As college students, we juggle a lot of responsibilities. Classes, work and a personal life all while trying to mature into young adults in this ever changing world.
On top of that, students are met with expectations of finding employment right after graduation. Sometimes to obtain this goal, students have to get an internship — which is just as stressful as finding a job. But the worst part is getting an internship that doesn’t pay.
Internships are not necessary, but they do go a long way in building resumes and making connections. However, there are times when students are forced to choose between making money to support themselves or doing an unpaid internship to better their chances of getting a job after graduation. Unfortunately, this means that some students miss great opportunities based on their finances rather than their qualifications.
The Whit staff feels strongly about this topic because many members of our team have internships and have felt the stress that an unpaid internship can bring.
In an Ascend article written by Rakshitha Ravishankar, she writes about her unpaid internship experience and her realization of “just how unethical and exploitative these ‘opportunities’ can be — and worse, just how big a role class, caste, and economic privilege play in who can and cannot afford to take them.”
Sadly, this is the truth for many college students, especially those who rely on a steady income in order to pay for their education. Internships are competitive and hard to get, so if a student denies an opportunity that could better their future in order to stay afloat in their current financial situation, it makes getting ahead in their career that much harder.
The purpose of internships is to learn and grow in the desired field with the expectation that the experience will make them more eligible for bigger and better opportunities. It’s important to note that an internship is not a job, so it’s reasonable for an intern to not make as much as an employee at the company. However, it seems that some companies forget to include pay entirely.
A particular member of our staff interned at a television station in Philadelphia. They worked for a morning show so their shift started at 3:30 a.m., but since they lived an hour away, they had to go to sleep at 6 p.m. the night before in order to get a full night’s rest before their alarm went off at 1 a.m.
The internship was extremely hands-on, they wrote stories for the show, went out with reporters on stories and helped make content for the station’s social media. The internship was rewarding but crippling for their bank account. They spent about $20 a week on tolls to make it to their shift and about $40 on gas a week.
The internship was unpaid.
That’s the story for many students, unfortunately. While experience is great, a person should never have to choose between staying financially stable or bettering themselves. And most importantly, companies shouldn’t be hiring interns if they’re not going to pay them.
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