Cal Parents - Timeline of common student college & career activities by year

Keep in mind, however, that students vary a great deal in how closely they follow this timeline.

First Year


  • Adjust to campus life
  • Learn how to balance academics and social activities

Next Steps

  • Explore major options
  • Seek interesting activities to get involved in on campus
  • Get to know fellow students


  • Start thinking about possible careers
  • Consider whether graduate or professional school might make sense in the future
  • Look for part-time work or a summer job to make money and gain experience
  • Find ways to build analytical thinking, communication, interpersonal or leadership skills

Second Year


  • Choose a major (students must declare a major before the first semester of junior year)


  • Begin to explore career options

Possible Next Steps

  • Assess interests, skills, strengths and values
  • Gather information about careers of interest
  • Think about possible advanced degrees to explore in greater depth
  • If medical school may be a future goal, gain relevant experience and learning about the application timeline
  • Start to develop relationships with faculty in order to get solid recommendation letters for graduate or professional school
  • Create a resume or update an existing one
  • Look for volunteer opportunities, part-time jobs, summer jobs or internships
  • Pursue leadership opportunities within student organizations


Third Year (also for Transfer Students)


Start to narrow down career/work options and focus on a few to consider pursuing seriously. How it can be done:

  • Develop greater clarity about interests, skills, strengths and values
  • Thoroughly investigate favorite career options in order to begin to crystallize career and educational goals
  • Start developing a network and learning about potential employers in fields of interest
  • Update the resume
  • Find a part-time job or internship to verify interests and gain skills employers seek
  • Actively explore possible post-graduate education to understand expectable outcomes, admissions requirements, timelines and procedures
  • If planning to begin medical school the Fall following graduation, prepare for the MCAT, take it in April of this year and begin applying in June


Fourth Year

While some students have clear career or graduate/professional school plans by their senior year, many others do not.

Possible Activities

  • Make decisions about the best option after graduation, and come up with one or two backup plans
  • Get experience to build transferable skills
  • Continue to make connections and build a professional network
  • Seek full-time employment; research employers, and learn how to conduct an effective job search
  • Prepare to present oneself to employers as someone who is ready to transition out of college
  • Brush up on professional etiquette, hone the resume, and learn to interview successfully
  • If pursuing graduate school, make sure to be on time with applications


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