We’re almost there, folks. With just one week of classes left, we are all feeling the final rush to complete assignments, attend final club events and start preparing for finals. Simultaneously, we are stressed about confirming our summer internships and jobs (or post-graduation plans).
As the overachievers we all are, many students seek out prestigious internships or other exciting jobs with organizations and industry leaders across the country. However, many internships open to college students capitalize on our desire for experience and only offer unpaid positions. While some people may be able to receive financial support from their parents, the rest of us are faced with a great opportunity but an inability to pay rent, buy groceries and generally sustain ourselves for four months. That is, unless we take up another job in the evenings or weekends.
Summer internships—in the real world—are arguably one of the best parts of college; we get to apply our education in a way that matters and brings us joy. However, these opportunities can quickly become chores if we’re having to work one, two or even three other jobs to compensate.
Fortunately, there are summer funding options for undergraduate students. Most prominent among these is Support of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors (SOURCE) funding, which has separate programs based on your degree. There are also separate grants within schools, for example, Humanities@Work, for students in the Baker-Nord Center for Humanities, and within departments, such as the Reisacher Summer Fellowship in religious studies.
These all help low- and middle-income students afford to work unpaid summer internships. However, the money itself does not sufficiently address the problem. The timeline of the application is also crucial. Both of these funding programs—as well as many within distinct departments—do not notify recipients until two weeks (or less) before the end of the semester.
Unless you have lenient internships, or a preexisting relationship with the employer, organizations want to determine their roster much sooner than three weeks before you start working. Moreover, this timeline can cause great stress to students, especially those not, or only marginally, being financially supported by their parents. If students don’t receive their summer funding, they are left with two options: work one or two other jobs in the evenings and weekends, risking quick burnout, or scramble to find another position.
In an ideal world, we all have summer internships that relate to our interests and future goals. College is an excellent time for networking and determining how we want to make an impact. Unfortunately, without the financial means to do so, we are left making coffee or bagging groceries for the summer.
There seems to be an easy fix to this dilemma. SOURCE, as the leading summer funding program, could spearhead an initiative to move summer funding application deadlines and interviews earlier in the semester. The deans of each college can follow suit by clearly establishing a timeline that all summer grants should follow.
As it currently stands, most applications are due between March and April, which puts the interview period as sometime in April or May. We quickly see why students are not being notified of the search committee’s decision until mid-May. Instead, across campus, we should move to shift the entire timeline up at least one month. This would essentially double the amount of time students have to find new positions.
The university’s responsibility is to not only educate us in our respective disciplines, but also prepare us for the future. There are many lessons that can only be learned in the workplace, including whether we’ve actually picked the right career path. As such, Case Western Reserve University should push forward and standardize the timeline for summer funding decisions to ensure students, especially those of low and middle income, don’t have to deny themselves an incredible opportunity because of bureaucratic complications.