HEALY: Co-op Program Bridges Classroom and Career
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 03:09
Most Georgetown students are familiar with the year-long internship scramble. But there is a better method to gain this experience, one that is more integrated with education: a co-op program.
Across the country, universities such as Northeastern, Carnegie Mellon and Drexel have optional co-op programs through which students can earn money and gain work experience. Such a program enables students take time anywhere from one to three semesters off from classes to work full time in their field of interest, thus making it possible to graduate in four years. A co-op program differs from internships in that it is school supported and well paid, at the same time offering a range of domestic and international opportunities. And students often receive a full-time offer from their employer upon graduation.
Implementing a co-op system would allow Georgetown students to better take advantage of the D.C. job market while bypassing the crazed competition for unpaid summer internships. It would, however, require much restructuring of the current academic schedule, which always seems less attractive to the administration than maintaining the status quo.
Co-op programs have several practical advantages with respect to the job market. First, time spent working in a paid position often looks better to a future employer than time in an unpaid job. Companies will recognize that a student fulfilled important responsibilities and is familiar with the realities of today’s competitive job market. Not to mention, it’s always nicer to get paid.
Another advantage to co-op programs is that they help produce worldlier, marketable students. For those college students who are concerned with how their degree will translate into employment, a co-op can be a valuable tool in making that transition. Students would gain a deeper understanding of how to use the things they are learning in the classroom in order to further their careers.
Likewise, this co-op experience can improve students’ performance in the classroom. It is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when one is wrapped up in midterms and papers, and working in one’s field of interest can provide insight into the applicability of a range of scholastic topics. Understanding life inside and outside the classroom allows student to appreciate the benefits of both areas while expanding their ability to improve academia and the private sector.
A co-op program undoubtedly presents some drawbacks. Students may worry that their on-campus experience will be compromised if they work too much off campus. A co-op can also occasionally make it difficult to graduate on time. These are valid considerations, but in order to find out what one truly wants to do, a student must take some risks by trying different areas of work and study.
Georgetown ought to investigate how effective a co-op program would be if implemented. There’s a good chance that it would be another way to improve students’ prospects for success after graduation, simultaneously increasing the quality and benefit of the academic experience. At the very least, it would offer Georgetown students another avenue to discover and pursue their interests, build their qualifications and gain meaningful work experience.
Dan Healy is a senior in the College. TALK IS CHEAP appears every other Tuesday.