Between juggling classes, homework, student clubs and a social life, being a full-time student is no easy feat. Now imagine adding an internship to the mix. It can be done--and there are even those who have done it successfully--but it's definitely not for everyone. To figure out whether you can add a school-year internship to your plate, try these questions on for size.
- Are you already acing your classes?
If you don't already have good grades, in other words, do not take a school-year internship because it will make your grades worse. If you were naturally bequeathed with the raw intelligence of Stephen Hawking and the dry wit of David Foster Wallace, that's one thing. If you're struggling to maintain a 3.0, that's another. If your grades aren't up to par, it may not matter how much work/internship experience you have when it comes to getting a job post-graduation.
- How will the internship add to your education and work experience?
If the internship is in line with your academic interests--you're a computer science major considering an internship in a software company, for instance--and/or your professional interests--you've always wanted to work in advertising and an advertising agency internship opens up--then go for it! Huzzah! Sounds great. If your thought is, "Well, it doesn't totally align with my professional or academic interests, but an internship is always good, right?" then that's probably not good enough.
- What does the internship entail?
This question actually contains two smaller questions. First, what would you be doing in the internship? Second, can you work it into your schedule? If you will play a substantive role in the organization, the internship will be a great addition to your resume. If you'll be making coffee or picking up dry cleaning, your time would be better spent hitting the books. On the time management side of things, it's important that you talk about scheduling with your supervisor before accepting the position. Forty hours a week is not an option; it won't work with your class schedule. Plain and simple, it's just too much time to spend during the school year. Discuss the flexibility of your schedule and the possibility of telecommuting with the recruiter/human resources office. You should come up with several options for scheduling beforehand, but it's definitely not a good sign if your prospective employer refuses to meet you half-way.
- Can you get college credit for the internship?
If the answer is yes, fantastic! Some schools will let you substitute an internship with college credit for a class, taking some of the burden off your school work while you're interning. Others even offer their own internships on campus, which could make it easier to fit it into your schedule and do real work (see questions two and three). On the other hand, if you can't get college credit, you won't be able substitute the internship for a class, meaning you'll have to balance your internship against a full course load.
- What are your motivations for pursuing an internship?
There isn't just one good reason for taking on a school-year internship. "I have other commitments during the summer (travel, family, etc.), and I really want to gain some work experience before I graduate" is a good one, as is "I am planning to take a course that will dovetail perfectly with the position, and I am interested to learn the practical application of my academic work." "I am hoping to pad my resume with as much work experience as humanly possible before I graduate," however, is sub-par. Be sure you know exactly why you're pursuing the internship. This will help you stay committed to the program throughout the school year, and be very helpful in your interview.
- What would you do with your free time if you didn't intern?
If your answer is that you would play video games and hang out with your frat brothers, a school-year internship may be a better use of time. If, instead, you would be taking on a leadership position at your college newspaper, networking with people in your professional field or focusing on on-campus recruiting, then you might be better served focusing on those projects and keeping your grades up.
Finally, if you do decide a school-year internship is right for you, here are a few internship programs that offer school-year positions, courtesy of the super-awesome Vault Internship Database, which includes profiles of over 780 internship programs located across the country.
The Sierra Club
Council on Foreign Relations
--Written by Madison Priest
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