The Benefits of Today’s College Co-op Programs

Dear College Made Simple reader,

These days, the “college internship” can often be viewed as the maximum amount of real-world job experience a college student will get before graduation.

In many cases internships are unpaid, and the level of work interns do is a step below the real-world experience an internship is made out to be.

For too long, students were forced to accept these internships as a best-case scenario. But now they have options. And one of the best is college cooperative education programs (“co-ops” for short) – which are redefining the college work experience.

– Scott

The Benefits of Today’s College Co-Op Programs

College co-op program weaves “real world” work experience into a program’s curriculum. Typically you begin working at selected placements during your sophomore year. Each year, the workload and level of learning increases until you graduate.

Co-ops are always paid positions. Always.

By the time you graduate, you’ll have 18 months of experience working at a handful of positions related to your field of choice. Not only is that 18 months of wages in your pocket while in college, it’s an impressive amount of experience that a recent college graduate can boast on their résumé.

More than 500 U.S. colleges and universities have co-op programs. All totaled, more than 300,000 students are working paid co-op positions. These students are getting a first-hand, boots-on-the-ground preview of their career path in a way their textbooks and professors cannot fully describe.

The National Commission for Cooperative Education reports that 60 percent of co-op students accept jobs from their co-op employers upon graduation. What’s more, 95 percent of co-op students find jobs after graduating.

There are plenty more benefits to co-op programs, and we’ll get to them, but by now you are probably wondering: OK, what’s the catch?

There’s just one: All this extra cash and experience requires you spend an extra year in school.

So if you can get past that, here is by far the biggest benefit of co-op programs.

Co-op earnings – which range from $1,000 to $2,500 per month – are typically not included in the financial aid formula. What that means is that a co-op student filling out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) could still be eligible for a sizable portion of financial aid.

Compare that with a student working an unpaid internship and a part-time job on the side, either during the school year or in the summer. This student’s income will be included in the financial aid formula on the FAFSA application, and that can reduce the amount of grants, scholarships and student loans they could receive.

To apply for a co-op program, you first must check if any schools on your list of colleges have them. It’s likely that they do, but not always in the program of your choice.

If they do, you apply through your program. Each school and each program is different, but a typical co-op application involves filling out an application and submitting a resume. If you are accepted into the co-op program, you’ll schedule a meeting with an academic advisor to discuss career goals and interests.

To your college funding & admissions success,

Scott Weingold

Co-Founder, College Planning Network LLC

Publisher, – The free educational resource of College Planning Network

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News,, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.