People have been asking me what the differences between co-ops and internships are since 2012 when I first embarked on a co-op. Understandably, my extended family and friends from home tried to decipher what really sets Drexel's program and opportunities apart from other internship programs in the country.
Today, in my role as an Admissions Counselor at Drexel, students and families from all across the world ask the same questions to help understand why co-op is such a major part of Drexel's appeal. Why do we commit so much of the time during our presentations on campus talking about students' co-op stories? Why, when you walk around our campus, do you hear students talking about A-round and their co-op advisor so much? What is it about the cooperative education experience that has made Drexel keep the program for nearing 100 years?
All of these questions are incredibly fair, and that is why I am here to help! This article will highlight a few places where the co-op experience will differ from a traditional internship. Hopefully, it will help the reader understand why up to 18 months of your Drexel experience is spent outside of our campus and classrooms.
A major piece of a co-op, for me, that separated the work from what you think about as an internship, is the quality of work required. Drexel students on co-op are expected to be full-time, entry-level employees. They commute to work on public transportation, they have a badge and computer accounts, they have review meetings with their supervisors, and many are expected to prepare a presentation at the end of their co-op to highlight what they have worked on and learned. A co-op is not getting coffee for their boss, they are not just killing time to reach the end of the day or week, and they are not just seen as a passing face merely popping in for the summer. Also, the fact that the co-op employee gets the chance to rate their co-op experience for future students to see encourages our partner companies to make sure they are providing the most challenging and productive experience possible.
There is so much value in expanding your learning and education while in college beyond the boundaries of a classroom or campus.
A major reason why co-op employees are given this higher level of experience and responsibility is because they are simply in their positions longer. Most co-ops are six months in length, running either from September through March or March through September. This length of time is beneficial for both the employee and the employer. First, employees have the chance to see many projects through from start to finish and can become accustomed to a work culture. For the employers, their talent and human resources team do not have to go out and find new interns every three months. Also, so much less time is wasted in creating job descriptions and posts, interviewing and hiring, and training new team members. This time is so valuable to any company and it is time that hiring a Drexel co-op can give back to the employer.
Finally, the Drexel co-op program prepares students for life after graduation. Most co-op students are applying for many jobs while they are still in school. Looking back on my time in undergrad, I completed over 30 interviews for co-op positions. That experience has really propelled me in my life post-graduation and given me a lot more confidence in the job application process. On paper, co-ops are respected for the impact that they have and the experience they give employees. The power of a 6-month co-op and the experiences you can list on your résumé are impressive to potential hiring managers.
Finally, and most importantly, the experience working in your industry, in a professional role, all while still being a student makes you a better employee for all of your future jobs. Employers are not just looking for great résumés and interviewers, they are looking for productive and professional employees. That is what the co-op can do for you.
There is so much value in expanding your learning and education while in college beyond the boundaries of a classroom or campus. The co-op program is giving so many Drexel students a wonderful opportunity to explore post-graduation life with the safety net of their Drexel education behind them. Often, Drexel students will find what they want to do through co-op, but sometimes you actually figure out what you don't want to do, which can be just as if not more valuable for your future career and life satisfaction.
Hopefully, the idea of a co-op is a little clearer now than it was 750 words ago, but if you need further information, please ask! Also, check out our Student Stories to hear from some of my fellow Drexel students and alumni talk about their co-op experience. Until next time, Kevin signing off; go Dragons!
Kevin Murray is an Assistant Director in Undergraduate Admissions at Drexel as well as an alumnus. He spends his free time drinking coffee and thinking about where in the world he wants to travel next.