When choosing to attend the University of Waterloo, co-op played a very important factor in my decision making process. I chose Health Studies with co-op because I knew that I wanted a career in the healthcare field, but I wasn’t sure which job was right for me. I believed that co-op would be very beneficial in helping me determine this. The experience gained from co-op would allow me to learn what it is that I like, and more importantly, what I don’t like. Thus, the University of Waterloo was a fairly easy choice for me to make. This, however, is not the case for everyone, as co-op is definitely not a great fit for all. There are more and more schools that offer co-op programs, and as a student in high school, it can be quite daunting to think about what a cooperative program entails. There are definitely many benefits to be gained from a program that offers co-op, but there are quite a few challenges that come with it as well. Below are both some advantages and struggles that students in a co-op program may face, and hopefully it will help you determine whether a cooperative program is right for you.

Advantages

1.You’re able to gain a lot of hands-on experience in your desired field.

This includes experience in every aspect of the job. You’re able to learn about the work culture, work values, and different leadership styles. This hands-on experience can really help you determine whether or not the field you’ve chosen is right for you.

2. You get a break from school every 4 months (depending on your co-op stream).

3. You gain great opportunities to work with and learn from those who are established in your desired field.

This is a fantastic opportunity to network, and gain insights on how you can develop your skills and reach your career goals.

4. You can earn a good income every co-op term to help you pay for your study terms.

5. You can work in different cities, or even countries, during your co-op terms.

This way, you’re getting both work experience and worldly experience.

6. You gain a lot of experience interviewing for jobs.

Challenges

1.You have to be sure to plan your courses well in advance.

Universities will not offer the same course every term, as course offerings are always rotating. This means you have to be diligent and prepare your course schedule well in advance, so that you can be sure you take all the courses you need, when they’re offered.

2. The application process for co-op jobs is very time consuming, and can feel as though it’s a whole course on its own.

Tweaking resumes, writing cover letters and preparing for interviews is quite an extensive process. It can become very tiring and difficult to juggle with a full course load at the same time. Good time management skills are definitely a necessity.

3. Housing can become very complicated.

Having to switch every few months between school and work means you’re usually not in one place for too long. Though it may be exciting to visit new places, this also means you’re usually having to figure out new housing arrangements every term.

4. There’s no guarantee of a co-op position.

Though you can gain some great experience from co-op jobs, not every student obtains a co-op job every term. University staff will do their best and put forth their greatest efforts to ensure co-op students are employed, but nonetheless it’s a very competitive process. You have to be willing to be flexible in the types of positions, as well as sometimes their location.

5. It will take you a longer time to graduate.

A co-op program usually means you’re in school for 5 years rather than the traditional 4 years. For those who know they want to pursue graduate studies, they may not want to spend an extra year in their undergrad, and would rather complete their undergraduate degree as soon as possible.

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