideration the goals in terms of college admissions. Each student is their own world, unique, with competencies different to other students in similar positions. Thus, it is important to make sure to understand what are his/her strengths and weaknesses prior to designing the combination of courses the student will register for. To understand their competencies, it is important is to ask their teachers in previous courses of the same subject area regarding their assessment of the student’s proficiency in the course. Their opinion can be highly valuable as they should understand the rigor required in future courses well enough to help the student make the right decision, and not strain themselves.
Colleges throughout seek students that want to work hard and have the capability to do so. One way of proving to a college that you are the type of student that will push yourself while keeping a reality check, is by enrolling in Advanced Placement (AP) and Honors courses. These courses not only teach at a higher level of difficulty, APs can earn you college credit, thus saving you money towards your college education. Often times, APs can be found even at a freshman level in high school. Having the opportunity to take an AP class in your first year of high school can offer a great advantage, as you are already accumulating extra points towards your weighted GPA, and working towards demonstrating that you are at an advantageous academic level. We find many students trying to fit as many AP courses as possible in their junior year, when they realize that what they took was not enough to really have a great impact on the GPA. This could result in poor grades in many courses, having a bad effect in the GPA, as opposed to the original intentions of raising the GPA and proving academic competitiveness.
The 4-Year Plan does not have to be set in stone, it can change throughout the years. However, it is advantageous to know in what direction you are heading, in order to make sure you don’t miss out on available opportunities. Making a smart plan and following it as closely as possible will help you open doors with colleges throughout. In college admissions, it pays to plan ahead.