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Don’t pay-to-play for internships

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | FEBRUARY 27, 2009 7:30 AM

As the summer months approach, many UI students are faced with a difficult decision on how to efficiently use their summer vacation. While some students are happy with returning to their high school jobs, others seek out internships for academic credit and practical work experience. Finding the right internship can be an onerous task; even after jumping through all of the application hoops a student may not be selected for the position. Enter the University of Dreams.

The University of Dreams program strives to provide students with a guaranteed internship in one of the world’s major cities. According to its website, the all-inclusive seminar and internship-placement program offers connections with “more than 750 companies and has successfully placed students in more than 20 industries.” The pitch is certainly enticing, so what’s the catch? An unpaid internship through University of Dreams will cost you between $6,000 and $9,000, depending on where you want to work. By selling internships to the highest bidder, the University of Dreams undermines the foundation of the internship market.

Internships are designed to provide students with “real world” experience. Most students earn academic credit and thus, are not paid for their work. The companies get free work, and the students earn bullet points on their résumés. The key word is “earns.”

Internships, like scholarships, should go to the most qualified and most deserving candidates. The University of Dreams turns a meritocracy into a lesson on cutthroat capitalism.

Its website states a student must hold a GPA of 2.5 or higher and be between the ages of 18-26 to be eligible for the program. Of course, the applicants must also have the ability to pay to play as well. What about the 27-year-old nontraditional students with 3.8 GPAs? According to the University of Dreams, they aren’t qualified.

The biggest loser is the average student who is paying her way through college with two jobs and still maintains a GPA of 3.8. That hard work is undercut by the kid next to her in class who cheats off her during a pop quiz and whose parents have the money to buy their son’s way into a Fortune 500 company.

The University of Dreams program may offer experience and seminars on how to network, but is that experience going to impress a future employer when the interviewee has to explain all it took to get the internship was the enough cash? Employers want to know that they are hiring a qualified and hard-working individual; a beneficiary of a silver-spoon program could find future employers are reluctant about viewing such a résumé as legitimate.

If students are having trouble finding jobs or want more information on how to seek internships, they should go to the Pomerantz Center and speak with Career Services. They can save the $7,500 they would have spent on the University of Dreams program for a down payment on a house and use the free advice from the Career Center to actually earn internships instead of taking advantage of affirmative action for the rich.


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