The pressure to get ahead and prepare yourself for graduation is something that every student faces and feels obligated to succumb to in order to succeed.
“You should be applying to internships now — otherwise, you’re not going to find anything later,” my sister said to me. “If you apply enough, you should know that you’re going to get one for sure.”
It was November when she first gave me this piece of advice about getting a summer internship. I did see some opening up, but many weren’t.
“What does that even mean? How do I know if I apply to enough internships? I have a list of ones that I am going to apply to. Should I be applying to more?”
As many college students know, internships are always extremely competitive. That season leading up to summer, I applied to an absurd amount of schools, did interviews and got denied from all of them. Ultimately, the idea of needing an internship in order to gain experience and succeed isn’t a burden that should be on college students’ shoulders.
Being successful isn’t guaranteed, but by holding onto this premeditated notion of success and pressuring ourselves in this way, we are really setting ourselves up for failure when we graduate from college.
Someone with an on-campus job related to their field, internships every summer and an amazing grade point average will still probably have a hard time finding a job as soon as they graduate from college. It takes students an average of three to six months to get a job after graduating, but that still depends on many different factors, with the biggest being what they chose to study.
Students are expected to have everything figured out and planned by the time they get out of college. Even if they aren’t completing internships and are just relaxing, that doesn’t relieve them from the pressure to do so. It’s found everywhere they turn, from seeing University-organizations like the Fleishman Center and Harpur Edge sending out internship resources to family members asking about what internships or jobs they are applying to. I understand that these organizations and families want the best for students, but they are unknowingly forcing standards onto them that we never asked for.
Pursuing an internship is tempting, given that it provides students with experience in a career they hope to have and even a set-up in the future. But these internships often do not give the interns enough compensation, and students have to go through extremely competitive and stressful processes in order to get them. Internships are kind of battle royales — you want them because they will make you better, but they are inherently awful.
I understand how, especially in humanities-focused areas of study, it’s good to have previous experience, but a lack of experience also doesn’t mean that someone is incapable of doing a certain job. Having the capability to do a job is very different from someone thinking that they are up for the position. There are even so many job postings now that say that they “prefer” certain degrees, but that might not even be true depending on the job posting.
I have always felt pressured to go above and beyond with my experiences and skill set to prepare myself for graduation. I am struggling with the idea that this experience might not lead anywhere and that I might be doing all of this for nothing. I mostly feel this pressure because of my competitive major, and I was led to think that even the smallest experience may set me apart from other people. People can be successful with or without those kinds of experiences.
What may set students apart more than their experiences is what they are actually capable of doing and how well they know the material in their courses. For example, an English student may want to practice writing rather than take an internship, or an engineering student may want to go out of their way to research formulas and why specific things are the way they are outside of class.
To expand on their own experiences, students can talk to people in fields they want, look more in-depth at what they are learning in classes — especially if that class has to do with a career they want — and look for other experiences that they can pursue that aren’t internships. For experiences, it’s hard to give specifics because that depends on a person’s major and career path, but even narrowing it down for yourself could be helpful in the future.
Students don’t think of different types of experiences because the sole path of internships and networking is so ingrained in our heads. However, differing experiences, even if they aren’t standard, can still help you achieve your goals in the future.
Sydney Lee is a sophomore majoring in English.