Build an Integrated Academic and Career Plan
HDFS students are often engaged in volunteering, extracurricular activities, and paid work in addition to their academic courses. Building an integrated academic and career plan will help you choose courses and non-academic activities strategically, so you develop a coherent set of skills and knowledge that will prepare you well for a career.
There is an enormous amount of information out there on career planning, but students often struggle to understand how to fit all those activities and courses into their already busy schedules. We are going to show you how to fit everything in.
Building an academic and career plan involves:
- Identifying your goals: If you are still exploring careers, your goals can be to learn about different careers that interest you by taking a relevant class, doing a relevant volunteer opportunity, or working on a related research project. If you are planning for a specific career, your goals can be about completing the courses and building the knowledge necessary for success. To prepare for this step use our General Career Guidance page.
- Planning your courses: Select courses that will help you explore your interests.
- Adding hands-on experiences: Select hands-on experiences to explore your interests and build your skills.
To help you organize your plan, we have developed a simple worksheet that you can fill out. Please bring your worksheet and a copy of your degree audit to your advising meeting each semester. This will help you think about what you are trying to accomplish and will let our advisors help you develop your plans.
This worksheet is an Excel file that you can use to develop your own plan. Many jobs require Excel skills, so becoming familiar with how this software works will benefit you in the long run.
Why should I do this?
Many students use the department’s plan, which we strongly encourage you to use. But most students end up deviating from those plans a little. This tool allows you to set up and keep track of your own academic plan. You can not only be sure you are taking the required courses, but you can use this to be sure those courses and your other activities are helping you achieve your goals.
- If you fill this in properly, you will be able to see how many credits you need to take each semester to graduate on time.
- This will remind you to use your academic courses wisely. Each course is an opportunity to learn something that interests you or to develop important skills. Read about how to plan your courses to take advantage of opportunities that many students miss out on.
- This tool is very helpful if you are planning to do an optional minor (see the worksheet “with a minor”). Often students ask if adding a minor will mean they have to take extra courses. This document will help you answer that question. See instructions below on working with the Minor worksheet.
- This tool will remind you to plan ahead for summer, as you have a huge block of time that is ideal for exploring careers and building skills.
How to use the worksheets
What is in the file?
Along the bottom there are several “tabs” for each worksheet. The first says “Sample”. Click on the tab to see an example of a course planning worksheet. The sample is one a student interested in Human Resources might fill in. The second tab on the bottom says “With a Minor”. Click on this second tab to see how to use this tool if you are doing a minor. The third tab says “Your Planning Document”. Click here for a blank worksheet that you can fill in with your own information.
What is on each worksheet?
Each worksheet has two sections. The top part (shaded pink) asks you to identify the skills and knowledge you would like to learn. Often students think about filling requirements, but there is tremendous flexibility in how you meet those requirements. By focusing first on what you want to learn, you can then select courses and hands-on experiences to help you achieve your learning goals. The rest of the worksheet helps you fit those learning experiences into a multi-semester schedule to be sure you are meeting all of your requirements.
How does it work?
Look at the “Sample” worksheet. Across the top there are spots to identify the skills and substantive knowledge you want to learn. This student wants to learn about business writing, finance, and labor laws among other things. Next to each thing the student wants to learn, she has filled in notes about how she might learn these things – through specific courses, extracurricular activities, or an internship.
*If you don’t know what you want to do for a career yet, your goals should be around exploring careers through your hands-on activities and through a diverse set of courses where you can try out different skills. You might want to explore counseling by taking a counseling education course. And you might want to explore advocacy careers by working at a non-profit over the summer. It’s fine if your learning goals at the top are broad.
* Our academic advisors are happy to help you establish goals and select courses and activities to help you reach those goals.
The bottom of the worksheet is really for planning. First, you need to figure out which courses you still have to take. To do this, print out a current degree audit from E Lion. The audit will clearly show you the requirements you have to meet. In this case, the student has to take HDFS 315, an advanced development course, the pre-internship class, and her internship, among other things. List each course on one row in the Excel file.
This is just an example so only a few courses requirements have been filled in on the sample sheet; you are likely to have many more courses to take. If you are not confident that you are reading your degree audit correctly, please ask our academic advisors for help. Excel tip: To add rows, click on “Insert: Rows” on the Excel toolbar. You can adjust the columns as well. If you have more semesters left, add more columns.
Once you have identified your remaining requirements, map out when you will take each requirement by putting an X in the right semester. And use the “notes” space to indicate which courses you want to take or how you will use that requirement to learn something that you need to know. **You will likely change your plans as you move through the program. But this will help you be sure you are taking enough credits each semester to graduate on time, and will help you see when you need to take different courses.
Finally, the bottom row says “Career Exploration”. Here you should put any activities you plan to do in each semester and over the summer that aren’t for credit but still help you gain valuable skills and experiences.
Matching your plans to your goals
Because you can learn skills relevant to careers in a variety of contexts – courses, extracurricular activities, summer jobs – this worksheet provides you with an opportunity to go back and forth between what you need to learn and where you will learn it. For each of your learning goals, try to think of a way you can use one of your requirements, your extracurricular time, or your summer job to gain those skills. Go back and forth – think about what you need to learn, explore courses that meet the requirements you still have, and put the puzzle pieces together to come up with a plan that meets your needs.
Planning for your minor
Minors can be wonderful ways to specialize a degree. But sometimes fitting the courses in and graduating on time can be challenging. This worksheet can help you see whether you can fit a minor in, given the courses and credits you have left to take. Look at the “with a minor” worksheet. In the example, we have listed out the requirements this student still has to fill for her minor: 3 LER courses. The key to fitting in a minor is using the fact that some courses can double count toward your minor and your major, or your Gen Ed’s. This student still has a 400-level supporting course to take and a GS to take. To meet the minor requirement and the major requirement with one course, she took a 400-level LER course that was on the supporting course list. To meet the minor requirement and the GS requirement, she found a lower-level LER course that was on the GS list. Instead of putting an X in a box, she has noted on this sheet that she is filling the requirement for her minor with a course she is taking to meet her other requirements. So far she has not taken additional courses, she has selected courses that double count.
Unfortunately, there is no way for her to fit the last 400-level LER course for her minor into her other requirements. She will have to take one extra course. So she has put an X in the fall of her junior year to show that she will have to take another class.
To do this yourself on the blank worksheet, list out all of the requirements for the minor you want and see whether you can meet any of those requirements through your Gen Eds or supporting courses. Then you can see how many extra courses a minor will require you to take and make a decision about whether it is worth it. When you do this yourself, please have an academic advisor check your plans.
Keep your plan!
If you keep this plan, you can simply update it from semester to semester. This will make registering for courses and choosing your activities much easier.
What if I need help?
Some students struggle to read degree audits properly. Others need help figuring out how to use this worksheet. Do your best, and then bring what you have to our academic advisors. They are happy to help.