The Undergraduate Co-op (Co-operative Education) Program is a non-credit, paid work experience that complements and reinforces classroom learning while allowing undergraduate students to maintain active student status. It differs from an internship in that students work full time at a company for 4-8 months, including part of the academic year. Co-op increases awareness of the day-to-day operations of career opportunities and exposes students to professional standards and the methods used to accomplish objectives in a business environment. Co-op is not for academic credit. Co-op is a valuable career experience which benefits students seeking employment after graduation. Many employers recruit full time hires from their Co-op and intern pool. In addition Co-op experience can be a great basis for negotiating a higher starting salary due to the substantial work experience that students acquire.
When to do a Co-op
Co-op is recommended for undergraduate students in the spring of their sophomore year or in the junior year around IQP. If a first year student or senior is interested in doing Co-op they need to work with their faculty advisor and the Office of Academic Advising to determine if a Co-op is a feasible option. Seniors must have undergraduate classes to take upon returning from their Co-op. A Co-op during senior year is very complex; therefore, it is important to meet early, plan and gain your advisor’s support and approval. Students who participate in a BS/MS program and are in the MS portion are ineligible to participate in Co-op as this is an undergraduate program. Students who begin at WPI with college level credit, reach sophomore standing early in their first year, want significant work experience, or wish to earn extra money to support overseas IQP opportunities or other educational experiences should consider a Co-op.
Am I Eligible for Co-op?
- Must be a current, full time, undergraduate WPI student in good standing. If any of the following conditions apply a student may petition for eligibility.
- Not in good academic standing (i.e. on academic warning or probation)
- Have financial holds on their account
- Have a judicial record. Note: having a judicial record does not automatically preclude you from participating in a Co-op.
- Want to register for up to 1/3 unit of course while on Co-op.
- International students must complete one full academic year at WPI before being eligible for Co-op, due to US Federal Government regulations. In addition, the Co-op must be related to the major (not minor). For questions, please contact International House.
- Understand the impact Co-op would have on your federal and institutional financial aid through a required meeting with the Office of Student Aid & Financial Literacy.
- Understand the impact your Co-op will have on your course schedule and outline your four year plan, including projects, Co-op, etc. and have it reviewed through a required meeting with your Faculty Advisor.
- Approval will be needed from your Faculty Advisor, Office of Student Aid & Financial Literacy, Supervisor at your Co-op, Bursar, Dean of Students Office, Career Development Center, and International House (if applicable). Approvals are done electronically through Handshake, beginning with you entering your Co-op information in your Handshake Account’s Experiences section. The deadline for fall Co-ops is August 1; the deadline for spring Co-ops is December 1. Co-ops received after deadline are reviewed on a case by case basis. Submissions after the add/drop deadline will not be approved.
- To be considered, the Co-op must be full time (at least 30 hours per week), paid, 4-8 months in duration and related to your major and career goals.
- Understands and accepts the Terms of Agreement
Ten Steps to a Co-op
1. Meet with your faculty advisor and the Office of Academic Advising to develop an academic plan including Co-op and your degree requirements.
2. Students with financial aid must schedule a meeting with the Office of Student Aid & Financial Literacy to discuss a Co-op’s impact on your financial aid status.
3. Meet with the Career Development Center to learn how to search and apply for Co-ops. This includes resume and cover letter writing, job search strategies and resources, interview skills, and salary negotiation. The Career Development Center encourages you to use appointments, drop ins or attend workshops to prepare. If you would like to learn more about Co-op please schedule a Co-op Information appointment.
4. Please read the Terms of Agreement. When submitting the Undergraduate Co-op Forms you are confirming you have read, understand and will abide by the terms.
5. Remain registered for courses until your Co-op is processed. The Office of the Registrar will then un-enroll you from courses and register you for Co-op.
6. Apply, interview, and accept a Co-op position and utilize the CDC for support. After officially accepting an offer, you should immediately withdraw applications with any other companies. Politely let them know you have accepted another position so other students may benefit. The CDC can help you with communicating this; if you need assistance or would like to role-play the scenario please make an appointment with a CDC Staff Member or visit the CDC during drop-in hours. Employers will appreciate your professionalism.
7. Complete the Undergraduate Co-op Program Forms which are found in your Handshake account. To begin, enter your Co-op in the Experiences section, which will then include your acknowledgement to abide by the Terms of Agreement, allow review of your Judicial Record through the Dean of Students Office, Bursar for financial holds, approval by your Faculty Advisor that you have communicated your four year academic course plan, the co-op experience, and that you are in good academic standing, supervisor at the company, the Office of Student Aid & Financial Literacy, Career Development Center, International House (if applicable), and for you to upload a copy of the job description, and an offer letter mentioning start date, end date, salary and supervisor contact information. Should you be submitting a petition, you will submit this while filling out the aforementioned forms.
