In the past few weeks there have been several blog posts and articles focusing on the wealthy advantage of certain students in conjunction with unpaid internships. This particular advantage infers that students coming from middle to upper class families have an easier time taking on unpaid internships. The advantage also assumes that students from lower-income families need to pay their own way through school and therefore cannot realistically participate in an unpaid internship program.
In an ideal world, all internships are paid programs. However, the current economy has proven many young adults are willing to make financial sacrifices during difficult times because the experience of working at a desirable company will pay off in the long run.
A recent Forbes article stated: “an extremely large percentage of the student population cannot afford unpaid internships. These are students who struggle to balance the rigors of college with the need to earn enough to cover living expenses.”
This article provides students with a reason to not pursue internship opportunities. Lack of time. Lack of money. It incorrectly suggests that wealthy students are taking advantage of internship programs while disadvantaged students are working too many hours to fit in time for internships. As someone who has worked for several years with thousands of college students from diverse backgrounds, I can assure you that this is not the case. It takes a motivated and ambitious individual to pursue available internships. As educators and mentors, we should constantly be encouraging students to consider internship opportunities – both paid and unpaid.
It is not the financially secure person who gets the job; rather it is the focused candidate who strives to succeed and understands the value of an internship opportunity. This candidate will find a way to make everything work in their specific situation. If anything, their lack of financial means serves as a motivational tool which provides the necessary incentive to excel in their chosen fields.
“The Intern Queen”
Lauren Berger is the CEO of Intern Queen Inc. She is known as “The Intern Queen” after participating in 15 internships during her 4 years of college. Berger currently runs both http://www.internqueen.com and http://www.quarterlife.com/intern. She has been featured in Business Week, The New York Post, Washington Post, etc. Her National Fall Speaking Tour kicks off September 30th 2009.
As usual, I asked my followers on Twitter what they thought – Is there a wealthy advantage?
segod@InternQueen no weekends is how I handle a FT job & FT school & an internship & really really long days but it's all worth it... Right?
saramckinniss@InternQueen 1 of the internships I had was paid, but it was in NYC and I had to take out a student loan to cover living costs. =ed out tho.
rachellevi@InternQueen Job and Internship plus student groups and classes is stressful!
bruin@InternQueen Yes, most definitely. Especially in the fields of film and television, where it's just about who you know.
gogetterjanet@InternQueen I don't know? Maybe in a way because they might not need the money/work hourly @ a job so they can do an internship 4 free.
tiaramerchgirl@InternQueen Oh definitely (and I say that as a former sorta-wealthy student). You don't have to worry about basic needs as much.
Dtothel_o...during college and never got to do an internship. Now I lack relevant experience to start my career. @InternQueen
joanntran@InternQueen YES, of course!! Some can afford to do it unpaid, or take off a quarter, while the rest of us need to pay the rent and bills!
laurashumaker@InternQueen of course wealthy students have an advantage! Other students either can't take unpaid internships or have to juggle a job too.
chadkennedy@InternQueen Absolutely! They don't have to worry about the expenses. All they have to worry about is the internship and networking.
smart_blonde@InternQueen Yes! As do students w/ parents who still finance them. Especially with NYC & Fashion internships. No kid can afford that alone.
EricSan@InternQueen Some advantage of course. They have financial backing to take that risk. Others may still chose to do it, but more pressure.