The Basics

Interning On A Modest Budget

So you've decided that this summer is the time to get a jumpstart on your career. A worthy investment, of course, but investment may just be the key word. Paid summer internships for college students are less common than unpaid summer internships. Some internship programs come only with the perks of a fabulous entry on your resume, great references and networking, and enlightenment in the matters of career choice and opportunities. It's totally worth it, but your investment of time and the allocation of funds need to be addressed before you start the application process to become a summer intern. And once the finances have been addressed you will be free to focus on the important stuff—like figuring out your future.

Because it's harder to find paid internships for college students, you may need to budget and search for summer internships as if you expect it to be an unpaid position. The Internship Predictor tool can help you make decisions about the type of internship you might enjoy best, and then you can factor in location, stipend, housing situation, and other parameters. Take all of this information into account, and then get excited about what you can potentially bring to and get from your summer internship program.

If you're hoping to change geographic location for your internship rather than staying close to home, housing is the first financial piece to address. Some internship programs offer housing to students. Sometimes, programs described as paid summer internships for college students may include a stipend for housing and expenses rather than offering some sort of hourly wage. If housing isn't immediately available, then the internship program probably has already developed some financially accessible options. The company knows the finances of the situation, and will have a sensible solution so that a summer intern from out-of-town will be able to focus on doing the job rather than worrying about housing that is too expensive or not readily available.

You can also alleviate some of the housing worry by being smart about choosing the location of your internship. Although New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are the primary metropolitan areas for summer internships in the U.S., there are plenty of other attractive and affordable locations that offer great unpaid and paid internships for college students. You won't always have control over this, but if it works out, try finding an internship that's near where you already live or that's close to family or friends that you could stay with. Also, many universities offer inexpensive housing in dormitories when school is out and they aren't being used by students. What a great way to meet people!

As you start to narrow down your search for a position as a summer intern and go through the application process, a budget is a great and necessary tool for helping narrow down which programs to apply for. It's an exercise you've probably already undertaken, even if you are still a high school student, but if not, now's the time to learn about managing your money. Budget the money you anticipate having, and the amount you will need to live on for a summer (housing, food, transportation, and other expenses). From this you can develop a plan that will allow you to make educated decisions about your financial situation. This step is especially important if you pursue programs that do not offer paid intern positions. If your dream internship doesn't pay, don't disregard it. At this stage in your education and career path, going after the dream is more important than going after the money. Explore other funding options, such as scholarships, family, or a part-time job in addition to your internship. Oftentimes you can negotiate flexible schedules or even a small stipend with your internship program supervisor if necessary.

With an internship, you’ll be gaining hands-on experience, learning about job opportunities, and getting ready for the professional workforce. But your time as an intern can have benefits beyond the office. Planning – and sticking to – a budget for all your expenses is a tremendous life skill to practice. As a student, it’s not always easy to learn how to manage your expenses, so time working an internship job can be the perfect way to develop your budgeting skills.

A summer internship is an investment. It's an investment in your future, your education, and an investment in your growth as a student and future employee. It's worth it to make it work.

Are you ready to get closer to your summer job as an intern? Explore the many internship opportunities available now on Internships.com. Search internship postings by location, company, or keyword. We make it easy to find the internship that will fit your needs perfectly. Take the first step toward developing your real-world skills now!