Paying for Experience

A growing number of college students are graduating with one or possibly two internships under their belt. As the employment market becomes increasingly competitive, particularly in this economic environment, students are going to great lengths to gain meaningful experience before they graduate. Aside from the experience, internships provide students the ability to foster all-important relationships and mentoring opportunities which can pay off later in their careers. These and other benefits are so important that many students are paying for the opportunity to gain experience.

This article in the Washington Post provides an overview of the growing number of firms charging students thousands of dollars for an internship opportunity (the cost might also cover housing, meals, career advice, etc.). Ironically, some of these internships are unpaid. You can probably imagine the debate over such pursuits. Many on the career center side suggest this undermines a student’s capacity to develop strong career search skills – the very kind they’ll need later in their careers. Not to mention, career centers already offer these services to students, paid usually through student service fees.  

I’ve been following this trend for a while now. Browsing through a few students’ Facebook pages recently, I found they were very satisfied with the services, especially at a time when organizations are cutting back on their internship opportunities. Others comment that these firms are undermining equal opportunity, especially for students that can’t afford to pay for these services. Are we creating a new class of leaders  – or elites?

 You be the judge.