RIT is known not only for academics but for its cooperative education programs (co-op for short). Having started co-ops as early as 1912, RIT has grown a reputation for helping students gain real-world experience during their academic careers here. Currently, about 80% of the majors on campus require a co-op. Each major has its own specifications, but many of these majors are 5-year programs - 4 years of classes total, and 1 year of co-op total (give or take some semesters).
I'm currently co-oping across the country from RIT, out in San Francisco. I'm working at a digital design agency called Odopod. I first heard of Odopod about a week before Creative Industry Day - RIT's big career fair specifically for more design-oriented majors. Though my major, New Media Design, is one of the few that does not require a co-op, it's still highly encouraged. In addition to our professors helping students prep for the career fair with classes and workshops, the New Media Club held skype-in practice interviews with alumni from across the country.
I remember standing in line to speak with a representative from Odopod at the career fair. I was nervous and tired. I had been standing in lines all day, talking to a lot of people and showing them work while trying to remain enthusiastic. Odopod was the last company I planned on talking to, and I almost thought about bailing because the line was so long... but then one of my professors showed up. He gave me some tips on what to talk about, and how to pitch my work - we were even editing my portfolio together right there in line!
Now, several months later, I'm out in California. Surprisingly, there is a much larger network of RIT alum here than I would have originally anticipated. A few of my close friends from freshman year here working, and nearly half the agency I work for is employed by RIT alum - many from my major. Additionally, I have consistently found and met up with more RIT alum each weekend - whether it's going to beaches, festivals, or design events.
This summer has been such a great experience so far, and there's still more to go. My advice to underclassmen - take advantage of opportunities at RIT. Talk to professors, network, and try to go to events that will help you towards your career path. Start going to career fairs early, even if you do not get hired, you will have more experience interviewing and feel more confident the next time around. Try working someplace new! This is my first time on the west coast and living in a city on my own. Why not try it now? Co-oping will help you learn so much about yourself and your preferences - do you like city living? Is this the field you can see yourself in? What can you do now to help get you the job you want in the future? Are you ok with public transportation? Keep in mind, co-ops are It's only temporary. Regardless of how it goes, it will be over in a couple months and you'll know what to look for in your next co-op or job. Also, if you do end up co-oping or interning somewhere, talk to people and continue to network! You may even find some RIT alum. Good luck out there!