I’m not sure that my experiences at a liberal arts college were typical – since so little of what I wind up doing seems typical – but there was nothing practical about it. No one discussed possible careers for a Classics major or an Anthropology major; they were just areas of focus amid the well-rounded core curriculum. Well, let me tell you that I wish I had received a bit more guidance – maybe even just a sign here or there that a real world existed and that I was going to have to function in it. And, that’s what Northeastern does best.
The first time we mentioned to someone that we were going to visit Northeastern, the person responded, “Oh, you have to check out the co-op program!” Obviously, this person was from the Northeast and knew her way around the universities up there; she knew what set Northeastern apart from its peers. On the contrary, hardly anyone I’ve met south of the Mason-Dixon line has ever heard of it. It’s time to change that.
Northeastern builds actual work experience into its curriculum.
Every student at Northeastern participates in what’s called a Co-op. This Co-op program is sort of like an internship, but better. We’ve all seen comedic portrayals of the “intern” getting coffee, making copies, and taking out the trash, clear representations that the average intern is a glorified slave who may or may not learn anything about the business at hand. That’s why Northeastern runs a strict co-op system, in which the participating businesses are required to provide a certain amount of meaningful training, so that Northeastern kids can gain real experience and have the chance at getting real jobs!
Northeastern students spend at least six months working in a Co-op. During that time, they do not take classes or pay tuition. Instead, they get paid to work and see the innards of a functioning business. This step away from the college grind pays off. Some of the students find that they’ve indeed found their true calling through their Co-op work, while others learn that their talents are best suited elsewhere – a realization everyone would rather have during college, as opposed to after.
The Co-op is even cooler than it sounds because students have the option of doing their Co-ops practically anywhere in the world. There are active Northeastern kids everywhere, working up a storm and having fun in the process. I wish I could have had this option when I was in school!
Another Plus: It’s Right on the T in Boston
Northeastern isn’t in the center of Boston’s serious hubbub, but it’s really easy to get there. All you have to do is hop on the T, which is basically a monorail/subway/bus combo. It’s the noisiest public transportation on earth, but it runs like a champ and can get you anywhere you want to go in Boston.
Now, we will grant that Northeastern’s campus lacks the old-world beauty of some New England-area schools, but it makes up in ambition for what it lacks in aesthetics. And, it isn’t ugly by any stretch; it’s just not going to inspire Pindar to write an ode. In any case, do you want a good job when you graduate, or do you want frame-worthy photos of yourself in front of the library? Think long and hard…