8. The CDC will initially confirm that your Co-op meets the Eligibility Requirements of the Undergraduate Co-op Program. After the CDC’s initial confirmation on your Co-op, the approval process begins. Once all approvals are received and granted, notification will be sent to the Registrar, the Office of Student Aid & Financial Literacy, the Bursars Office, and if applicable, International House and Residential Services, as well as to you and your faculty advisor and supervisor. The Registrar at this point will un-enroll you from academic courses in the terms you will be away and register you for CP 100_ (the applicable courses that align with your time on Co-op).
9. Make arrangements for your housing in the new location/Sublet your current off-campus apartment/Return your residence hall key before traveling to your Co-op. If you do not make arrangements for your current housing or return your residence hall key to Residential Services you will be charged for housing.
10. You may now start your Co-op on the date agreed upon with your employer. Enjoy your experience, and know the Career Development Center is here to support you through this experience.
Terms of Agreement
Tuition Charges and Financial Aid
Co-op participants maintain active student status and can continue to defer loan repayments. During the time of Co-op participation, the student is charged no tuition and is therefore ineligible for any federal, state, or institutional financial aid. Students who are on Co-op for a partial semester (one of the two terms) will be charged 1/2 semester tuition and allowed to take 4/3 units of credit during the term on campus.
Note: Students are eligible for institutional aid for 16 terms of enrollment while at WPI or until they receive their Bachelor Degree (whichever comes first). If a student has a Co-op that results in attendance for a partial semester (e.g. B but not A, or C but not D terms) the student is eligible for financial aid in that semester, but the total aid eligibility is reduced by a full semester. Funds earned while on Co-op can also affect subsequent eligibility for some kinds of aid. Students with aid must consult with the Office of Student Aid and Financial Literacy for more information as this can be specific to individual circumstances.
Residential Student Charges
If your Co-op assignment is close to campus, you may live on campus for the duration of your Co-op.
- If going away C+D term: You will be released from your housing contract and refunded the cost for C + D terms.
- If you are going away for A and B term and plan to return to campus housing for C and D term: Please contact Residential Services before you come back to school in the spring.
- If you are only away one term: You will still be responsible to pay your housing bill for that one term.
The deadline to complete paperwork for a Co-ops is:
August 1st: For Fall Co-ops
December 1st: For Spring Co-ops
Paperwork submitted after the deadline will be reviewed and approved on a case by case basis
Professional Behavior Expectations
Obtaining a Co-op position is a competitive process just like any other job search. Students apply for positions and then employers typically interview the several candidates whom they feel are most qualified. Companies will offer positions to those students, who, after personal interviews and other evaluations, have been found to have qualifications compatible with the interests of the company. Similarly, students may interview with several prospective employers and choose from employment offers received. It is very important to the success of the Co-op process that students are responsive to correspondence from the CDC and prospective employers. Messages, especially those concerning job interviews and offers, should be handled with the utmost promptness. While participating in a Co-op, students are expected to abide by WPI Student Judicial Policies and Procedures as outlined in the Student Planner and Resources Guide.
Duration of Agreement
Once a Co-op offer is made and the student has accepted it, both student and employer are expected to continue their association for the duration of the student’s scheduled assignment. If the student’s performance on the assignment is unsatisfactory, or when experience indicates that a significant mismatch has occurred, the employer or student may contact the CDC to discuss options.
Termination of Co-op
Termination of a Co-op either by the student without approval of the CDC or by the employer due to the student’s unsatisfactory job performance, should be communicated to the CDC right away. If termination occurs during an academic term, students should inform the Career Development Center, their academic advisor, and the Office of Academic Advising immediately. The student does not have a right to expect or demand continued employment beyond the agreed upon termination date. However, this does not preclude the employer from making a separate offer of temporary or permanent employment beyond that date.
Credit is not granted for Co-ops. Co-ops may not substitute nor qualify as courses or either MQP or IQP degree requirements. The expectation is that students on Co-op will commit fully to the Co-op, and not take courses simultaneously. If for some reason you need to take a course, you can petition to take up to 1/3 unit while on Co-op. Your Co-op is added to your transcript as 0 credit and company name is listed.
Students who are on academic warning or probation, have financial holds or a judicial record, and want to go on Co-op must petition for exemption by the Co-op petition committee when submitting forms in Handshake.
Students who would like to register for academic activity (up to 1/3 unit) concurrent with their Co-op must also petition the committee. For petitions involving off campus projects please refer to Erin Bell, firstname.lastname@example.org, details about the policy can be found here. For further information on the petition process, please e-mail email@example.com.
Disability Disclosure and Support
Many students with disabilities who have successfully adapted to WPI’s academic environment may find themselves facing new challenges in their Co-op assignment. Because of this, students with disabilities are encouraged to meet with a staff member from the Office of Accessibility Services and/or a CDC staff member during the co-op search process to discuss how to best self-advocate. Whether or not to reveal a disability and what kind of accommodation the employer may be asked to make can be discussed in a confidential manner. If the student prefers not to reveal their disability to the employer, the staff members can help the student identify personal strategies to ensure success on the job.
Office of Student Aid & Financial Literacy:
Office of Academic Advising:
Office of the Registrar:
Career Development Center: