Just the word “internship” is enough to make Ella Bailey tear up. “I can’t talk to you about that right now,” said the Tufts University sophomore. “Honestly, it’s probably one of the reasons I’ve been breaking down recently.”
Bailey has been searching for a summer internship since December, and has applied to dozens of positions in the political sector. So far, she’s received six rejection letters, and each one has compounded her anxiety. Rarely does a day pass without her spending some time crying in her dorm room.
Bailey’s feelings are extreme, but she is not alone in her suffering. For many college students, the process they undertake to find a summer internship is stressful, strenuous, and filled with apprehension. They spend dozens of hours combing through online job databases like Career Shift and Idealist.org, writing cover letters, perfecting their résumé, networking, and preparing for interviews. The tension seems to peak around February and March, when some students have already secured positions and others are still scrambling to do so.
“A lot of the stress comes from talking to people who already have their summer figured out,” said Bailey’s friend and classmate Mia Kazman. “Every time that I see a deadline that has already passed, I feel like it’s a missed opportunity.”
Fellow Tufts University sophomore Kevin Lustgarten echoed Kazman’s statements. “Everyone else is getting internships, and I feel so much pressure to do the same,” he said.
However, Kazman, as well as and Tufts junior Sean Boyden, note that although the social context of the internship search does contribute to its difficulty, many of the problems students face are much more personal.
“Finding an internship usually brings up a lot of anxiety about the future,” said Boyden. “The search makes people deeply question whether or not they’re actually interested in the major or the field they’re pursuing.”
Kazman had similar thoughts. “Wrapped up in the question of what I’m going to do this summer is the question of what I’m going to do for the rest of my life,” she said. “To feel like I have to answer that question right now is a huge part of what makes this so hard.”