The dreaded question


In high school, it was “where are you thinking of going to college?”

In college, it’s “what will you be doing this summer?”

While it can be difficult not to scream, cry or run away when you hear this question, it’s one that must be faced head-on. At a certain point, it’s OK to stop saying you’re “waiting to hear back” from those internships who should’ve emailed you weeks ago. Trying to nab internships unaffiliated with Trinity has become more difficult during the pandemic due to businesses and organizations losing money and the capacity to bring someone else into an in-person workspace. Now, many college students are trying to play catch-up after losing precious time during the stricter and more dangerous periods of the pandemic. But, like everything else post-pandemic, the expectation for Trinity students to score internships left and right might need to change.

Internships can be crucial to gain experience in a field you might enter after college. They can help you form connections or narrow down what you want your career to look like. However, after half of all internship opportunities in the country were canceled in 2020, according to CNBC, and most of the other half went virtual, the benefits of internships shifted. Especially for jobs that require hands-on work, students were not getting the experience they signed up for. Working from home is now more common, yet the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that online internships are more likely to be unpaid. Not every student can devote 30 hours a week while sustaining themself over a summer break with no compensation. In fact, working for no money or not enough isn’t a problem unique to undergraduate internships.

Nearly 69 million Americans left their jobs in 2021, a mass exodus that has earned the name “The Great Resignation.” According to the Pew Research Center, young adults quit the most often, citing low pay, no opportunities for advancement and a feeling of disrespect in the workplace as the top three reasons. Young people are redefining qualities of the workplace that matter and prioritizing livable pay, healthcare and unoppressive workplace cultures. Students can do the same; sometimes the resume line isn’t worth fighting tooth-and-nail for an internship that might not even include pay.

We can answer the dreaded summer question by accepting that finding an internship that provides compensation and useful experience is awesome if it happens. The stress of waiting on 20 applications to turn around wouldn’t be so suffocating if we change the expectation that every successful student must hold at least one internship in college. Working other jobs unrelated to your major are still extremely valuable and often fun to have over the summer. It’s time for a shift in perspective. Instead of asking, “what will you be doing this summer?” with internships in mind, let’s consider how opportunities outside of internships can be just as valuable and enriching.