University-Co-Op or not to Co-Op

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katkov
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University-Co-Op or not to Co-Op

Postby katkov » Sat Jan 05, 2008 1:09 am UTC

I was applying to university with computer science and was wondering whether Co-op is worth it or not. Pros/Cons?

Rysto
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Re: University-Co-Op or not to Co-Op

Postby Rysto » Sat Jan 05, 2008 2:12 am UTC

Do it. Even if you're certain that academia is your future, not industry, the experience is invaluable.

Pros:
- Make money towards tuition
- Get real-world job experience(essential for getting a job after graduation)
- Get the opportunity to try different jobs on a short-term basis, which can help guide you towards a career you'll enjoy
- Develop contacts in industry who might be able to help you find a job(one of your employers might even offer you a job before you graduate*)

Cons:
- None

* Complete your education before starting to work full-time. If your employer doesn't want to allow you to go back and finish then you don't want to work for them.

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Re: University-Co-Op or not to Co-Op

Postby EvanED » Sat Jan 05, 2008 2:20 am UTC

I agree with Rysto. I just have three points to add:

(1) Under cons, it will delay your graduation by a semester or two, which means that you'll be getting out into the work force later. This is only a minor thing, but from a money standpoint, you'll be paid less as a co-op then full time. But as a CS co-op, you will be paid, and probably pretty nicely.

(2) Related to the first point: While it is definitely still valuable, if you are planning to continue to grad school and academia in the future it's probably not essential. Depending on your specific plans and how sure you are of that, delaying graduation may not be the best option. Doing work just over summer will give you a lot of these benefits and may be better if you're sure about this track.

(3) I'm not sure how big of a deal the school you go to makes in this. Some schools force you to go on a co-op... for instance, RIT does this. On the plus side, they will probably provide you more placement help than most places, and it'll force you to actually do that. But if you want to adjust your plans around, there may be less flexibility. And if you don't choose a school with a decided co-op program, you'll still probably be able to arrange one yourself, and take a semester off of school. This will give you flexibility at the cost of leaving you more on your own. Finally, there are just summer internships, which you should definitely try to get even if you keep your actual schooling nice and compact and don't take any off, for instance if you are doing academia.

Johannes Factotum
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Re: University-Co-Op or not to Co-Op

Postby Johannes Factotum » Sun Jan 06, 2008 4:32 pm UTC

Another benefit of co-op is that you can figure out what you like and what you do not. For example I used to think that I liked web-based programming but after a six month co-op block I realized it was not for me. Lately I have been doing lots of perl programming which is a lot more fun.

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Sitnaltax
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Re: University-Co-Op or not to Co-Op

Postby Sitnaltax » Sun Jan 06, 2008 8:08 pm UTC

Do it, do it, a thousand times do it.

I learned way more in my 9 months of co-op than 8 semesters of classes. The experience looks great on a resume and they pay pretty well too.
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cyan
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Re: University-Co-Op or not to Co-Op

Postby cyan » Wed Jan 09, 2008 3:13 am UTC

The size of the university / program you're a part of can also matter significantly.

I'm at a pretty small university (in EE, not CS, but I suspect CS majors at our school have similar problems), and we have a lot of major requirements that, due to the size of the school, are typically only offered in one semester (Fall or Spring), and sometimes multiple requirements are offered at the same times (it being assumed that no one would actually want to take them in the same semester).

This means that doing a co-op has the potential to set students at our university back not just the semester they're gone, but possibly a full year if the schedules for the classes they need stack up just wrong. May or may not be an issue where you are, but definitely something worth looking into, IMO.

That said, industry experience is awesome with a side of win. I have not done a co-op, but I have done two summer internships. 3 months really felt too short, but it was definitely better than nothing, and was invaluable in giving me a handle on the sorts of things I want to do full time.

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Re: University-Co-Op or not to Co-Op

Postby Cabhan » Fri Jan 11, 2008 5:14 am UTC

I attend Northeastern University, at which co-op is a supported part of the curriculum. My program is 5 years, with built-in time for 3 6-month co-ops.

Though I haven't done any of mine yet (starting in July), I think it's one of the best programs a university can offer. Particularly in a field like ours, getting the opportunity to actually have a goal and formulating your own solutions is an invaluable experience. Also, if you go into industry, having prior work experience is going to set you far ahead of other candidates. And has been said, even if you're going into academia, you will have a stronger connection to the world of industry.

Also, since co-op in our industry tends to pay (as opposed to, say, being an undergrad co-op in a law firm), there is little reason to turn one down :).

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Mittins
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Re: University-Co-Op or not to Co-Op

Postby Mittins » Fri Jan 11, 2008 3:20 pm UTC

Co-op, in my experience, is useful if only to find out what you DON'T want to do.
Surprisingly, that's rather important.

So I'd say go for it unless you're in some kind of rush to finish school early.
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Re: University-Co-Op or not to Co-Op

Postby xOnion-Knightx » Thu Feb 07, 2008 3:43 pm UTC

I goto university in Canada, so maybe our Co-Op is run differently then yours, but our Co-Op is rather useless.

Our University charges an extra $500 per school semester for you to be labeled as a Co-Op student. The only benefit you recieve is an e-mail with a list of places that you can apply to. The problem is, the job-list given to you is not a "Co-Op Only" list, these jobs can be found using normal job serch websites. That, coulpled with the fact that the university does not help you get the job (aside from helping you with your resume, which is a serice available to all students), makes the Co-Op at our school seem like a waste of time and money.

