I recently sat down with a Co-Op student who just finished going through their interview process. I thought it may be beneficial to ask them some questions and get a real-life opinion for any future students who go through the same thing. Clemson University says that: “The Cooperative Education Program (Co-op Program) offers a structured academic engaged-learning experience to undergraduate students. Engaged-learning is about engaging academic material from a different perspective. It offers students an opportunity to apply some of the theory learned in classes and adds a contextual dimension to the material, resulting in a deeper understanding. Clemson’s program is a traditional co-op program with each student’s experience being monitored by the program’s academic staff.” The interview went as follows.
Q: What were you the most apprehensive about before your Co-Op interviews started?
Student: “For me, it was about making sure I had time to research all of the companies while keeping up with my school work. It was also the fear of the unknown, because I didn’t know what questions they were going to ask me.”
Q: Did you feel like Clemson provided you with enough resources beforehand to prepare you for interviewing?
Student: “Yes, I did. Through the Co-Op program you are required to do a mock interview, you have to do company research and we are provided student reports. These helped give us some insight on what certain jobs might entail.”
Q: Which questions surprised you the most or might have caught you off guard?
Student: “Some companies asked very specific questions that related directly to certain projects they were working on at the time, so it reminded me how important it really is to do your research.”
Q: Did you find it difficult to communicate your personal skill sets and assets to employers?
Student: “No, I did not actually. They truly want to get to know you and they want to find someone who’s values really do match theirs. They definitely wanted to get to know me personally which was motivating.”
Q: Do you suggest doing as many interviews as you can, so as to expand your options, or to focus more on specific companies and go above and beyond to prepare for those?
Student: “I would say, if you know what you’re interested in, then go for those companies that are specific to your interests. For me personally, I was so open to so many different areas that it made the most sense to do as many as I could. Also, I knew I was interested in a specific area but there was only one position available there, so I chose to keep a very open mind.”
Q: Do you think going through the Co-Op program here is good preparation for job search and interviewing for full-time positions in the future?
Student: “Yes, because the interviews are very similar to what you have to deal with in the real world. It is good too because they guide you and give you steps to get there as well. Also, there are really great advisors that want to help and care about your success.”
Q: Lastly, what is the one piece of advice you would give to a student who is about to go through the Co-Op process?
Student: “Don’t let your nerves get the best of you!! Once you get past that first interview, it is comforting because you do sort of know what to expect. I would also say, maybe do not do all of your interviews back-to-back because that can get overwhelming if you do not give yourself some time to breathe. But, stay confident because the offer rate for students going through the process is 92% so the odds are in your favor!”
What I gathered from the interview was that Co-Op is an amazing program, and if it applies to your major or to your career goals, then you should go for it! It may seem overwhelming, but it is great preparation for job search in the future. Also, there is a possibility that the company you Co-Op with will want to offer you a full-time position!
-Grace Brown, Career Development Intern