I believe the co-operative education system at the University of Waterloo is unparalleled, which is the primary reason I chose this school.
Co-op is a form of higher education that combines academic study with full-time, professional work. At UW, students enrolled in co-op are placed in one of several different sequences, which involve alternating between school terms, and four or eight-month long work terms.
UW’s strong reputation in STEM fields helps the university stand out when it comes to co-op recruitment. Despite co-op’s prominence in the field of mathematical education as a recruitment centre for many corporations and startups, co-op programs like UW’s are not something many other universities can offer. This ensures that there will be an abundance of job openings available to students every time they are looking for work. Having a large job pool to choose from allows students to freely explore different fields that relate to their degree without having to overcommit. . Co-op not only gives students real-world work experience, but also aids in networking: students on co-op are often able to connect with professionals in enterprises in their desired fields. Many students at UW even return to a company they previously worked at upon graduation.
Another benefit to co-op comes from the opportunity to earn money, which presents the possibility for many students to be financially self-sufficient. In fact, co-op encourages this.
Moreover, with the availability of numerous job openings that students can apply to across North America, and around the world, co-op at UW presents opportunities for students to travel and become culturally aware of other parts of the world. Personally, co-op has let me travel across Ontario, which has helped me figure out which cities I like, and subsequently which cities I might like to settle down in.
Most importantly, co-op forces students to apply to as many as five hundred jobs per term – something that opens their minds to the endless varieties of jobs in the world. The co-op application process taught me to segregate positions in companies I would like to work at. The process also helped me learn about the different kinds of corporations and startups in North America. Through co-op, I gained insight into the work cultures in different companies, and I learned how to adjust my work ethic to benefit a company in the most effective way.
Additionally, since co-op mandates interviews of some form before students are employed, many students end up with as many as twelve interviews. Co-op interview experience demystifies the process of a professional interview and accustoms students to the mindset they need to have during a job interview.
However, while the co-op program at UW has numerous benefits, it does have some problems. When starting out, it is sometimes difficult for younger students to compete with upper-years, which makes it harder for them to secure a co-op job. When I was looking for my first co-op job, I kept searching for a job until one month into the co-op term. I had almost given up on securing a job, and had returned back home to India to look for a co-op, when I finally got ranked for a position and had to fly back into Canada.
However, as students progress through their degree, they become familiar with the process and gain more experience as well, making them more likely to receive offers.
Many things can influence whether one secures a co-op. This includes changing resume layout and reorganizing content, or approaching interviews with a different mindset. Co-op at UW is truly one of my best educational experiences and in the end, the opportunities are worth every job rejection students might get.