Student vs Internship - Why It's Becoming Increasingly Harder to Secure One

There is one thing that is constantly on the minds of undergraduates - becoming an intern. Since the early years of high school, I have been told about the importance of receiving an internship and that it is basically crucial to become an intern at some point during my undergraduate years.

Luckily, I have been fortunate to work as an intern multiple times and with some amazing companies. I definitely can’t deny that an internship is both helpful and necessary for students. My internships have provided me with great experience in my areas of interests, allowed me to gain new skills and overall provided me with a platform to do the things I love. I highly recommend any undergrad should apply to an internship that really stands out to them - they really make a positive experience in your professional life (and don’t hurt your resume either)!

Over the last three years of my undergraduate career, I have found that it has become harder to secure an internship. At first, I thought my qualifications were lacking or I just wasn’t applying to enough. However, after talking to my friends and peers, it seems that the internship process has been difficult for the majority of students across the board.

For the most part, many students are somewhat (if not completely) financially independent. It is not uncommon for students to work a paid summer job to make some extra cash before the new semester rolls around. In fact, many students save up their summer paychecks as funding for books, supplies and tuition for the upcoming semester. As a result, accepting unpaid internships becomes an internal fight. The internal struggle is along the lines of: yes, it would be amazing to intern here but I won’t be getting paid for working full time… how will I afford my textbooks/tuition for the Fall?

During my application process, I found that a good amount of jobs are searching for full time interns with no pay. While the job may be providing the intern with great experience, it is really hard to justify working full time without pay. More and more students are becoming financially independent and rely on internship or job funds to get them through the semester. I think this is becoming a typical issue for all students that are applying for internships. Additionally, I find that this internal struggle is one of the more difficult decisions we are faced with in regards to our professional development.

Another issue that students face is finding the spare time to apply and interview due to the increasing workload and expectations for students. I think it is safe to say that there are not enough hours in a day. In addition to regular course work, students balance a variety of other tasks such as extracurricular groups, jobs, volunteer work or research opportunities. Finding time sit down and look for and apply for internship after internship isn’t always on the top of a student’s priority list. From experience, it takes a good couple of hours to write up a cover letter and muster up the proper documents for applications.

Even after the application process, finding time to schedule phone and video interviews can be tricky as well. This semester, my days are booked until about 4:00 PM. If I’m not in class, I’m probably at work. While it is probable to find a half hour block between classes for a phone screening, it isn’t always as probable the time will line up with the employer. Further, having time to travel for an in-person interview can also be troublesome. While it is necessary and in-person interviews really give you a feel for the company and employer, I think we can all agree we all just want a little more extra time.

As I mentioned in the beginning of the article, students have been conditioned for a long time that it is expected we secure at least one internship during our time in undergrad. As a result, the candidate pool has steadily been increasing and becoming more competitive. It’s a great feeling when you’ve come across an internship posting that you’re qualified for and super interested in. On the other hand, it can be disheartening when you start to doubt yourself.

With an increase in college students actively searching for internships, it is normal to feel nervous about your application. On the flip side, it really is an amazing feeling when you get contacted back asking for an interview. You know your achievements really impressed an employer - you’re on the right track!

One last final obstacle I believe we have all been through is dealing with being ghosted by employers. This really takes a toll on a student’s confidence; we start feeling like we’ve done something wrong or are simply unqualified. When I have spoken to other students and collegiates about this issue, the general consensus is: I would prefer a rejection email rather than pure silence. Isabelle from Her Campus UMass recently wrote about her experience dealing with being ghosted in the workplace… I think a lot of us can relate. My advice: it doesn’t hurt to send a follow up email or reach out to the recruiter. If you really want the job - show them you’re interested.

Despite these difficulties during the internship search, I truly do not mean to discourage you. Instead, I hope that this influences students to push through the obstacles and apply for that dream internship! If you are feeling down during the internship process, just know you are not alone and many students have been in your place. The benefits and exciting experience of having an internship doing something you love truly outweighs the feeling of stress during the process - this I can guarantee.

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