Go to see Jay Leno, David Letterman, or Conan O’Brien live every single day instead of going to class? Get real! Literally. Whether it’s manning the set with Letterman and his nightly team of A-list celebrities or spending your summer teaching English in Hong Kong, students everywhere are finding that the classroom is only the beginning of a true education. To get firsthand, real-world experience, you’ve got to move into the realm of working professionals. College internships, externships, and apprenticeships are designed to introduce you to a certain career path and give you a taste of what post-graduate life is all about.
What You Give
Time, energy, thought, blood, sweat, and occasionally tears. Though college internships, externships and apprenticeships each have slightly different stipulations in terms of program length, compensation, and work expectations, all operate by the same general guidelines. Students act like a cross between pupils and employees, giving free or low-cost labor in exchange for being “taught the ropes.” This is where those hours of pouring over textbooks and lab reports will pay off. Students work, and sometimes live, in their job for a given time (anywhere from two weeks to a full year) and in turn receive an insider look at what exactly a real job in your major entails.
What You Get
Experience, an enviable résumé, professional contacts and references, college credit, and sometimes a marginal income. Don’t think that all that hard work is for naught. Successful college internships and set you up for a future in the field you want—not to mention putting you one step closer to your degree.
Upon graduation, those who have completed a work-placement program are more qualified, more experienced, and more connected than those who have not. The first step is finding an opportunity that fits your experience and requirements. Web sites such as The Princeton Review allow you to search for a comprehensive list of college student internships to give you an idea of what national programs are available, and your school’s Student Affairs Office or Service Learning Department can tell you about what’s available locally.