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Are Summer Internships for College Students Worth It?

The competition is intense, but it looks good on a job application.

Just when parents feel they can finally relax after the insomnia-inducing stress of getting their kids into a suitable college to avoid a lifetime of basement dwelling, suddenly it’s time to worry about their kids getting summer internships to avoid the same fate. 

The internship concept is basically the same one that led us to press our kids into community service as if they were convicted felons; it looks good on applications.

Only, instead of college applications, everyone is hyper-focused on jobs in the real world.

The real world is not a friendly place. The competition for jobs has always been tough, but the lousy economy has increased the anxiety, causing parents to encourage their offspring to do whatever is necessary to edge out the competition.

This anxiety is fueled by that ever-present fear that our offspring will spring back to their old bedrooms after graduation and reside there indefinitely. Not that we don’t like our kids; I, for one, am quite fond of my boys except when they are leaving a trail of socks and boxer shorts in their wake.

But we want our kids to live their lives, function as independent adults, and visit us when they have their own kids so we can feed them refined sugar and then give them back. It has nothing at all to do with a plan to sell the house and buy a really nice one-bedroom condo in either Chicago or Santa Barbara, or both.

Actually, the idea of the summer internship is not new and it's a great way to test drive a chosen profession. I did a couple myself; one at a resort in the Poconos, which was such a horrible experience that I actually quit, and the other at Disney World — one of the best experiences of my life. The Disney World internship — even though I made minimum wage, wore a polyester Judy Jetson outfit, and welcomed guests to the Land of Tomorrow — is the one that got me the most attention when I was job hunting. It may have helped that I said I was Snow White.  

Given that everyone is looking for internships, having them on a resume may not be all that impressive to a potential employer, but not having them could suggest the young applicant is not career driven. Let’s be real here, being the archery specialist at a summer camp is not as impressive as working in marketing at The Hartford, even though the camp counselor is gaining leadership experience and learning responsibility while the marketing intern is filing and making cold calls for free.  

My own son, who will be between his sophomore and junior year in college this summer, is attempting to find an internship. So far it’s been a rather minimalist attempt, but it’s a start. He doesn’t quite see the big picture. My gut feeling is that he will end up with that archery specialist job and have a great summer at an overnight camp. While he is there, I will be turning his bedroom into a yoga studio. Namaste.

Sue Schaefer, M.ED., M.A.T., founder of Academic Coaching Associates, is an Academic Coach, Student Advocate, and certified teacher. You may visit her website atwww.academiccoachingct.com, email her at susan.schaefer@academiccoachingct.com and follow her on Twitter @sueschaefer1

Lance Coughlin January 31, 2013 at 08:11 PM
Ask Monica lewinsky
Bob Fawkes February 01, 2013 at 08:46 PM
Bad acid trip Lance?

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