During the arduous week of final exams before summer break, students are likely devoted almost entirely to one feat: finishing out the semester. But what comes after all finals are taken and projects turned in?
Summer often presents itself as a season of opportunity. There is time to relax, see family, travel, work and maybe even tack on a few items to ye olde resume. With so many possibilities, students take advantage of a wide range of summer employment opportunities.
But what is the best use of this “gift” of time over the summer? Some students feel pressure to apply for a plethora of internships in hopes of advancing their careers early. These internships can bring many benefits, but some can also be monotonous and demanding compared to other summer employment options.
This begs the question: Is the summer internship worth it?
First, it’s important to note that there are many types of internships. Christy Yee, a junior at Tufts, channeled her passion for minority mental health care into an internship with Anise Health, a mental health startup with six staff members.
“I chose to work there, or do an internship there, because their mission is really aligned with what I want to do … I’m a clinical psych major and I want to be a therapist eventually,” Yee said. “It was really good working with a smaller team and being able to suggest something and then have it implemented right away or have feedback on it.”
Motivated to explore a topic she is invested in, Yee applied and obtained funding for the internship through Tufts Career Center’s summer internship grant program. This gave Yee the opportunity to receive financial compensation even though Anise Health did not have the funding to pay her for the summer.
“I worked with [Tufts and Anise Health] to kind of create this role for me because it’s just like a win-win,” Yee said.
Beyond funding and personal passion, there are many factors that go into choosing a summer internship. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many internship opportunities transitioned to remote work, but the Career Center has seen this trend reverse.
Susan Atkins, associate director of alumni career services at the Tufts Career Center, wrote in an email to the Daily, “The Career Center saw a shift toward remote internships during Covid, but that has now shifted back to in-person and hybrid options.”
While remote internships offer an opportunity for students to intern for companies based all around the United States and the world, they can also be isolating. Yee elaborated on her fully remote internship experience.
“It was definitely a little bit isolating just because you don’t really get to talk to your teammates other than during meetings, and then that’s only really a couple minutes of casual talk and then you get into whatever [work] you’re talking about,” Yee said.
Junior Sam Youkeles echoed this sentiment, noting that internships can provide a chance to figure out what mode of work is most suitable.
“Maybe I can get a better sense of what I enjoy doing — if I prefer to work in an office versus remotely — before I actually enter the working world,” Youkeles said.
At the end of the day, working remotely or in person as a summer intern is a valuable learning experience. Youkeles spoke of his experience as an IT operations intern at Workiva and the skills he learned during his time there.
“I feel like [Workiva] did a very good job of introducing me to topics that I was unfamiliar with and teaching me as I worked. And I learned a lot of skills that I wouldn’t have learned in school,” Youkeles said.
The opportunity to learn skills not seen in the classroom and gain exposure to all sides of the mental health industry was valuable to Yee.
“I think seeing the business end [of things] was really interesting and something I wouldn’t have been able to experience otherwise,” Yee said.
Overall, internships provide an opportunity for exploration, which can sometimes lead to valuable lessons of what students do not want to pursue after graduation.
“I guess a con [of internships] would be that you’re putting in a significant amount of time, just to discover that the thing that you’re working on is … not really going to be super fulfilling for you in the long run,” Youkeles stated. “Which I guess is a con, but it’s also a pro because I’ve discovered that fact about myself now.”
Discovering what you do and do not want to invest your time in in the future is one of the main takeaways students can obtain from internships. Yee spoke to how her internship has helped her with future planning.
“I am very glad and grateful that I did this internship, and so just taking that and knowing where I want to go next,” she said.
Internships often function as just that, a building block for what comes next in a student’s career. With the future uncertain, these building blocks can feel heavy. Many students experience a feeling of pressure and stress to find a summer internship.
“Everyone always talks about internships,” Youkeles said. “A significant amount of people get internships. It’s not like everyone does, but especially in computer science, you know, the standard is to be getting summer internships, I guess, after sophomore year. I’m saying that that’s the standard, but it’s really not — people shouldn’t feel pressured to be getting an internship then, because it’s not easy to.”
For students who do seek a summer internship, they can find that competition is high for job postings.
“I mean, as a sophomore in college, especially in computer science, it’s pretty hard to find internship opportunities because there’s so much competition,” Youkeles said.
Adding weight to the situation is the importance of internships as resume builders and tools for future job connections.
“According to the Office of Institutional Research, approximately 20% of respondents to the Class of 2022 Senior Exit Survey who accepted a job indicated that they learned about the position through a previous job or internship,” Atkins wrote.
Are these internships worth the pressure? Both Yee and Youkeles stated that they were happy they did their internships, and took some lessons away with them.
When asked about advice he would give to students considering summer internships, Youkeles stated that it’s better to find a fulfilling and enjoyable experience rather than feel pressured to find the perfect internship.
“It’s very much just exploring and figuring out where [you are] without pressuring yourself too much,” Youkeles said. “But at the same time, it’s definitely worth pushing yourself to find these opportunities because I know that I had to put myself out of my comfort zone in order to get this internship.”
At the end of the day, summer internships are a great way to gain exposure, learn how to work in various work settings, strengthen skills and make important connections; however, they are not the “make-or-break” experiences that many people make them out to be.
“I think there’s a lot of pressure around summer internships and just internships in general,” Yee said. “I think trying to remember that, at the end of the day, it is an experience for you, and it’s not the end of the world if it’s not [one of] the top ten internships in the world or it’s not exactly what you want, because I think no matter where you are, you can learn from [any] experience.”