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What to expect in an internship or co-op offer letter

For many students, the first time they will ever receive a “real” offer letter will be when they obtain their first engineering internship or co-op.  It is very exciting but can also be a little overwhelming as well.  It’s important to know and understand the information that you can expect in an offer letter from a company.  PLEASE NOTE: ALL Engineering internships should be PAID.  ECS does not encourage students to accept unpaid internships. 

The first thing to know is that just like full-time offers, an internship or co-op offer should be in writing.  Many companies will first give you the good news over the phone, but the offer is not considered “official” until they have sent it in writing.  This is very important to make sure the terms are clear to both parties involved.  If an employer does not give you your internship offer in writing, it is perfectly acceptable to request they send you an official letter (usually via email).

Standard Information

  • Internship/co-op Title
  • Start date and end date
  • Supervisor’s name (optional)
  • Duties (optional)
  • Deadline for responding

Compensation/Benefits

  • Rate of pay and basis (typically this will be an hourly wage)
  • Housing/relocation assistance provided (optional)

Housing and relocation assistance are not a given for internships and co-ops.  Many companies offer no assistance, whereas others offer a variety of forms including: monthly stipend (most common), furnished housing in local university/dorm, or lump sum.  If there is no mention of housing or relocation assistance in your letter, it is acceptable to ask if they provide any.  At the very least, it’s worth asking for recommendations for local apartments or names of other interns who may be a potential roommate.  

Conditions (optional)

  • Maintaining a certain GPA prior to the start date
  • Successful completion of a drug test, medical exam, or background check

Legal Agreements (optional)

  • Non-disclosure: employees, including interns, many need to agree to keep company’s intellectual property private to maintain the company’s competitive advantage

Know that Ohio is an “at will” employer—which essentially means you can leave the company at any time for any reason.  Similarly, employers can terminate you at any time.  That language is typically included in an offer letter as well. 

If you have any questions at all about your offer, make sure to ask! You are not expected to respond immediately.  Take some time to evaluate your options and determine if this opportunity is right for you.  If you have questions or would like to ask for an extension, make sure to have a conversation with your contact at the company well BEFORE the decision deadline.

As always, your friends here in ECS are here to help! Feel free to come in with any offer questions you have.

“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”
-Peter F. Drucker

About the author

Katy Arenschield

Katy Arenschield is the Engineering Co-op and Internship Program Manager.