Not only do you have to find an internship, you may have to fight to get credit for them to. In this tough economy many internships are unpaid, and companies require that you register them for academic credit. However, this often presents a challenge for underclassmen.
In my home college, the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, at Syracuse University, only juniors and seniors are allowed to register an internship for academic credit. I experienced this difficult process first hand last year after I received a wonderful internship at a company that required academic credit for all interns. Naturally, I assumed this would be no problem. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. I started doing my research about how to register an internship for credit at my school and was immediately confused. I went to the Career Services Office and found the right forms to get signed, and after getting all of the required signatures the forms were complete.
A few days later I received an email from the Department Chair of my major saying that they could not approve my request to get credit for an internship because I was a freshman. I was baffled. Why would a communications school that heavily encourages students to have internships not allow an underclassman to get credit? I asked around and talked to a number of administrators and they all said different things. Their responses ranged from, “big companies don’t hire younger students,” to, “internships are more beneficial towards the end of your college experience,” and “as an underclassman you don’t have the proper foundation in your field to succeed in an internship.” I was not satisfied with these answers. I ended up having to petition the school and go before a faculty review board to get credit for my internship. Having said that, I had a great summer at my internship and learned so much.
Other students have had similar experiences, Laura Cohen a sophomore SU student, said that she was thrilled to be selected to be a features intern at Harper’s Bazaar magazine last summer, but at one point thought she would not be able to take the job. She said, “Hearst requires all interns to receive college credit, but my school, Syracuse University, does not allow students to gain internship credit until their junior year. Since I was only a rising sophomore, I met with the Career Services office to see if they could make an exception, but they said it would not be worth it for me to try because they have only made two exceptions in the past. Instead, I got the credit for the internship through the community college in my hometown. I was told the credits would not likely transfer to SU.”
I want younger students to know that they can get impressive internships at big companies and succeed at them. Here is my advice for anyone who is having trouble getting credit for his or her internship:
1. If your school puts up barriers, ask questions, and do your research.
2. Be persistent! It might take running around to offices all over campus to get the right signatures and the right paper work in order.
3. Find a faculty member who is willing to vouch for you. Sometimes schools will make exceptions if a professor or other administrator is behind you.
4. Start early! I started the paper work for my internship in February and it took until the last week of school in May to get everything sorted out. It is much harder to sort these issues out when you are off campus.
5. Follow up! If someone doesn’t email you back, try stopping by their office to get their attention.
Similar to employers, teachers and administration like to see persistence. If you show them your dedication to the internship, the more likely you are to get them to agree. Good luck and intern on!
This blog post was written by Kathleen O'Brien, our Campus Ambassador from Syracuse University.