20 Colleges with Co-op Programs

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Co-op programs allow students to get hands-on learning experiences, often while earning college credit and getting paid. In this post, we’ll provide some background on these programs and share some top schools with co-ops. 

 

What are Co-op Programs?

 

‚ÄúCo-op‚ÄĚ is short for ‚Äúcooperative education,‚ÄĚ an experiential approach that alternates between classroom education and paid on-the-job learning. It provides students with professional experience in their field of study and anticipated career choice.¬†

 

The co-op model was pioneered by the Dean of Engineering, Herman Schneider, at the University of Cincinnati in 1906. Today, approximately 60 U.S. colleges and universities offer co-op programs‚ÄĒoften in the STEAM fields, such as engineering, information technology, applied science, design, and architecture. Many students‚Äė co-op experiences are at companies that their college has developed a strategic partnership with, while other students forge their own co-op employment opportunities that their college approves.

 

Some schools offer co-op as an option; for others, it is a requirement. Check carefully, as even at Northeastern University, known for its top-tier co-op program, doing a co-op is highly encouraged, but not required. Undergraduate co-op programs typically last a semester or year, and are part of a four- to five-year course of study combining classroom and experiential learning.

 

The Difference Between Co-op Programs and Internships

 

While there are not definitive definitions, the following summary helps clarify typical differences.

 

 

Co-op

Internship

Compensation

Paid

Paid or unpaid ‚Äď The Fair Labor Standards Act requires for-profit employers to pay employees, but students and interns may not be considered employees. The FLSA provides seven attributes to determine employment status.

Duration

Full-time for three to six months ‚Äď a semester or trimester ‚Äď or more

Part-time over a variable duration

Focus

Directly related to a student’s major

Not necessarily major-related

Tuition

No tuition charged while  the student is co-op only. (Students pay room and board if residing in university housing.)

Tuition charged 

Academic credit

Earn academic credit

Not necessarily 

 

 

Benefits of Co-op Programs

 

A co-op education offers students many potential advantages, including:

 

  • Relevant on-the-job experience tends to improve academic performance in the classroom.¬†
  • The ability to earn income to pay for college without decreasing your eligibility for need-based financial aid. Co-op wages do not count toward Expected Family Contribution. Also, you may even be able to reduce federal taxes on your co-op income.
  • A smoother transition from college to career as you gain first-hand knowledge of both the hard and soft skills needed to thrive as an employee.
  • Students with co-op experience have robust resumes that help them secure jobs when they graduate. They also have the practical foundation needed to gain entry to some of the top graduate schools in the country.
  • Co-op students often are hired by their co-op employer. Both you and your employer get to ‚Äútry before you buy.‚Ä̬†
  • Some co-op students have the chance to live in a new area of the country or world
  • Some co-op students have the chance to experience business travel and/or attend professional conferences

 

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20 Colleges with Co-op Programs

 

School

Location

Acceptance Rate

Available For

Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA

 

17%

Electrical and Computer Engineering majors

Clemson University

 

Clemson, SC

62%

All majors

Cornell University

 

Ithaca, NY

11%

Engineering majors, Information Science majors, Computer Science majors 

Drexel University

Philadelphia, PA

 

77%

All majors

Elon University

 

Elon, NC

72%

All majors

Endicott College

Beverly, MA

80%

All majors

Georgia Institute of Technology

 

Atlanta, GA

 

22%

All majors

George Washington University 

 

Washington, DC

42%

All majors; technically an internship, but they offer funding

Northeastern University

Boston, MA

19%

 

All majors

Northwestern University

 

Evanston, IL

8%

Engineering majors

Purdue University

West Lafayette, IN

 

58%

 

Majors in Agriculture, Engineering, Health & Human Sciences, Liberal Arts, Management, Pharmacy, Polytechnic,Science

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Troy, NY

 

43%

All majors

Rochester Institute of Technology

 

Rochester, NY

66%

All majors

Temple University

Philadelphia, PA

 

59%

All majors

University of Florida

 

Gainesville, FL

39%

All majors

University of Cincinnati

 

Cincinnati, OH

73%

 

Engineering and applied science majors

University of Washington

Seattle, WA

49%

 

Engineering majors

Villanova University

 

Villanova, PA

29%

Business majors

Wentworth Institute of Technology

 

Boston, MA

76%

All majors

 

More Details about 6 Co-op Programs 

 

1. Cornell University

 

Cornell is a private, Ivy League university and the land-grant university for New York state. Cornell‚Äôs mission is to ‚Äúdiscover, preserve and disseminate knowledge, to educate the next generation of global citizens, and to promote a culture of broad inquiry throughout and beyond the Cornell community. Cornell also aims, through public service, to enhance the lives and livelihoods of students, the people of New York and others around the world.‚ÄĚ

 

While not known for its co-op program, Cornell offers co-op options coordinated through the College of Engineering for:

 

  • ¬†All 14 engineering majors
  • College of Arts & Sciences: Computer Science and Information Science majors¬†

 

Learn more about Cornell and see your chances of acceptance.

