I Spent Too Long Deliberating Co-op: Why You Should Hit That Apply Button

I Spent Too Long Deliberating Co-op: Why You Should Hit That Apply Button

By: Sasha Zalyvadna
  5899 reads

Before I entered university, I had a plan:

  1. Graduate at twenty-two.
  2. Enter a career by twenty-three.
  3. Get married by twenty-four.
  4. Have children by twenty-five.

The “younger” me had evidently not yet realized how quickly a single year passes (and also that I do not like children, so there went number four), because I started university in 2012. And here I am in 2018, finally about to graduate in the fall. I’m also turning twenty-four next month, and the only checkmark I can put on that list is getting married—and even that has been delayed until next year.

To say that I like planning is an understatement. I love planning. Planning is what keeps my world going and ensures I get everything done in a timely and efficient manner. My plans falling through sends me down a path of frustration and anxiety.  It leaves me wanting to binge-watch “organize your life” YouTube videos, in hopes of finding inspiration to start up yet another, soon-to-be-abandoned, bullet journal. So how is it that I am here after six years of schooling, with two Co-ops under my belt—delaying that sweet, enticing freedom of graduation even further—and yet, I am completely okay and even happy with having taken the long way around?

Well, you’re reading this. So the answer is obviously: Co-op.



I applied for Co-op extremely late into my academic career. I was pushing 90 credits at the time, which is the maximum cut-off for the program. I had spent the entire year before that deliberating on whether Co-op was worth pushing aside my graduation for, and a painful amount of time browsing Facebook groups and friends’ Co-op experiences in an attempt to help me make up my mind.

Just like the posters that I once saw hanging around SFU proclaiming, with smiling, bright eyed students, that Co-op “changed their lives” and gave them “invaluable experience”, the personal feedback I got was much the same.

No one had regretted their Co-op. In fact, everyone I talked to was delighted to have done it. (I’m not saying that that is everyone’s experience, but back then, all I seemed to find were the happy people.)

What held me back at the time, alongside my desire to finally graduate as I was pushing four years in school, was the self-imposed shame of still being a student.  All around me, high school peers had graduated and were posting photos of their gowns and fancy hats on social media; some had even already entered the workforce. Some had even bought houses. And there I was, still plodding along, way-sided by taking one summer off (the horror!) and consistently late enrolment dates that only served to lock me out of classes I needed. If I decided to enroll in Co-op, I would be pushing off my graduation by an entire semester. Did I really want that? Was that experience really going to make a difference on my resume? Was I really going to have an easier time finding a job after university?

(Spoilers for this article: Heck yeah.)

The way my personal experiences turned out will not be the same for everyone. Doing Co-op will not guarantee you a job after graduation, just the same way that having a degree will not guarantee you one, either. But you know what?

It sure as heck helps.

The aim of this article is towards anyone doubting whether Co-op is for them—especially older students who, like me, are so close to graduation that they are stuck debating between finishing school and delaying it for work experience. You don’t have to listen to me (after all, I’m just a random stranger delivering a monologue at you from your screen), but I have three words of advice:



Well, Shia LaBeouf has three words for you. And he did decently fine in Transformers when the Decepticons showed up, so I am personally inclined to trust him.

To be honest, I will admit that I went into my first Co-op position, which was an eight month instead of a four, full of both dread and excitement. Here I was, even further away from that light at the end of the tunnel (aka graduation), but… here I was! About to get my first taste of what working in my intended field was going to be like! It was so exciting!

My excitement quickly got squashed as I realized that what I had learned at SFU over my four years could not be applied to my new position as a communications coordinator.  Except that people pay more attention to written content when you have images, so hence the GIFs (but I also just really like GIFs. I’m a dreaded “millennial”; sue me). What did become quickly relevant, however, were the life skills I had managed to pick up along the way:

Concise writing?

I had written countless essays.

Good communication skills?

I had worked in both fast food and retail. I could talk my way politely through a raging monster demanding we stay open past closing time “because they need to shop”.

Adept with social media and quick to adapt to changing online environments?

Please. I still cringe at how much personal info I fed those data-mining sites we call “social media”.

And before anyone gets mad at me for daring to say that studying for four years did no prepare me, or that I must be a bad student for not absorbing any of it, let me just say this: theory gets you only so far in life.  It does not matter what department you are in, or whether you are paying for your education or watching how-to videos at 2 AM. You know nothing until you are put into a situation where you must actually act.



The classes I had personally taken, while being interesting, ultimately did not aid me in my work (and still haven’t, actually, but I sure as heck enjoyed learning about the evolution of advertisements in the 20th century. I love me some car ads!). This differs from person to person; after all, everybody learns differently, and applies their knowledge and skills differently. In my case, it just so happened that I went into my first real job like a wide-eyed calf and walked out a jaded, old woman, grouching about tuition fees and kids nowadays.

The whole point of this is: you don’t know what you are going to face until you are actually there.

And, what better time and opportunity is there than during your academic years? You are, by no means, required to take more than one Co-op. You are, by no means, required to take more than a four month Co-op. In the grand scheme of your degree, four months is only one semester.

I am on my third semester of Co-op now, and back then, an entire semester sure seemed like a long time. What I didn’t know how to account for were the experiences I would pick up: how to conduct myself in a workplace that wasn’t full of teenagers flipping burgers, or my friends discussing video games behind the counter. How to conduct myself with working adults; as an adult, in a professional environment. How to run around an event venue while trying not to panic because a sponsor didn’t know they needed to take down their booth tonight and had already left for the day, and the venue security was breathing down my neck.

There are countless other skills and experiences that I have picked up while working through Co-op. These are not things that SFU is able to teach me, purely because of the divide that exists between being in school, and being an employee. If you are already holding down a part-time or full-time job while studying—then great! You are ahead of the game! But, you should still consider Co-op purely because it will (hopefully) place you in a field relevant to your degree.

Through my experiences with Co-op, I was able to view my time in school and my desire to graduate through a different perspective. I can now say with certainty that enrolling in Co-op made my time at SFU that much better. I was able to take a step back from my hyper-focus on grades and graduation and realize that in reality, life after university is much different than what I had envisioned. By participating in Co-op, I was able to remain a student taken out of the school environment to discover what exactly I had been studying and aiming towards, prior to cementing my degree in expensive stone.

With Co-op, you get to find out whether the ideal job that you’ve been studying towards is actually something that you can imagine doing for the rest of your life. For me, it wasn’t, and that’s great! Because I was able to return to my studying and take on a different Co-op position the second time around. And that is the great benefit to Co-op: you have a lot of freedom to change your mind.

This has been a very long article, and I am thankful to the Co-op department for letting me submit this. In the end, if you are still reading this and need a conclusion to take away (or scrolled down for a TLDR), then here:

Take the chance and try Co-op while you can. It doesn’t matter if you are barely in your second year of university, or are pushing the credit maximum to be eligible. Co-op is entirely what you make of it, and it’s not permanent—you are done after four or eight months, and you can re-adjust as you go.

And, in the end, you’ll get that shiny piece of paper, your own robe, and a fancy hat photo. School is not a race, as I’ve come to realize much too late. As the cringe-worthy saying goes, “life is a journey”. School happens to be a part of it, so why not buckle in and take all the opportunities you can while you are still young, driven, and have the chance to?

After all, it’s only four months out of your entire life.


Beyond the Article

  • See what Sasha has been up on her LinkedIn profile.
  • Obsessed with checking your email? Check out Sasha's last article for some great tips!
  • Still not convinced if you should do Co-op? Read Mark's experience of how Co-op has impact his career.
Posted on May 08, 2018