The widespread internship panic began, for most, in January. Some students bloomed early, securing spots mid-November; others have only just started the annual maneuver through popular job-hunting site, Indeed. The employment discrepancy is glaringly obvious in social circles, not only taking over student free time, but also bleeding into class.
Student performance is markedly strained under Wellesley College’s notorious grade deflation policy. In an uber-competitive classroom environment, intellectual growth is stunted; a poor or middle-class student is made painfully aware of their educational shortcomings in comparison to their Loughlin-like neighbors.
What results is stress culture, a lingering institutional resentment and misplaced focus on behalf of disadvantaged students constantly forced to advocate for themselves.
Wellesley wants its low income students to be grateful for the opportunity to compete for an A with the Bay Area’s best — and this lack of nuance in grading policy is intensely damaging to not only student morale, but the college community as a whole. Add the pursuit of a paid internship to the already-detrimental deflation and the stress of success makes for the perfect storm of overachievement.
Disregarding grade deflation even, internship intensity promotes academic dysfunction. In a liberal arts education, breadth of knowledge is considered the most important; however, in the case of Wellesley, potential capital is valued above all.
Passing a challenging course is more than just out of academic interest at the College; for those fiending for employment, a good grade means remaining in the professor’s good graces (and maintaining that 3.5 resume GPA). The professor’s function is now not to guide the student towards intellectual exploration or identity formation –– it is to provide a hard-hitting rec letter for a student to paste onto a later email.
What resources we do have for the encouragement of internships are limited, especially for low-income students. Wellesley’s Career Education website is impossible to navigate, and meetings with staff are hard to come by with week-long wait times. Internships offered through a Wellesley program are highly specific to those interested in STEM, international relations and economics; while self-identified internships are an option, the college-funded stipend is only given to a select few following a tedious application process.
Some internships offer college credit for their courses, rather than money –– which Wellesley refuses to accept. If a student doesn’t meet the qualifications required for the stipend, their only option is to work for experience. Naturally, this excludes students who simply cannot afford the time.
The push for undergraduate internships is certainly not unique to Wellesley. Students across the nation are desperate to secure a well-paying job out of graduation; sky-rocketing student debts have even more influence than the most demanding parents. However, Wellesley is not just another educational institution. The administration prides itself on supporting its students, providing special care and access and encouraging intellectual development.
If its goals are as philanthropic as it so claims, Wellesley needs to do something about this increasingly capital-obsessed campus. We chose a liberal arts institution for a reason: to learn, and to grow. If a future financial benefit arises from our education, so be it –– but let’s not allow the pursuit of capital affect our educational experience. The college must make it easier to secure internships, either by allowing class credit transfer, giving stipends to more students who request aid or providing a wider variety of opportunities for each area of study.
Institutional change, however, frequently begins with us. While bureaucratic powers may slow the transition from hierarchal internship-getting to a more equitable employment system, it is the student body which is best equipped for revolution. The best way to combat this culture of toxicity is to help fellow sibs who’ve just begun the internship search: nervous first-years and lazy juniors alike. Forward opportunities to your friends. Read over resumes. And, most importantly, add them on LinkedIn.