Concerns about Co-op

While participating in the co-op program has many benefits, students (and parents) may worry about possible negative effects of taking time away from classes to complete multiple semesters of full-time employment. Here we have addressed some of the common concerns to help students determine if the program is right for them.

Drop out of school to work? I don't think so.
Because co-op is a university-sponsored program, students earn academic credit for their work and maintain full-time enrollment status (at least 12 hours). This allows students to stay on their parents' health insurance, continue deferring loan payments, and remain eligible for various college student benefits such as auto insurance discounts. Also, co-op staff work closely with various academic offices to ensure that students are continually enrolled at the university and able to return to campus for study without any problems.

I'm only a sophomore. No one will hire me.
Although some employers have specific classification requirements, many are looking to hire students early on. Employers are aware of the knowledge-level of a typical sophomore, but are eager to hire and train them since sophomores can be available to work for a more extended period of time. Plus, by junior or senior year, students may not have enough time to complete multiple semesters of co-op without significantly delaying their graduation date.

I'll have to move. That sounds like a hassle.
Co-op students work all across the country, including right here in Austin.
Students who prefer to stay in Austin may be able to secure a co-op with a local-area employer. Some students secure a co-op in or near their own hometown and choose to live at home, while some students are eager to try out a new city or state. If you are open to moving, the co-op office staff can assist with handling housing situations, such as finding someone to sublease an apartment or breaking an on-campus housing contract. Also, many employers provide housing stipends or relocation services, and often even pay for any moving costs.

Summer internships are better.
While summer internships allow students to work for a short period of time and with a different employer each summer, co-op students are assigned more complex and in-depth projects and gain increased responsibility with each work term. Students who complete a co-op are also able to more closely evaluate a potential permanent employer over an extended period of time and often are offered a full-time position with their co-op employer.

Plus, while many students seek summer internships, fewer students apply for co-op, so chances of securing a job opportunity are much higher. On top of that, many co-op students are able to complete at least one of their co-op work terms during a summer semester.

I don't want to delay my graduation.
Depending on the number of co-op work terms and a student's academic degree program, graduation may be delayed, but often only by as little as one semester. On the other hand, co-op students will be graduating with up to one year of technical work experience. This makes co-ops more competitive candidates upon graduation, able to earn a higher starting salary in industry. Furthermore, co-op students may enroll in a course while working, in order to maintain progress towards their degree. For example, co-op students may complete a general history course at community college.

I'll miss my friends and on-campus activities.
It is possible that students will miss on-campus activities during a co-op work term. However, co-op students are often engaged in plenty of social events and activities while at work -- networking with professionals, attending employer-sponsored outings, and participating on group sports teams or community service projects. Co-op employers are often flexible when scheduling work terms around student needs. Once back on-campus, co-op students are able to stay continually active through student organizations, academic projects, and even study abroad.

What if I get stuck in a co-op job that I hate?
The Co-op Program is supervised by full-time staff, who work closely with employers to ensure that co-op student placements meet program requirements. Co-op staff advise students before they accept a co-op position, and maintain regular communication during a co-op work term to continually evaluate the work experience and overall student satisfaction. 

I'm concerned that co-op will affect my scholarships and financial aid.
While students typically do not receive any financial aid during a co-op work term, funding can often be deferred until a student returns to campus for coursework. Co-op staff will work with the Office of Financial Aid and Engineering Scholarship Office to assist students with funding concerns or issues.