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Graduate Cooperative Education Program

The graduate co-op education program is intended to be an integral part of a graduate student's academic program, providing on-the-job experience that satisfies academic requirements such as work toward thesis or dissertation or allows students to apply knowledge they have acquired through coursework and research as they progress to degree completion. All graduate students may be authorized for co-op if they meet eligibility requirements. 

International Students in F-1 status who wish to pursue CPT (Curricular Practical Training) work authorization must first be approved for co-op to provide the academic justification for CPT. Students whose academic program has a mandatory practicum element must instead enroll in the practicum course specified by their department. You may find more complete information on CPT on Cranwell International Center’s webpage.

For additional information, please contact Graduate Student Services at (540) 231-4558 or email grads@vt.edu, including "co-op" in the subject line.

Please see below for a detailed outline of co-op processes and applicable requirements and restrictions.

DETERMINE YOUR ELIGIBILITY

- Complete at least one semester of academic work in your program of study before they may pursue co-op. International students must be enrolled full-time for two semesters prior to co-op.

- Be in good academic standing, with a GPA of 3.0 or above
Resolve any holds on your student account, with the exception of holds related to Graduate Honor System violations

- Talk to your advisor and initiate or update your Plan of Study to include the co-op course in the intended semester (GRAD 5944 for master’s students and GRAD 7944 for PhD students). You may do this before you have an offer letter, and may easily amend your Plan of Study if you change your plans or do not receive an offer for the semester.

To initiate a Plan of Study, please work directly with your department. Students without an established advisor may reach out to their Graduate Program Coordinator for guidance. You may find a list of program coordinators here.

To update an existing Plan of Study, please use our Plan of Study Change Form and submit here.

- Obtain an offer for employment, and ensure that the employment terms fit the requirements and restrictions outlined below. Please also check to be sure that your offer letter has all of the required elements listed under “How to Apply”

Need help finding opportunities? Career and Professional Development is an excellent, free resource available to help you navigate job searching, building a resume, crafting a good cover letter, interviewing, negotiating an offer, and more. Access their resources here: https://career.vt.edu/

EMPLOYMENT REQUIREMENTS

Your co-op experience must:

- be related to your field of study

- be documented by a formal offer letter (requirements outlined below)

- fulfill the minimum length requirement for each semester requested (14 weeks for Fall or Spring and 6-12 weeks for Summer)

- fall within the dates for the requested semester. Co-op may begin as early as the Monday after the final day of exams for the previous semester, and may end as late as the before the first day of class for the following semester. The exact dates change each year, and may be found on the registrar's academic calendar.

ADDITIONAL RESTRICTIONS

- A co-op experience may not begin while a student has an active assistantship contract. Please have your department adjust your assistantship end dates in Banner if you wish to begin a co-op before the original contract end date.

- Co-ops are approved separately for each semester. If you receive an offer that covers multiple semesters, please ensure that your Plan of Study includes the co-op course for both semesters, and that your employment dates fulfill the minimum requirements for each semester. You will need to re-apply for co-op (and CPT, if applicable) for the second semester, ideally at least 3 weeks before the first day of class for that term.

- International students may only engage in 12 total months of full time co-op/CPT. Other restrictions and concerns for international students are available on the information page for CPT

- Once you have an offer, ensure your job offer letter has the following information:

The student’s full name
The full name of the company
The title of the student position
The student’s supervisor
The supervisor’s contact information
Confirmation that the internship/co-op is full time (>32 hours/week)
Whether the position is paid or unpaid
The beginning and end dates of the co-op experience
A job description

If your offer letter does not contain the full information requested, please secure an updated offer letter OR confirmation directly from your employer regarding any missing elements

- Make sure your Plan of Study is current. You will either need to establish an approved Plan of Study with your department and have them submit this to the Graduate School, or you will have to submit a Change of Plan of Study form to adjust your existing Plan of Study (see “Before you Apply” for details). You do NOT need to wait for final approval from the Graduate School, only your department’s approval and submission. If you are able to see your pending Plan of Study in HokieSpa with the co-op course, that is sufficient.

- Complete the Co-op Application Form online and upload your job offer letter (login with your VT Google credentials is required for accessing the form).

- Alert your departmental approver so they know to expect an email prompting them to review your application. If they have questions, you may refer them to the Academic Department Approver FAQ section below, have them contact grads@vt.edu, or call (540) 231-4558. If you are unsure who your department approver may be, contact your advisor or graduate program coordinator.

When should I start planning for a co-op semester?
As soon as you like! Getting the co-op course on your Plan of Study early allows you to talk with your advisor about your plans, and saves you time once you do receive an offer. If you change your plans or do not receive an offer, it’s very simple to remove the course form your Plan of Study. Likewise, you will not be enrolled in the course until after your co-op and CPT are approved, so you will not have to manage a withdrawal. 

