Buying internships: Trend on the rise

Matthew DeLuca

February 7, 2008

As students work to maintain solid GPAs and stay involved in extracurricular activities, some, especially juniors and seniors, are also searching for worthwhile summer internships.

Some students choose to utilize the Boston College Career Center’s free services, like resume critiques, mock interviews, and the internship databases. Others may opt to conduct the search on their own. A smaller student population, however, may choose to pay independent companies to secure internships for them.

As reported in the Dec. 26 issue of Newsweek, a new trend has gained momentum in the internship industry – families hiring independent companies to secure internships for their children. Companies like the University of Dreams charge anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000 for their services.

It may seem worth it to some, since the University of Dream’s Web site reports that in their seven years running, 99 percent of enrolled participants have been successfully placed in an internship in the field of their choice. Whether in New York, San Francisco, or Costa Rica, the University of Dreams promises to take care of room, board, and transportation for the student while interning, as well as a professionally revised resume and interview coaching.

To be eligible, a student must have a GPA of 2.5 or higher, be at least 18 years old, and be enrolled full-time in either a four-year university or a foreign equivalent.

Despite the perks of hiring a company like University of Dreams, most students opt to search for an internship on their own, a far less expensive alternative. “That’s a lot of money [to pay for an internship]. I’d prefer to use other connections and earn my spot at the top,” said Christie Hegermiller, an environmental geosciences major and A&S ’11.

Hegermiller has two internships planned for the upcoming summer, one at the New York State Department of Environmental conversation, and the other as a field researcher with a professor at Hofstra University.

Hegermiller secured these internships without the help of an outside company like the University of Dreams.

Annie Filer, a political science major and A&S ’09, doesn’t consider the services offered by a company like the University of Dreams to be critical for certain students. “Internships for what I’m interested in are not as competitive as internships that are critical for the future careers for students of other majors, like CSOM students,” Filer said. Filer is an intern at the Massachusetts Democratic Party.

Theresa Harrigan, director of the BC Career Center, recommends networking and using the Career Center’s resources as an alternative to using a company like the University of Dreams when looking for an internship.

“We [at the Career Center] would never recommend that a student pay to get an internship. Before there is an assumption that it’s difficult to get an internship, students should check out our internship listings,” Harrigan said. BC is part of two consortia with other schools across the nation, EagleLink and the University Career Action Network (UCAN).

In addition to these databases, BC has contact information for companies to help students make valuable connections. “Check out what you can get from us before you start spending thousands of dollars through other companies,” Harrigan said.

BC recently hosted an internship fair where students were invited to meet representatives from companies looking for interns. The Career Center also offers drop-in appointments to the internship office Monday through Friday from 1 to 4 p.m. During the 20-minute appointment, students are shown how to use the internship listings and other resources.

For students looking for internships in cities outside of Boston, the Career Center offers a program called Career Search, an internship database organized geographically.

BC also has an alumni career network with a group of BC graduates willing to help undergraduates as well as other alumni find jobs. Harrigan described these alumni as “internal advocates” in some companies, making sure that certain resumes get in front of the right person.

Although internship hopefuls still utilize the formal application procedures, Harrigan described this type of networking as a “very strong, positive, and proactive way to find jobs and internships after graduation.”

Similar to the competitiveness students feel when searching for internships is the pressure students feel when confronted with the college admissions process. Most students use the college counseling services at their high schools. Others turn to outside counselors or companies for help in mastering the college admissions game. One such consulting service is Ivy Coach.

On the Web site www.theivycoach.com, Ivy Coach is advertised as “an independent college admissions consulting practice committed to helping students gain admission to boarding/prep schools, colleges and universities, or graduate schools.” An impressive statistic is prominently displayed at the top of the page: In the last 15 years, 100 percent of students counseled by Ivy Coach were accepted to one of their top three choices, and 93 percent were accepted to their first choice.

The price tag for the consulting service was not listed on the page, although 10-, 20-, and unlimited-hours packages were advertised. BC, among universities like MIT and Duke, was listed as one of the colleges to which Ivy Coach’s students have been admitted in the last five years.