So, you have made it to RIT, and you’re trying to process all these new opportunities that await you. One that you may of heard a little bit about is RIT’s co-op program.

“Co-ops are one of the hallmarks of RIT and what makes our university very distinctive.”

Put simply, a co-op is a full-time, paid job related to your academic discipline. 

“Co-ops are one of the hallmarks of RIT and what makes our university very distinctive,” explained Michelle Magee, associate director for employer relations at the Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education.

With co-ops, students learn about job searching, the interview process and about the professional environment of their field. Students also gain knowledge and skills in their area of study, with many students leaving co-ops with a full-time job offer.

Co-ops are also a chance to explore various facets of your major.

“If I hadn’t done the co-op search it would’ve taken me a lot more time to figure out what I wanted to do,” said recent New Media Marketing alum Alison Schermerhorn, who completed three co-ops during her time at RIT.

"Explore your interests, whether it is a club on campus or a speaker,  just attend them."

While freshmen aren’t generally eligible for co-ops, there are ways to start preparing now. 

“Explore your interests, whether it is a club on campus or a speaker, just attend them," advised Schermerhorn. "Start meeting people early on because there are so many opportunities to network, whether it's upperclassmen who have been on co-ops, your professors, your adviser or your career coordinator. All three of my co-ops were either through people I know or people I know helped me at some point along the way."

Magee, on the other hand, stressed the importance of good grades. 

“If I had to put everything in priority order, I would say make sure your academics are really strong and that you focus on extracurricular activities and leadership opportunities second,” she said.

Every major at RIT has an assigned career services coordinator whose role is to assist students with their job searches. Beyond that, there are co-op preparation classes students can take, and a variety of interview and resume workshops that run throughout the year.

The school also hosts a university-wide career fair every fall and spring, as well as more specialized career-oriented events such as the College of Liberal Arts career fair, Creative Industry Day and National Lab day. Despite these resources, the process can be overwhelming at times. 

“The hardest part is separating the personal aspect of it," said Schermerhorn. "The first ones I applied to I didn’t get and it was kind of devastating, but you can’t take it to heart because there are many other and better opportunities out there.”

Those opportunities are everywhere at RIT — it just takes some work and initiative.

“Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid to ask others questions, because now is your time to explore your future career options, while you are still a student," Magee said. "Employers seek students who are passionate, so the more you learn by exploring early, the more empowered you will feel when it is time to start speaking to potential co-op recruiters."