Last-minute internships stumbling blocks for seniors


by Robert Lyons, reporter

Internships are an integral part of the college experience and can be a prerequisite for graduation in certain areas of study. However, for some students, planning for and securing an internship can take a back seat to the more immediate concerns in academic and social lives.

This may not be the best way to go about things and it can often lead to last minute, last ditch efforts at getting required internships.

“I see students trying to get that last minute internship more often than I would like,” Bobbi Meyer, Simpson College’s Internship Coordinator and director of CVIL, said. “I think it comes up for a student who realizes they have to have [an internship] before graduation and they’ve just been busy with other things so they realize last minute, ‘Shoot! I’m supposed to have an internship next semester to graduate!’”

Many majors at Simpson require internships for graduation such as public relations, sports administration and criminal justice. Students from these majors are who Meyer often works with in the process of obtaining internships.

Yet, the area of study in which students spend the most time working with Meyer to get internships is in the sports sciences.

“The bulk of the students I work with in [getting internships] fall within the sports sciences because they have an expectation that they have two experiential opportunities,” Meyer said. “I spend a good chunk of time working to prepare those students.”

Ryan Lamb, a senior exercise science major, is one of those sports science students who worked with Meyer to secure an internship for spring 2015. Lamb was able to secure a position as a physical therapy intern at the Iowa Clinic, but not without great stress.

“The physical therapy field is highly competitive, so I applied for various internships throughout the latter half of the first semester,” Lamb said. “But many places already had positions filled.”

Lamb was given an opportunity to secure an internship at the Iowa Clinic. A combination of anxiety, nervousness and uncertainty played a role in Lamb accepting the Iowa Clinic offer before hearing back from the other places he had applied.

Lamb advises that students not wait too long or put off addressing the internship requirement of their majors.

“I would say that the process of getting an internship would have been easier had I not procrastinated so long,” Lamb said. “Students need to be proactive and go out six months or even a whole year ahead to start searching and applying for internships.”

Meyer counsels those who are seeking internships to become acquainted with their future industry’s norms and expectations.

“I would get to know your industry and… the timelines for that industry,” Meyer said. “For example, if I am an actuary student and I want a summer internship, I should be looking in August or September because they recruit so early.”

Sometimes starting the internship search process earlier is not always a guarantee of flawless success. Jamie Vis, a senior education major, endured a rather stressful ordeal with her, eventually accepted, application to the Science Center of Iowa.

“I started applying for spring internships back in November. The Science Center contacted me soon after and I interviewed with them the first week of December,” Vis said. “The interview went great… but I didn’t hear back from [them] until the first week of January.”

“I hadn’t applied to any others so I thought I was out of luck if this one didn’t follow through. My stress level was definitely high,” Vis said. “I was thinking things like I might not be able to graduate on time or I’d be stuck with a last minute internship I didn’t have much interest in.”

While Vis did eventually get her internship with the Science Center, she encourages others to begin searching for internships even earlier than she did.

“Even in November, a lot of the places I contacted before the Science Center were already filled for the spring,” Vis said. “I think if I would have waited longer it would have been extremely difficult to get an internship, especially one that I would enjoy doing.”

While Meyer emphasizes that her office, with its community partners and extensive alumni network, can find internships for students in emergency, last-minute situations, she warns that the internship experience may be less than what the student hoped for.

“Give yourself 6 months at least, unless you’re in one of those more competitive industries. When you do wait until the last minute, we are sometimes stuck with whatever we can wrangle up,” Meyer said. “That’s far from the quality experience that I think the student is hoping for.”

Both Vis and Lamb emphasized the importance of using CareerPaths (Simpson’s online internship portal), keeping your resume and interview skills up-to-date and using resources such as Meyer for assistance.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help because there are many people out there who are more than willing to help students out,” Lamb said. “Always plan ahead for the short and long-term future.”