Internships are inevitable during your time in college as an undergrad. They are undeniably the holy grail that everyone wants but is extremely hard to come by. Internships are an opportunity for you to apply your newfound knowledge and skills from the classroom out into a real work setting and help you network with other individuals in your intended industry who can provide advice and genuine guidance.
Now hear me out, the experience you gain from an internship -whether it is a good or bad experience- will stick with you forever. Everything you will learn at your internship will ultimately do one of two things for you: teach you the formalities of how to be successful in the industry you want to go into or it will teach you what to do differently because the environment you were placed in wasn't your ideal cup of tea.
Whatever the reason may be, the era of "just doing it for the experience" needs to come to an end. According to NACE, they founded that the percentage of students accepting unpaid internships fell from 50% to 43% in 2017 -a trend that should continue to decrease. In today's society, accepting an internship "just for the experience" and hoping to get your foot in the door in the industry by networking just isn't enough anymore. The model of internships needs to be reformed to always include an incentive such as payment, reduced tuition, or class credit.
Applying for an internship is already a daunting process, but the process that follows after once accepting an unpaid internship can cause even more anxiety. Someone out there is going to argue with the fact that I don't have to accept the unpaid internship and someone else who is more willing to accept not being paid would be more than happy to take it, but that is just a weak argument. I interviewed for the position, someone in my intended industry saw potential in me, and I deserve the position just as much as I deserve to be compensated for it.
Unpaid internships can be infamously labeled as "free labor" and to be quite frank, that is exactly what it is. Granted, most universities offer the opportunity to take an internship as a class credit, but through what subjective criteria? All internships that are applicable to our intended degree should qualify for credit.
Additionally, those who post positions for unpaid internships need to factor in the idea that my time is equally as valuable as theirs. I could have taken more classes that were beneficial for my career. I could have applied for a full-time job that would help ease my financial burden of being a broke college student. I could have more free time for myself (because we all know nobody gets enough of that). Except, I yearned to be a part of something bigger and took a leap of faith by taking an unpaid internship all for the "experience."
Industries need to respect interns as much as interns respect them, they owe that to us.