Can I file that?

Internships. Apparently, to obtain an internship at some high profile company, from Vogue magazine to the Deloitte accounting firm to Merck Pharmaceuticals, is meant to be the aspiration of all college students. Career counselors and professors are constantly touting the benefits of such internships. After all, getting a job is all about who you know not what you know, and internships are a great way to network.

But from a college student’s perspective, they’re also a great way to spend the summer doing menial labor. If there is compensation, it usually comes in the form of lowly wages or free elective credits. For those who are lucky enough to find a reasonably-paid internship, much of the work consists of doing nothing but filing, making copies and doing whatever little jobs your boss doesn’t want to do.

Some internships are incredibly worthwhile, and the students who work at these internships (and make no mistake, it is “work”) gain valuable experience in their potential career fields and knowledge of how companies operate. For instance, many accounting students take a semester off to intern at a company, where they are often paid a decent salary and actually do the work a full-time employed accountant would do. If, after the internship is over, the firm decides it liked the student’s work, it would offer him/her a job post-graduation. This can be a great opportunity.

Still, to reverse an old saying, there’s always a cloud to this silver lining. Oftentimes, these students lucky enough to obtain job security (if such a thing even exists) work 80-hour weeks, putting in overtime and going in on weekends. While it may be selfish and naive to say this, shouldn’t college students enjoy the little time they have left before they have to join this workforce? Eighty-hour weeks are for working professionals (and sometimes not even then), not college students.

The same sentiment can be applied to all internships, particularly summer ones; who wants to spend their “break” working all day? Students often return home for the summer, far from where they intend to work after graduation. So what sense does it make to network with people there? At the same time, it is expensive to live in New York City or Washington, D.C. simply to intern there for a summer, especially with subsidies from these internships for living expenses being so low or even non-existent.

It seems that college students often apply for internships simply for something to put on their résumés. (After all, Starbucks “intern” looks a lot better than Starbucks “barista.”) They may not even be that interested in the company, but it might look good to future employers. But why should students spend their last few summers of freedom stuck inside an office, trying not to get caught by their bosses surfing the Internet?