Maybe it is different where you live, but I saved $500 per semester and still got the same experience by finding my own 4-month positions. In the end, I'll have saved $5000. Considering I finishing with $25,000 of debt from student loans, it was much appriciated.

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Daemonic
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Re: University-Co-Op or not to Co-Op

Postby Daemonic » Thu Feb 07, 2008 9:00 pm UTC

xOnion-Knightx wrote:I goto university in Canada, so maybe our Co-Op is run differently then yours, but our Co-Op is rather useless.

Our University charges an extra $500 per school semester for you to be labeled as a Co-Op student. The only benefit you recieve is an e-mail with a list of places that you can apply to. The problem is, the job-list given to you is not a "Co-Op Only" list, these jobs can be found using normal job serch websites. That, coulpled with the fact that the university does not help you get the job (aside from helping you with your resume, which is a serice available to all students), makes the Co-Op at our school seem like a waste of time and money.

Maybe it is different where you live, but I saved $500 per semester and still got the same experience by finding my own 4-month positions. In the end, I'll have saved $5000. Considering I finishing with $25,000 of debt from student loans, it was much appriciated.
That sounds a lot like UWaterloo.

While I do agree that it does cost 500$ per term... you usually end up making very good money. I graduated with 0$ debt from University... and bought a car during University with the money I earned during coop. I'm glad you saved 5000$ though and only had 25,000$ of debt.

Go for the co-op, it is well worth it. As people mentioned above, it will teach you a lot that you don't learn in school, it counts as experience (which will help you get a full time job) and it will help you find what you want/don't want to do. I almost dropped out of Computer Science until I finished my first coop term. I didn't really like the classes, but I discovered during my first coop term the true usefulness of them and from that point on, enjoyed it much more thouroughly.

Rysto
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Re: University-Co-Op or not to Co-Op

Postby Rysto » Thu Feb 07, 2008 9:07 pm UTC

Daemonic wrote:That sounds a lot like UWaterloo.

That sounds nothing like UW. And I'm well-qualified to say that, given how I'm currently a UW student.

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Yakk
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Re: University-Co-Op or not to Co-Op

Postby Yakk » Thu Feb 07, 2008 9:13 pm UTC

UWaterloo has an entire branch of administration running the Coop system, which includes entire walls covered in coop jobs. So ... how does that poster's thing sound like U(W), other than it costing about 500$ per term?

But yes, the quality of the CoOp system matters alot. Which school are we talking about?

...

I found that the 4 month coop terms where great breaks from school, and the 4 month school terms where great breaks from work. :)

There are downsides. Such as saying good buy to a friend in a fall term "see you in 1 year!", because they aren't in Coop and you are.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

Last edited by JHVH on Fri Oct 23, 4004 BCE 6:17 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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Daemonic
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Re: University-Co-Op or not to Co-Op

Postby Daemonic » Thu Feb 07, 2008 9:17 pm UTC

Rysto wrote:
Daemonic wrote:That sounds a lot like UWaterloo.

That sounds nothing like UW. And I'm well-qualified to say that, given how I'm currently a UW student.

I went to UW. I'm well qualified to say that the Co-Op administration was a piece of crap. A great program, but they do very little outside of what he listed.

Though instead of an email, it's a list posted in the co-op building. A bit of a different I guess...

EDIT: In all fairness, they may have improved the system now. They were only in the new coop building before my second last coop term, and I went back to that place on my last coop term, so I didn't go through them again.

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Yakk
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Re: University-Co-Op or not to Co-Op

Postby Yakk » Thu Feb 07, 2008 9:36 pm UTC

The jobs posted are coop jobs, not general jobs from a job search engine, generally.

They are looking for coop students. (Note that there are tax benefits to coop students, which makes them pretty cheap for industry to hire)
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

Last edited by JHVH on Fri Oct 23, 4004 BCE 6:17 pm, edited 6 times in total.

Rysto
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Re: University-Co-Op or not to Co-Op

Postby Rysto » Thu Feb 07, 2008 10:09 pm UTC

Daemonic wrote:I went to UW. I'm well qualified to say that the Co-Op administration was a piece of crap. A great program, but they do very little outside of what he listed.

Though instead of an email, it's a list posted in the co-op building. A bit of a different I guess...

EDIT: In all fairness, they may have improved the system now. They were only in the new coop building before my second last coop term, and I went back to that place on my last coop term, so I didn't go through them again.

a) UW goes out and actively looks for new jobs. It's not like all that they're doing is scanning the "Help Wanted" section
b) Even if that was all that they were doing, providing one place for job searches and applications is a very valuable service.
c) It's all on the web now. You search and apply online. It's been like that for years now.

a-priori
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Re: University-Co-Op or not to Co-Op

Postby a-priori » Fri Feb 08, 2008 6:57 am UTC

In my case, Co-op was only sort of useful since I found all my own jobs anyways. I still recommend it. If you do co-op, make sure you advance each term. I see some people get stuck in entry-level jobs (e.g, "Junior Software Tester") up to their 4th term. I don't understand how that happens, but I imagine it would suck.

PS. There seems to be a lot of Waterloo students about. Hello, from your neighbour in Guelph. :)

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Re: University-Co-Op or not to Co-Op

Postby Jorpho » Wed Feb 27, 2008 2:34 am UTC

Mittins wrote:Co-op, in my experience, is useful if only to find out what you DON'T want to do.


And how. I spent a very long time learning about stuff I didn't want to do. By the end of my undergrad I was quite convinced I had condemned myself to a life of absolute misery.

... Ever wonder if the ultimate goal of undergraduate studies is to induce in as many students as possible just enough insanity to lead them to think that graduate studies are a good idea?


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