Internships: Valuable, but they must stem from real interest

In today’s fast-paced academic world, it is difficult for students to incorporate what they learn into their daily lives. School can be a place of theory with little focus on practical and applied knowledge. While school provides important knowledge, the bridge between information and real-life experiences can be spanned by internships. Internships can provide tangible work experience while incorporating much of the material students learn in their classes.

  Internships are professional learning experiences that offer practical work related to a student’s career interest. They are powerful experiences for students developing career interests but must be approached from a place of passion and interest.  

From the CHAMPS program at UCSF Benioff  Children’s Hospital to biotech work at Bayer, internships have become more widespread and accessible in certain Berkeley High School classes. “As the internship slots open, we start hearing about them in real-time,” said BHS junior Ori Boozaglo. Boozaglo is currently in her first of two years of Biotechnology and recently finished her internship applications for the coming summer.  “Having an internship built into a class allows you to have that structure and guidance,” Boozaglo said. “You don’t feel like you’re figuring it out alone.” 

Internships provide students with a tangible connection to employment opportunities. While working, students gain a sense of what an actual job may feel like. “It’s a perfect way to get work experience and get paid,” Boozaglo said, “(The internship) is ideally in a field that interests you and you get to learn outside the classroom.”

Students are not only introduced to a job, they are also more likely to receive job offers in the future. A 2019 study from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that 70 percent of interns go on to receive job offers from their employers. While student interns are usually not in a position to accept a job offer, they are making themselves known to future employers. In addition, interns who become employees are retained at higher rates than other hires. 75.5 percent are still with the organization compared to 51.5 percent of other employees. 

Employers also recognize the value of internships. A January 2023 NACE poll found that 80 percent of employers agreed that internships are the best return on investment for their organizations.  Essentially, the majority of employers see internships as a way to find highly motivated employees who will help the company in the long run. This creates a symbiotic relationship. Students receive valuable learning experiences that can lead to jobs, while employers benefit from the talent of students.

Many students are motivated to seek out internships because of these clear academic and career-related benefits. This can turn internships into tools rather than experiences. While internships can help in college admission, they should also come from a place of passion and interest. 

“People can tell if the intern wants to be there or not,” Boozaglo emphasized.  “There’s something to be said about your passion and dedication. You need that to enjoy it. It makes sense that people use internships to better their chances of getting into certain colleges. I think you can have an internship you are passionate about that will also help you in your applications. That balance can definitely exist,” she said.

It’s a tricky balance to achieve, but an internship can be a prized experience: A passionate project and an academic achievement.