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College Internships: The Importance of Internships to College Students

By Jeff McGuire

As the global economy becomes more ... well ... global, the competition for good jobs continues to increase. You no longer have to simply be more qualified than the person next to you, you have to be more qualified than countless others all around the world. Going to a college or university is a critical step, but you can greatly enhance your classroom learning by gaining real world experience through college student internships.

In addition to gaining great experience to complete your classroom learning, college internships allow you to beef up your portfolio or resume and make valuable industry contacts that can be essential to landing the ideal job upon graduation. Remember the old adage, "It's not what you know, but who you know." Well toss that right in the garbage can. In today's competitive job market, it's what you know and who you know that often makes the difference. College internships are a great way to address both of those issues at the same time. As such, the importance of internships to college students demands serious consideration.

Further, as college student internships are also competitive, you can make the most of other opportunities available to you by finding a campus job in your field. You can also leverage other university resources like your campus job search office or alumni organization to find a valuable position that will get you in the door and on your way to a career in a field you love. College internships are beneficial because they get you both experience and contacts, but they aren't the only way to do this. There are also good alternatives to college internships.

College Internships: The Ultimate Social Network

If there is one thing you learned on the first day of your freshman year, it was the importance of having resources and the value in knowing how to use them. Indeed, knowing where to turn when you need something is just as important as having what you need in the first place. If resourcefulness is a measure of value, then knowing where to turn might even be more useful than possessing the knowledge first hand. And college internships are great for this.

The importance of internships to college students in terms of networking and gaining new resources cannot be understated. Building a network of "who you knows" through college student internships can pay great dividends upon graduation. By remembering the social aspect of making contacts with people as people while working at college internships, you can help to ensure that, if good contacts are with other organizations by the time you graduate, you will then have an "in" at those other organizations in addition to the organizations where you performed actual college internships.


So get in there and mingle. Make it a point to meet as many people as possible. Learning about someone as a person can be as valuable as learning about what his or her job entails. Social gatherings with co-workers after hours or on weekends are great ways to network and build meaningful bonds that make the most of college internships. Remember the value of college internships often lies in the people with whom you will work with.


College Internships are Just One Option

The benchmark of any college or university lies in the success of its graduates. To bolster the odds of success, schools promote college internships. They also have specialized offices and employees whose primary responsibility is to help you get a job. Use them! Many of the advantages of college internships can also be realized through campus jobs and by getting in with alums who have been where you are at, and can help you get to where you want to be. But how?


Federal and state governments award "work-study" funding to colleges and universities. The sole purpose of this funding is to act as an incentive for universities to hire students for university positions by covering a certain percentage of that student's wages. Not all students or positions qualify for work-study funding, but it is worth investigating. If you are a computer science major, you can gain experience as nearly every school in the world has a steady commitment to staying up-to-date with technology. English or journalism students can gain great experience writing for the school paper or landing a position in the marketing and communications office. These are just two alternatives to college internships.


Additionally, schools like to keep in touch with alums. In fact, they have specific departments solely dedicated to this purpose. As such, they are often aware of the industries in which their alums are working. And alums are often eager to help students at their alma mater succeed. In fact, in addition to specialized alumni-related college internships, some colleges and universities maintain social networks that feature job listings from organizations where alums currently work.


When in doubt, the first place to stop should be your campus job search office. They are uniquely prepared to provide information about college internships, job fairs, summer jobs in the community, and possible opportunities with alums.