The Unofficial Guide to Laurier Co-Op

Whether you’re finishing up your degree or just starting your undergrad, chances are that you’ve probably heard about Laurier’s co-op program. Open to Arts, Business, Economics and Science students, Laurier’s cooperative education program gives you the chance to gain real-world experience before you graduate.

When I started at Laurier back in 2017 as a BBA student, I knew that co-op was something that I was interested in pursuing. However, it was overwhelming to try and figure out all of the dates and requirements, and I constantly found myself worrying that I had missed some essential detail. This guide is a compilation of everything that I wish 18-year-old me would have known about the co-op program, from admission deadlines to job searching and beyond. I hope that it can serve as a helpful resource for you, as well!

The First Step

It’s important to note that, with the exception of double-degree students, you cannot be directly admitted into co-op from high school. Instead, you will begin the application process in your first year by filling out a form on Navigator (a site you will definitely become familiar with). This form will likely be available by February or March of your first year and will remain open until September. To fill out the form, log into Navigator, select co-op from the menu on the right side, choose your program and hit submit. It may feel a little anticlimactic, but congrats- you’ve just completed the very first step!

GPA Requirements

By filling out that form, you have basically told the co-op office that you would like to be considered for an interview for the co-op program. However, in order to get an interview, you must first meet their minimum GPA requirement. This GPA requirement is released in July following your first year, but you can generally get a good guess of what it’s going to be by looking at the previous year’s GPA. For 2020, the GPA requirement for BBA students was 9.0.

Before Your Interview

If you have met the minimum GPA announced in July (and met all of your respective program’s progression requirements), congratulations! You are eligible for a co-op interview. You will likely get an email in mid-August confirming your interview eligibility and asking you to book an interview time slot in Navigator (told you that you’d be using that site a lot). In that email, you will also be asked to submit a two-page resume via Navigator at least 48 hours before your interview. This resume should include contact information for each of your previous employers and follow the resume format specified by the co-op office. I know you want to be creative and show off your super cool resume but now is not the time. You want your resume to be as straightforward and easy to read as possible. To stand out, try to turn all of your past experiences into measurable results- this guide is a great starting point.

In that email, you will also be asked to complete an introductory statement (basically just confirming that everything you aren’t lying about your past experiences). BBA students will also be asked to choose if they prefer Sequence One or Sequence Two co-op. The sequences basically just refer to the order in which you alternate between school and work terms. There are a few key differences to keep in mind between the two sequences, such as eligibility for OSAP funding. You can see the full list of differences here.

The Interview

After completing all the forms and requirements, it’s time to start preparing for your interview, which will likely be held near the start of September. The interview weighs four categories equally: work experience in the last three years, volunteer service and extracurricular activities in the last three years, your academic record for your first year at Laurier (GPA) and your performance during the interview. Note that the first two categories are only concerned with activities in the last three years, so anything that you did before Grade 11 doesn’t count. As far as work experience goes, don’t be discouraged if you don’t have work experience in a formal office setting- lots of students admitted to co-op don’t! Focus on showing how you have demonstrated leadership throughout your various extracurriculars and part-time jobs. There is no “one-size-fits-all” formula to get you into co-op- it’s honestly more about if you can present your past experiences in an engaging and relevant way.

You’ll also notice that one of those four categories is your GPA. Everyone getting interviewed for co-op has met the minimum GPA requirement announced in July, but the co-op office may give more credit to students who did not repeat or retake courses in the Spring semester. The co-op office also releases the median GPA of students admitted to co-op in the past year, which can also be a helpful tool to see how you measure up. However, don’t freak out if you aren’t quite at the median GPA (confession time- I wasn’t). Remember that all four categories are weighted equally, so if you have a slightly lower GPA, focus on wowing your interviewers with your past work or volunteer experience. 

The interview itself (in normal, non-COVID times) takes place at the Laurier Co-Op and Career Centre, located next to King Street Residence. You’ll wait in the lobby for your name to be called and then be taken into an individual room to be interviewed. There will be multiple interviewers, which can be intimidating at first, but in my experience, everyone was super kind and encouraging. The interviewers will ask you to walk through your resume, highlight key skills and tell them about your experiences. There are no trick questions- they genuinely want you to succeed. If you practice before your interview with a list of common questions, there likely will be no surprises.

Admission Decisions

After your interview, you will have a few nerve-wracking weeks of waiting for your admission decision, normally announced in late September. If you don’t get in, that’s totally okay! I know lots of exceptional students who have landed internships on their own without the co-op program. Websites like LinkedIn or Navigator can help you find summer student positions that can still help you gain valuable work experience.

If you did get in, congratulations! You’ll be invited to attend a co-op orientation session that will walk you through what the next few years of your program will look like. That orientation session will also be the start of your Fundamentals of Co-Op Education course, a group of modules that you must take throughout your second year as a co-op student. These modules will walk you through everything from interviews to resumes and cover letters and will be graded on a pass/fail basis. As a student in the co-op program, you will also have to agree to the admission conditions (which include being available for primary recruiting rounds and not asking employers for vacation days), as well as paying co-op fees (for BBA students, this fee was $763.87 per semester as of July 2020).

The Job Search

Assuming you have been accepted into Sequence One, you will start primary round recruitment for the summer between your second and third year in January. Primary round recruitment involves the use of Navigator, where jobs will be posted on a rolling basis. You are encouraged to apply for upwards of 50 jobs (at least in my case), however, you should only be applying for jobs you would actually be willing to take (that means that if you don’t want to move to Alberta, you shouldn’t be applying for a job in Alberta). Primary recruitment is then followed by the primary interview period. You will get emails from the co-op office when interviews have been scheduled, and you are expected to attend all interviews you have been scheduled for- even if this means missing class. These interviews will vary drastically in length and complexity depending on the role and company, so be sure to do your research beforehand to ensure you’re going in prepared!

After primary round interviews come rank match- probably the most confusing part of the co-op. Rank match basically is an algorithm used by the co-op office to match students and potential employers. After interviews are done, potential employers rank the students they have interviewed. You then are able to log onto Navigator and see only the employers that have ranked you #1. If you were ranked, but not #1, your status will just show “ranked.” An employer can also choose not to rank students. You then rank the employers back and are “matched” based on your rankings. It’s hard to explain, but I promise that your co-op coordinators will give you a lot more details. Just be aware that you might have to be flexible and make some tough decisions on location and salary depending on how you are ranked.

There is also the possibility that you don’t get ranked, don’t get a rank match or don’t get any interviews. All of those are okay- that’s what continuous round is for! In the continuous round, you will continue to apply to jobs both in Navigator and externally- but keep in mind that external job offers must be approved by the co-op office. There are some great opportunities posted in the continuous round, so don’t stress if you don’t get a job in the primary round.

Once you have secured employment, congratulations! You’ve successfully survived your first round of co-op. It definitely isn’t easy, but I can wholeheartedly say that my co-op experiences have helped me immensely, both on a personal and professional level. Co-op can be overwhelming at times, but I hope this guide was a useful resource that helped to calm some of your nerves. If you have any other questions, feel free to message me directly- I’d love to help!

Disclaimer: This article is based on the author’s experience as a BBA co-op student from 2018 – 2021. This article is not affiliated or associated with the Laurier Co-Op and Career Centre in any way. For official and up-to-date information, please visit Work, Volunteering and Leadership - Co-op.