"Tell me and I forget, Teach me and I remember, Involve me and I will learn."
– Benjamin Franklin, 1750 –

Experiential learning is any type of education through first-hand experience, outside the traditional academic classroom setting. 


Internship An internship is a temporary position with an emphasis on on-the-job training rather than merely employment. Internships can be paid or unpaid, or, for-credit or non-credit. Students that have internship experience relevant to their desired profession are more desirable candidates to employers than those who have no internship experience or work experience unrelated to their field. Internships help students become viable, experienced job applicants when seeking employment after graduation. In fact, many employers consider internship experience in the hiring process, and often look to their own interns as the best potential candidates for full-time positions.

Externship Unlike an internship, an externship, more often than not, emphasizes job shadowing, rather than hands-on experience and tends to be shorter in duration, lasting from a day to several weeks. The goal of an externship is to provide externs with additional insights into a specific field.

Cooperative Education (Co-Ops) Co-ops are a joint venture between the university, a selected employer, and the student. They are more extensive than internships and will usually span two or more semesters of work. Traditionally, Co-Ops are full-time, paid positions and students receive more in-depth training compared to an internship or externship experience.

Service Learning Service learning is a process of involving students in community service activities combined with facilitated means for applying the experience to their academic coursework and personal development. Like internships and cooperative education, it is similar in that it is student-centered, hands-on and directly applicable to the curriculum. Students work on real problems that make academic learning relevant while simultaneously enhancing their social skills, analytical ability, civic and ethical responsibility, self-efficacy, and career development. 

Practicum A practicum is generally a one-time work or service experience done by a student as part of an academic class. Almost all are done for academic credit. Practicums are common for education and social work majors. For example, the practicum may be a part-time student teaching placement that occurs the semester before a student's full-time student teaching placement.

Design Projects Whether they’re called “senior capstones” or some other name, these culminating experiences require students nearing the end of their college years to create a project that integrates and applies what they’ve learned. The project might be a research paper, a performance, a portfolio of “best work,” or an exhibit of artwork.

Cultural Immersion Study abroad and cultural immersion allow students to experience the world, lending a global perspective and providing an opportunity for personal growth. Cultural immersion opportunities give students the opportunity to extend their classroom knowledge through immersion in off-campus settings where they have the opportunity to engage with another culture.

Research Although it is most prominently used in science disciplines, many colleges and universities are now providing research experiences for students in all disciplines. Students can serve as research assistants and collaborators on faculty projects, or can participate in research projects sponsored and funded by industry. 

National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) statistics

  • 60% of 2012 college graduates who participated in an internship received at least one job offer.
  • 95% of employers are looking for college grads with experience.
  • Organizations converted 58.6% of their interns into full-time hires (highest recorded percentage)
  • 83.4% of employers say that their internship program is designed to help their organization recruit entry-level hires.