 

2. Drexel University

 

Drexel University has been a co-op pioneer since 1919 ‚Äď operating one of the largest programs in the U.S. More than 1,650 business, industrial, governmental, and other institutions ‚Äúcooperate‚ÄĚ with Drexel in offering students the opportunity to acquire practical experience in employment related to college studies.¬†

 

Drexel’s International Co-op program provides opportunities for students to live and work abroad. International co-op students come from a variety of majors and work on nearly every continent. In recent co-op cycles, students have worked in countries including Brazil, China, Greece, Ireland, India, and Japan.

 

Ninety-four percent of graduates are employed or enrolled in graduate or professional education within one year after graduation.

 

Learn more about Drexel and see your chances of acceptance. 

 

3. Elon University

 

Elon values experiential learning and facilitates student involvement in global engagement, service, leadership, internships, and research experiences. To enable more experiential learning opportunities, Elon requires students to complete fewer, more intensive, classes. 

 

Elon also offers an atypical co-op experience‚ÄĒmore like an internship. Students can earn elective credit, not credit in their major or minor, for a co-op assignment. (Students who find an experience that relates to their major/minor must receive departmental approval for the experience to be considered an internship.) A co-op/internship is treated like a regular course for credit with a letter grade. Regular tuition charges apply. Students must work a minimum of 40 hours for every credit received during the term. Most students utilize a co-op as a career exploration experience. Students may co-op during any semester and the co-op is included in students‚Äô full-time tuition.

 

Learn more about Elon and see your chances of acceptance.

 

4. Georgia Institute of Technology

 

The Georgia Institute of Technology, commonly referred to as Georgia Tech, is a public research university and institute of technology. Considered a top 10 public university, the school offers more than 130 majors and minors. 

 

Georgia Tech introduced its co-op program in 1912, and today more than 4,100 students participate in the five-year co-op programs in engineering, science, or business‚ÄĒworking for at least three alternating semesters.

 

Learn more about Georgia Tech and see your chances of acceptance.

 

5. Northeastern University

 

Through coursework, co-op employment, research, global study, and service, Northeastern prepares students to be innovative problem solvers and entrepreneurs with the skills and experiences to make an impact in the world. 

 

The school’s co-op program is a distinguishing feature of this top-tier university. Established in 1909, it is one of the oldest co-op programs in the nation. It is also one of the broadest, including opportunities worldwide in 148 countries in a broad spectrum of fields. (Northeastern offers undergraduates 270 majors, 8 colleges and programs, and over 170 combined majors.)

 

Ninety-three percent of graduates are employed or enrolled in graduate school within nine months after graduation.  You may be surprised to learn that co-op isn’t required. The vast majority of students do participate, and all students must complete some version of experiential learning.

 

Learn more about Northeastern and see your chances of acceptance.

 

6. Northwestern University

 

Northwestern’s Walter P. Murphy Cooperative Engineering Education Program provides an engineering degree from a top-tier university as well as up to 18 months of engineering industry experience from one or two employers.

 

Co-op students are registered in a non-credit course during work periods to maintain full-time student status, coverage under the family’s health insurance at student rates, and so that student loans do not go into repayment. Co-op students are also eligible for a tuition discount in their final year of study, typically the 5th year.

 

Learn more about Northwestern and see your chances of acceptance.

 

What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?

 

To better understand your chances at the schools listed above, or others you find on your own, we recommend using our free admissions calculator. Using your grades, test scores, extracurriculars, and more, we’ll estimate your odds of acceptance, and give you tips on improving your profile!


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Elizabeth graduated from Brown University with a degree in American Studies and has used the analytic and writing skills she developed in college in various marketing management positions, freelance writing gigs, and as an author of children's books and magazine articles. She has written for a range of clients serving college-age students, including several universities and publications. And she has supported a son and a daughter through the college and graduate school application and selection process.

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