Unpaid Internships Tip the Scales
Internships are a great way to gain experience in your field, as most professors will tell you. If you put in the time, you’ll get real world training and a possible boost toward your future career. Still, putting in the time costs some students a lot more than others.
UC Santa Cruz senior Neha Talreja has done her share of unpaid internships, a common practice among liberal arts majors. Her first unpaid internship was immediately out of college so her parents helped support her while she worked for free, but a few years down the road that option was no longer available.
“I could never do an unpaid internship now, and I felt like it was an opportunity I was missing out on,” she told Campus Progress. “My friend would go live in New York every summer and her parents would pay for her to live there and she’d have an unpaid internship.”
Students who don’t have the opportunity to do as many unpaid internships may struggle when they apply for their first professional job.
An article recently published in Forbes discusses six key actions students need to take in college to give them a chance at a job in their field post-graduation. No. 3 on the list is "Get an Internship as Early as Possible." Dan Schawbel, Forbes' contributor and founder of Millennial Branding, a research and consulting firm that focuses on Millennials, explained that doors open for students who get an internship with a company with wide brand recognition.
Simply having the name of a widely known company on a student resume seems to give students a boost to land their first job, Schawbel said. But without compensation for internships, lower income students risk losing their competitive edge.
Boston University senior Amanda Karakoudas tried to push her finances so she could utilize two unpaid internships she was offered. Although she learned a lot from both of these unpaid internships, she was forced to let them go when finances got tough.
“It was difficult for me that they were unpaid," Karakoudas said. "I had to leave [the Boston-based newspaper internship] when school started back up because I needed to take classes and work rather than [work] the unpaid internship.”
A 2010 Pew report about social trends reported more college students are borrowing, and the ones that borrow have been borrowing more. So students are faced with a dilemma: Intern for a dream organization without compensation and hand in a resume one bullet stronger, but rack up a larger post-college debt, or stay within financial means and sacrifice the competitive edge an internship offers.
Aditi Pai is a reporter for Campus Progress.
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