3 Things to Know About College Co-op Programs

In college, students expect to receive an education that will help prepare them for their future careers. However, some colleges go a step further by offering students opportunities for specialized work-study training. Cooperative (or co-op) programs are long-term paid internship arrangements that combine typical college classroom-based education with hands-on work experience. These programs typically feature semesters of classroom study alternated with semesters of work. 

Such programs can give college students an edge on their resume, allowing them to gain valuable work experience while still enrolled in school. Additionally, this training can be excellent preparation for entering a competitive job market after graduation. However, there are also some challenges involved when participating in co-op programs.

Is a co-op program right for you? Check out these three things every student should know about co-op programs before making a decision:

1. Arranging a co-op requires significant coordination 

A co-op program is a bit more complex to facilitate than typical college courses. Registration protocol and requirements differ in each college. Yet, regardless of where you go to school, beginning the co-op process can be similar. 

First, you will need to ensure your eligibility for a co-op program. Meet with your adviser and discuss your college’s requirements. If you are approved to take part in a co-op program, the second step is to search for employers who will hire you. This involves applying to jobs as well as going on job interviews. Once you are hired, a college will typically require its co-op applicants to submit specific paperwork detailing their employer’s information and their job title. 

The last step is actually registering for your co-op program, which in most cases needs to be repeated for each semester of your particular program. 

2. The benefits and costs of working 

One major perk to co-op programs is the opportunity to be paid a salary by an employer. However, many colleges also do charge a co-op fee for each semester you spend as a co-op intern. Some employers may reimburse you for this processing fee, so it is worth asking potential employers if they would be willing to do so.

Another detail you will need to consider as a co-op intern is the expense involved with a job. Will you need to purchase special clothing or equipment for work? Do you need to commute to work, and if so, how will you be getting there and how long will it take? 

Working will also significantly change your day-to-day schedule. Especially when facing a long commute, you may need to wake up very early in order to arrive at work on time. Long days at work can be challenging, especially if you are not used to a regular schedule. It is important to think about how a co-op program may impact your day-to-day life logistically. These are some great reasons why you should have a part time job in college.

3. Co-op programs will give you a different university experience                  

Both attending classes and working from semester to semester is by no means an easy task, especially if you are employed full-time during your working semesters. During these semesters, you will likely be spending less time on campus. This can be very different than classroom-learning semesters, where you will be on campus more often, if not all the time. While some enjoy the change of environment, it can be challenging for some students to get used to.

Another thing to consider, if you plan on participating in a co-op program, is the possibility that you will graduate later than expected. Though work and education requirements for co-op programs vary by college, most will add at least an extra year to your expected graduation date. However, some colleges do offer accelerated co-op programs, which can help you graduate on time. You may also want to consider an on campus job that can help you explore majors!

Carefully think about the above factors before pursuing a co-op opportunity, but also remember that key benefits come with the experience. College grads are facing a tough job market and participating in a co-op may increase your chances of landing a great job later on. One of these programs could greatly impact your career path after graduation!