Interns scrounge for cash

For many Yalies, setting up an internship neither begins with a job application nor ends with a congratulatory call from a supervisor. Before and after they actually obtain positions, students must deal with grant application forms, housing cost assessments and travel arrangements, all in pursuit of an elusive dream: the unpaid internship that doesn’t leave you broke.

A range of grants and fellowships available to students through Yale can help offset the living costs accompanying some unpaid internships, particularly those overseas, and students also often juggle several jobs to avoid racking up debt by the end of the summer. But for those looking to make money or merely break even over the summer, viable internships in industries other than finance or consulting can be hard to find.

At the end of the day, Yale cannot fund every student’s summer, Undergraduate Career Services Director Philip Jones said.

“Internships are not the only priority for [Yale],” Jones said. “Is there money available? Yes, there’s some. Do students need to be creative? Yes. Is it an ideal situation? Of course it’s not.”

Student can face significant financial challenges whether they decide to work in the United States or abroad. Since most students cannot live at home while working internationally, the cost of taking the internship, usually unpaid, is higher. Yale offers fellowships and grants for students in international programs, but the money is often not enough to cover the full cost of living abroad.

Domestic internships, on the other hand, are more likely to pay at least a small stipend. But Yale offers less help in offsetting the costs of these unpaid positions, as the small number of earmarked funds targeted at unpaid domestic internships could stand to be more substantial, Jones said.

For some students, the possibility of using fellowships to meet the costs of an unpaid internship is not enough.

“I can’t afford not to have a paid internship because I can’t afford to find a place to live and to pay for transportation,” Gabriela Bravo-Souza ’10 said. “I understand the value of internships, but if I’m going to do work, I kind of need to get money.”

Most summer internships, especially those in the nonprofit sector, offer either very little compensation or none at all. Not only do many organizations lack the budget to pay interns, company representatives said, but they also do not feel they need to pay in order to attract qualified candidates, as students keep coming in droves.

“As a nonprofit, we feel that our program is competitive enough that we don’t need to offer a stipend,” American Enterprise Institute Internship Coordinator Emily Batman said. The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, which is dedicated to public policy research and education, selects 40 to 50 interns each summer from top colleges and graduate schools around the country, including Yale, Batman said.

But officials at some organizations said paying interns is an appropriate recognition of their efforts. Interns at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., make over $2,600 over the course of the summer, Intern Coordinator Beth Tipps said.

“[We pay them] to thank them for what they’re doing,” Tipps said. “We realize it’s not just free labor, and we want to show them that we appreciate their work here.”

Other companies offer their interns alternative incentives to payment. Koka Consulting, a relatively small company based in New York City, does not pay its interns, but its internships come with the strong possibility of a job offer down the line. About 30 to 40 percent of interns convert to full-paid employees, Koka Consulting Director Andy So said.

But some students cannot wait through an unpaid summer in the hopes of getting a job, and the Undergraduate Organizing Committee is concerned that students on financial aid are forced to choose between taking paid positions or taking out loans, UOC member Phoebe Rounds ’07 said. The UOC wants Yale to decrease the student contribution required for those on financial aid so that students will have more money for unpaid internships, she said.

Many students who need help in turning an unpaid internship into a viable option look to both University-wide fellowships and grants available in individual colleges.

The International Education & Fellowship Program offers several fellowships meant specifically for international internships as well as other grants that fund both internships and activities like travel and research. In addition, the residential colleges each receive between $6,000 and $8,000 each year from the Richter Fund. The master of each college can award stipends of up to $1,000 to several students — usually juniors ­— for independent study and research, which could include an internship.

Some colleges have additional summer grants funded through endowments, most of which are restricted to that particular college and must be used for specific types of research or independent study, Council of Masters chair Judith Krauss said. One significant exception is the Bates grant awarded by Jonathan Edwards College, for which all Yale juniors are eligible.

For those on financial aid, Yale’s two-year-old International Summer Award program provides funding for one summer experience abroad. Students may either pursue research or participate in a Yale-approved program, such as an International Bulldogs program or an academic program like Yale-in-London or Yale Summer Session. In summer 2006, ISA grants were worth $2,350.

Different grants are not mutually exclusive, and students who understand the system can benefit from getting money from more than one source.

Matthew Campbell ’07, who interned at the Financial Times as part of the Bulldogs in London program, received an $800 Richter grant from Calhoun College and a $2,000 grant from the Frank M. Patterson fund through the Political Science Department.

But even multiple grants do not cover the costs of the more expensive unpaid internship experiences, such as those offered through the Bulldogs programs. The least costly International Bulldogs program, in Monterrey, Mexico, is projected to cost $3,550, while the London program costs $7,000 for the summer. Most International Bulldogs internships are unpaid.

Still, Yale graduates say their summer internships were invaluable learning tools, problematic though financing might have been at the time.

To supplement her $1,000 stipend for an internship at the Direct Marketing Association in New York, Jennifer Wong ’04 worked at an Express clothing store and took classes to become a Kaplan test prep teacher.

“I was juggling a lot of stuff, because the internship was pretty much full-time,” Wong said. But she said having had the internship experience helped land her first job out of college, also in marketing.

Kate Crandall ’06, now a sports reporter at the Colorado Springs Gazette, said she did not have any regrets about her unpaid internship at the Baltimore Sun.

“I was put in situations where I had to adapt and learn,” Crandall said. “I got the best sense of the job, and I think that’s why I’m in [journalism] now. They didn’t treat me like a kid.”

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