Co-op (cooperative education) colleges believe that working while going to college is as central to the student’s education as classroom learning. The way these schools see it, learning takes place throughout the college experience, both inside and outside of the classroom. In addition, one of the primary goals of going to college is to prepare students to enter the workforce, so co-op colleges introduce students to full-time employment while they are still in school.
Some well known co-op colleges are Northeastern University (Boston, MA), University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH), and Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA).
So how does cooperative education work?
At co-op colleges, students alternate between full-time classroom learning and full-time learning on the job. Students might spend one semester on campus, followed by a semester off-campus working full-time in a field related to their academic or career interests. By the time a student graduates, they will have held between 2 and 5 different full-time jobs, explored several career interests, and gained the maturity and flexibility that comes from going through the job application process, earning money, and living independently.
Students typically take a pre co-op course to prepare for full-time employment. They are also provided with a co-op adviser or counselor who will help the student search for, and apply to, co-op positions. Co-op colleges have connections with employers throughout the United States, and around the world, to ensure that students can find engaging and exciting employment during co-op terms.
It is important to note that in some cases, the co-op schedule extends the college experience to 5 years instead of 4. However, for some students, the value of earning money and gaining work experience outweighs the extra time it might take to graduate.
Students at co-op colleges are hands-on learners. They like to put theory into practice right away, and then go back and apply what they learned on the job to their academic work. With up to 18 months of experience by the time they graduate, students are confident they will be successful in the workforce. They will be familiar with the dynamics of the workplace, working as part of a team, and communicating with co-workers and employers. And as you can imagine, it’s not uncommon for a co-op job to lead to full-time employment after graduation. Just another (potential) office perk…