Student Internships: Alive but Ailing During the Pandemic

Search bar containing "internship...?"
ResearchStudent Success
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Janet Mizrahi is a continuing lecturer of professional writing at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is also an author at BizCommBuzz.


As if our students don’t have enough to contend with, many of them who were counting on internships during spring and summer are being met with shut doors. While colleges across the country have sent their students home, businesses and organizations that had hired student interns have followed suit.

Planned Internships are Being Affected

Yelp and the NIH completely canceled their summer internship programs. Over 2000 Disney interns working in Anaheim and Florida were given one week to vacate. Google told its summer interns they can still work—but online. And even as Congress was working overtime to pass the stimulus package, noticeably absent from the fray were the interns who had landed a coveted Capitol Hill internship.

Shifting to Remote Internships to Keep Them Intact

The news is not all bleak, though. The cybersecurity firm Cloudflare is reportedly doubling its number of internships, and many students have found that supervisors are willing to conduct internships online. (Such is the case for many of my own students, who need an internship to graduate with their minor in Professional Writing.) Some wealth managers plan to honor their commitments to interns, too, seeing the situation as an opportunity to train advisors to work remotely with people who, like interns, require supervision.

Exploring Other Ways to Build Real-World Skills

In recent years, internships have become an integral part of job preparation for college students and graduates, offering real-life experience in the workplace to complement years of study in the classroom. Internships also provide a chance to develop networks, learn the dos and don’ts of workplace behavior, and discover whether a field is a good fit. So, for the many students who spent untold hours researching, applying to, and landing an internship to beef up their resumes, the loss of this opportunity is a serious blow.

A recent Forbes article provides advice for students whose internships may be on the chopping block.

  • Explore the possibility of working remotely. Students who have landed an internship should contact their supervisors about the feasibility of continuing the position in some alternate fashion. Some companies may have projects for interns to work on such as conducting data analyses, literature reviews, survey creation, or data input. Likewise, companies may need interns to develop social media to connect with clients and keep branding fresh.
  • Start their own project. Now could be a great time for students to identify holes in the market and fill them. In my own hometown of Santa Barbara, a group of local students started a non-profit called Zoomers to Boomers, who do grocery shopping and deliveries to older citizens who are avoiding going out.
  • Volunteer. Local food pantries, shelters, or even the elderly couple down the street may need help. While taking care to maintain social distancing, students can give back to their communities and take away valuable learning experiences by doing so.

Students should make sure that unpaid internships adhere to Department of Labor rules. If they want to earn college credit for an internship, they should always talk to a campus advisor to make sure they complete the necessary requirements.

To explore another unfortunate byproduct of the current pandemic, read my post on Xenophobia.