Posted by the Editorial Board
Students who have paid a visit to the Career Services center will have undoubtedly heard the same advice from counselors when asking how to best spend their summers productively: apply for an internship. Yet with the economy still in turmoil and colleges releasing students into the real world with a degree and a mountain of debt, does an internship, especially an unpaid one, do more harm than good?
There is no doubt that an internship allows students to gain experience in working in the career field, ideally in an area of their personal interest. Such experience also looks great on a r??sum??, giving students a boost when seeking and applying for jobs.
Unfortunately, many internship are unpaid ones, and those that do give students a paycheck might still feel less rewarding than, say, a full-time summer job. With such things in mind, one cannot help but question the College's emphasis on finding an internship over a job. In fact, students might benefit financially from taking a summer job in retail over an unpaid internship.
That said, one cannot deny the importance of an internship, especially in gaining experience and building one's r??sum??. In facing the problems of seeking out an unpaid internship, students should be able to rely on their college to provide them with both opportunities and support in pursuing such a path.
Skidmore offers several programs that provide funding for internships and research to cover transportation and living expenses. Skidmore's Summer Funded Internship Awards Program (SSFIAP ) began in 2009 and has continued to grow in the past 3 years. In 2009 eight students received internship funding and in 2011 Skidmore received donations that enable the funding of 64 students. In addition to the SSFIAP, there are several other programs that have provided funding for summer internships, including The New World Foundation (15 internships), the Student Government Association (30 internships), The Parents Council (1 - 5 internships), the Levine Internship Awards, and the Susan Hirsch Schwartz '68 Stipend Fund. The majority of donations for funded internships come from alumni, parents, and friends of the college with some offering specific awards such as The Megan McAdams '08 International Community Service Internship Program and The Elizabeth Marie Glotzbach Memorial Film-Industry Fund which are both new this year. This year Career Services received 126 applicants for the SSFIAP and 75 for the Parents Council Awards, which was almost a 50% increase over last year.
These programs other departmental programs all offer scholarships to approximately 100 students altogether. Yet, with all the pressure on internships being the "proper" path to take on the road to a successful career, are these programs enough?
The College recently introduced the See Beyond awards, which provides $4,000 stipends across an 8-10 week period to support field or laboratory research or internships, indicating that the institution is taking steps to increase the financial support offered to students. Additionally, students may also partake in paid collaborative research jobs with the faculty on campus during the summer. But is this enough aid for the approximately 2,300 students all facing the pressures of life without a dorm room and a meal plan?
In addition to its many programs dedicated to helping students find and maintain internships, the College might consider putting in more effort to encourage students to seek paid jobs as well. When setting out on the path to one's future career, any kind of experience is a beneficial one, and many employers look for quality over quantity-a student who commits to a job for several years rather than one who changes constantly from one internship to another.
Perhaps the College should equally emphasize the importance of a summer job as well as that of an internship. This might alleviate the obligation students feel to apply for an internship because it is expected of them, instead of a job which might help them begin to save money for their college and future debts. By removing the trepidation students might have about committing to summer jobs over internships, the College could help them seek more opportunities and lead them to become better prepared to face life after graduation.