Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program

Director: Joel Schindall | Email | Website

77 Massachusetts Ave. • 1-123 • Cambridge, MA 02139 • (617) 253-0077

Open to all MIT sophomores regardless of major, the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program (UPOP) is a full-year co-curricular program that prepares MIT sophomores to integrate into and thrive in the world of work by exposing them to capabilities needed to enjoy productive careers. 

Nearly half of all MIT sophomores apply to this experiential learning program. UPOP is designed to work in conjunction with existing academic coursework, is worth two units of academic credit, and culminates in an internship during the summer. Students receive instruction and individual coaching before, during, and after their internships to help locate and negotiate the terms of their hands-on summer work and then succeed on the job by maximizing their contribution to the employer organization.

The curriculum, delivered in five phases (see below), includes workshops, individual and small-group coaching, employer-engagement events, and a weeklong, intensive training course. The learning outcomes focus on how to transition from academia to the workplace: acquiring the skills needed to find an internship, and the key skills needed to be effective in that internship, namely communication, decision-making, and teamwork.

UPOP’s five phases:

A fall semester program of workshops, employer engagement events, and individual coaching where students discover how to write an effective résumé, excel in a job interview, conduct a job search, build the foundation of their professional network, and visualize their future working selves

A one-week intensive course of experiential learning taught by MIT faculty, industry professionals, and subject-matter experts, that features hands-on exercises and mentoring by MIT alums and seasoned industry professionals. The course is offered twice during IAP (the inter-semester break each January) and is the cornerstone of the UPOP experience

A spring semester program of rigorous coaching, employer events, and networking opportunities that helps students design a career plan, and secure a summer internship experience that fits into that plan

A 10- to 12-week summer internship in which students apply their technical and interpersonal skills in real-world settings. During this summer experience, each student submits two progress reports, and conducts an informational interview, to encourage reflection and to further practice key skills

A reflective wrap-up upon completion of the internship in which students engage in a debriefing to reflect on their experience and package it into an "elevator talk" to use at the career fair and beyond

UPOP helps students take active control of their careers as early as two years before they graduate. Students who complete UPOP get hands-on, real-world experience and a professional skill-set that will help them apply their technical knowledge as successful engineers, scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs, managers, or policy leaders.

UPOP is the introductory year of the Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program. It is also compatible with participation in other MIT programs, including MISTI, UROP, and PSC fellowships.