The Internship Dilemma

By Maggie Connolly ‘21
Staff Writer

A fifth summer of lifeguarding at a neighborhood pool. No business casual involved, getting paid, and getting a tan? Sure, sign me up!

Getting paid just over Indiana’s measly minimum wage? Adding another year of hometown lifeguarding instead of a viable internship to my resume? No thanks.

I constantly say I need to get a real job for the approaching summer. A real job with an office, a dress code that does not involve a bathing suit and a whistle. A real job, preferably in a city like New York or Boston, not Muncie, Indiana. In those places, I have to pay for rent. In those jobs, I am lucky if I get a salary or a stipend.

This is all part of a larger issue. Entry-level internships are accessible to a very specific population. Students have to live in the right place if they want to commute to work. It is best if you are located in a suburb of Boston or a town that is a short train ride away from New York City. My city does not really cut it. Chicago is close by, but not a short enough distance to commute. Indianapolis? Maybe, but the pathway to post-grad success lies in the east coast hubs.

So, who gets these positions? Who is filtered directly into internships with great return offers, boosting resume additions and adding a reference or two while they are at it? It is most often students with a socio-economic status where they can afford to commute or pay for an expensive apartment on little-to-no salary and tend to live in areas that lend themselves to wealthier populations, like well-to-do suburbs and small towns with well-funded public school systems. There are always exceptions, but oftentimes these exceptions are anomalies to the larger world of undergrad interns.

Think about who is even applying to these internships in the first place—students at higher-education institutions with great alumni networks, schools like Holy Cross. Schools with structural barriers to attendance, like Holy Cross’s recent disposal of need-blind admissions, attract a certain demographic to these institutions. Again, there are always exceptions, and Holy Cross remains a need-based financial aid and test-optional institution. These policies, among others, helps dissipate other structural barriers to entry.

All of this is to say that there is a clear path to internships and success in the post-grad workforce. I may have spent my summer lifeguarding while many of my friends and peers were working in a more traditional office setting, but I will still be able to get an internship and have access to the Crusader Internship Fund and Holy Cross’s comprehensive alumni network.

Living far away from the internship hubs of the United States is only one barrier in a world with many, much larger barriers, barriers that are incredibly difficult to recognize when you are benefitting from the structure of this institutional system.

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