COVID-19 Puts Hold on Students’ Futures as Summer Internships Get Canceled

COVID-19 related budget cuts have resulted in the shut down of nearly all businesses leaving 22 million people temporarily out of work and canceling about one million internship opportunities for students, according to a group estimate by Pay Our Interns.

Willson participating in a conference
Photo by Laura Willson

“I got rejected from the Whitney Museum, and the Guggenheim and the MoMA can’t move forward with the application process since the summer internship program was canceled,” said senior Laura Willson, a studio art major. “It feels like it will be harder to find internships or even have the confidence to apply because we are unsure how much longer this quarantine will last.”

College graduates are being forced to recalculate their futures as they graduate into a recession without work experience. With the coronavirus outbreak, there is a greater chance of coming to a global depression which would greatly affect the financial markets. Consequently, this would put at risk all summer internships and full-time jobs for the rest of the year, according to the financial magazine Mergers and Inquisitions.

“It has definitely become harder to apply to internships since I’m already taking into account that most of these companies are already letting people go because of the virus,” said Jhoy Saca, an emerging media student.

Internships provide work experience and set students up to thrive in post-college work. However, this pandemic could jeopardize the future of college students as a 2017 study from Gallup said that those who have had experience and relevant internships are twice as likely to find a job after graduation.

“I was looking into applying for hospital volunteering positions because I wanted to work with patients,” said Shazia Peters-Steele, a senior in Hunter’s public health program. “I was looking into Mount Sinai and New York-Presbyterian Children’s Hospital but once my friends who had volunteering positions there were told they can no longer go in, I had to reevaluate my plans.”

In response, Hunter College’s Career Development Services offer students a virtual interview module allowing them to follow a checklist of recommendations when preparing for internships during COVID-19.

“It’s important to remember that the present situation is a temporary one,” said Paula Wicklow, internship coordinator at Hunter College. “Although there will continue to be remote internships, I believe most will return to in-person and on-site opportunities once the health crisis has passed.”

The guidelines on the CareerHunter website are specifically set up for the students presented with the new challenge of applying to internships during COVID-19. Prior to this, students like Saca looked forward to the Career Fair to help them narrow down which internship they would benefit from the most.

“I’m looking to apply to summer internships and was planning on going to the career fair, but it was canceled before I got the chance to go,” said Saca. “If I can’t get an internship or job in my field, I’ll most likely go back to lifeguarding again so I’m not left out without a job.”

Bar graph showing the amount of graduates who are in jobs related to their undergraduate studies.
A bar graph showing the amount of graduates who are in jobs related to their undergraduate studies.
Photo by Gallup-Purdue

With the demise of in-person advising, community events and internships being canceled, students, like Saca, could have to resort to taking jobs unrelated to what they’ve studied. However, internship advisors are supplementing students with online workshops to review and practice skills for remote internships, and even host a virtual career fair.

Large corporations are going through a lull period as they finish out spring internships and decide what to do about summer internships, so “for now the best advice I can give is to bone-up on additional skills that you may need for remote internships,” said David Pavlosky, a film and media internship advisor.

To better prepare his media students for remote internships, Pavlosky advises his students to participate in free online tech workshops like Adobe After Effects, Adobe Photoshop, and Animated Photoshop to improve their tech skills and feel more confident in their work.

“I’m fortunate enough to work from home in my current internship, so I’m using this experience to hone in on my tech and time management skills to make sure I complete tasks on time,” said Willson, the art major. “As easy as it sounds to work from home, it can be difficult to stay on top of all my assignments.”

Some days, Willson feels “stuck.”

“But I know every day is a new day and there is always something to look forward to, so I’m trying to take it one day at a time,” she says.

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