When should I submit my application?
We recommend at least three weeks before your intended start date to ensure that you can receive co-op approval from both your department and the graduate school and still have time to apply for CPT (if needed) and have your new I-20 issued. The latest time we recommend is the Friday before the first day of classes for the semester. 

How do I know where my application is in the process?
Once you apply, your application will route directly to the departmental approver you listed on the form. You will receive an automated email once they have reviewed your application, noting approval or a request for additional information. Once your department approves, your application will go to the graduate school for approval and you will receive a notification once it has been reviewed. THe final approval email will contain a PDF of the approval, which can be attached to your CPT application (if applciable). If you have concerns about your co-op application, you may contact grads@vt.edu and include “co-op” in the subject line. If you have questions about the progress on your CPT application, please contact international@vt.edu

Can I have my form expedited?
We process each application as soon as we are able, with the understanding that each student’s opportunity to pursue outside employment is important to them. We receive a high volume of requests at the start of each semester, and do our best to process them as efficiently as possible in the order they are received.

Domestic students will be enrolled in the co-op course by the Graduate School and may begin employment.

International students will need to apply for CPT through the IntlHokies portal, using the PDF of their co-op approval sent in their final approval email. More details on CPT here.

Interntional students may begin employment once only after their CPT is approved and a new I-20 is issued. The graduate school will then complete co-op course enrollment in batches each Monday. Course enrollment does not affect employment start dates.

PLEASE NOTE: 
When students are enrolled in the co-op course, all other courses are removed, as co-op fulfills the minimum requirement for full-time student status. If you wish to enroll in additional courses while on co-op, please contact Pam Williams at pawilli1@vt.edu and notify her of the courses you wish to keep. 

At the end of the co-op experience, the employer must complete the co-op evaluation form (fillable pdf). This form may then be submitted by either the employer or the student online (via our google form) at the conclusion of the co-op experience.

Students engaging in multiple semesters at the same employer must submit an evaluation at the end of each semester, including Summer.

If your employer has restrictions against employee evaluations, you may instead submit a letter from your employer's HR team confirming your employment.

What do I need to include in my offer letter?
The student’s full name
The full name of the company
The title of the student position
The student’s supervisor
The supervisor’s contact information
Confirmation that the internship/co-op is full time
Whether the position is paid or unpaid
The beginning and end dates of the co-op experience
A job description

How do I submit an evaluation at the end of the student’s employment?
At the end of the co-op experience, the employer must complete the co-op evaluation form (fillable pdf). This form may then be submitted by either the employer or the student online (via our google form) at the conclusion of the co-op experience.

Students engaging in multiple semesters at the same employer must submit an evaluation for each semester.

How can I make job postings readily available to VT students?
You can always post job listings on Handshake, our university page for employment opportunities. Find more information here: https://career.vt.edu/job-search/Handshake.html

If you wish to employ international students utilizing co-op and CPT, it can be helpful to review the employment restrictions above in the "Before You Apply" section to ensure that your postings fit within the required dates and fulfill minimum requirements for interested students. Understanding these restrictions will also help your student employees gain work authorization more quickly, as less adjustments have to be made before approval.

How do I prepare my students for co-op?
You may prepare students for co-op by clearly communicating departmental expectations, directing them to this webpage for questions about requirements and restrictions, and ensuring that students update their Plan of Study to include GRAD 5944 or 7944 as soon as they believe they may be interested in a co-op. If they do not receive a job offer or their plans change, they may always update their Plan of Study again.

What am I responsible for approving?
If you have been selected as a departmental approver for co-op applications, your role is to ensure that the position fits the student’s academic interests, would be beneficial to their academic experience, and does not hinder them from making progress towards degree completion. Any other requirements or restrictions listed above on this page are covered by the Graduate School in their review, and immigration concerns (including visa extensions) are managed by Cranwell International Center.

I received an email to review a student application, but cannot access the link.
Make sure that you are logged into the Google Suite using your VT PID, not an alias or personal account. If the student entered your alias, you also may have issues accessing the form with your PID. If this has happened, or if you are still experiencing issues, email grads@vt.edu with “co-op” in the subject line and the student’s name.

I have already approved, but my student has not received a notification.
Please ensure that you only use Chrome (preferred) or Firefox to approve. Apple Safari will allow you to access the form and will mimic approval, but the form will never process this and the Graduate School will not be informed. If this happens, please contact grads@vt.edu with “co-op” in the subject line, and the student’s name. We will be able to re-send the form for approval on an appropriate browser.

The student submitted their application, but included the wrong person as departmental approver. 
Email grads@vt.edu with "co-op" in the subject line. Let us know the student's name and the correct name and email for the departmental approver and we can update the application.

I would like to support a student’s co-op experience, but they are currently not in good academic standing.
Send a letter of support to the Graduate School via grads@vt.edu, with “co-op” in the subject line. If the student has already applied and you have already approved, the Graduate School will request this letter from the student, and they may upload using their application link.