Co-op vs regular: finding the perfect path for you

Nathan Written by Nathan (he/him), student

Co-op is one of the things the University of Waterloo is known for. Co-op provides an opportunity for students to gain workforce experience to make them more of a competitive applicant when it comes to starting their career or applying to further education.

However, I ultimately decided to enter the four-year regular program. So, if you're trying to decide between the two options, here are some factors to consider.

Finding experience elsewhere

It’s a common misconception when people say that co-op is the only way to grasp experience in your field. There are numerous opportunities on campus that can help you build experience in order to help you be considered as a competitive applicant for further education or entering the workforce.

Since my first year of university, I have been a part of the Campus Response Team, otherwise known as CRT. Essentially, CRT is a student-organized service that provides first aid at campus events.

Throughout my time on CRT, I have gained experience in helping others through patient care, leadership, teamwork, time management and responsibility, all of which are great skills that can be transferable to any job and can make you a competitive applicant for a graduate program. 

Truth be told, there is almost always an opportunity on campus or even in your community that can help you grow into your best self!

Waterloo CRT

Four years vs. five years: keeping the end in mind

Being in co-op calls for an alternating sequence of study and work terms, whereas the regular program follows a traditional stream of being in school from the beginning of September to the end of the April. Since co-op students will be alternating between work and school, it will usually take five years to complete their undergraduate degree instead of the traditional four.

If pursuing further education or entering the workforce right away is a part of your priorities, the length of co-op and the regular streams is definitely something to consider. 

For myself, applying to graduate and professional programs was something that was on my radar, which eventually helped me decide to pursue the four-year regular program.  

Having summers off

In the regular stream, having four months off of school is a great opportunity to get work and/or volunteer experience, study for a standardized test (ex. MCAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.) or can even just to relax and rejuvenate the mind and body for another upcoming school year.

For me, I love using the summers to not only find a part-time job to learn new skills and earn a bit of income but to also travel in the hopes of immersing myself into different cultures. By doing this, I hope to gain some insight into what is needed around the world in the aspect of health care and use those experiences to jumpstart my future career.

Student helping other student

At the end of the day, depicting the path which is best for you truly relies on your priorities and what you hope to gain from your undergraduate career. Hopefully these ideas can better help your choice between the regular stream and the co-op stream!


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