Setting Your Own Pace in the Internship Race

Dealing with the pressures and obstacles of internship culture at Fordham is no easy task


College is meant to be a time for growth and exploration. However, Fordham’s internship culture has turned it into a race to the finish line. 

On my tour of Fordham University as a junior in high school, one of the first things mentioned by my tour guide was that 89% of Fordham students have at least one internship before they graduate. I vividly remember my mom, who was on tour with me, looking over and giving me two big thumbs up and a smile. 

For many people, including myself at the time, one of Fordham’s greatest appeals is its focus on students getting work experience prior to graduation. The university advertises its strong alumni network and Handshake access to current and prospective students. As a student at the Gabelli School of Business, I receive about 10 emails per week from the school’s Personal and Professional Development Center (PPD) telling me about new networking opportunities and panels I can sign up for in order to meet others in my field of interest and gain valuable work experience. 

Within my first week at Fordham, I scheduled an appointment with PPD, because I felt like I was already falling behind in my search for an internship. I was immediately bombarded with documents explaining how to write a cover letter and perfect my resume — even as I was still getting lost in the Lowenstein Center.

I have noticed that there is an expectation among both staff and students that the main goal of each person’s college experience is to get an internship, or maybe even a few. While this is an admirable accomplishment, it is simply not feasible for many students, and it’s not even on the radar for others. It is more difficult for students who do not have the established network necessary to get an interview, as they have no family or friends to welcome them into their prospective field. Others do not have the time to pursue an internship on top of their other personal responsibilities, especially if the internship is unpaid. 

I was immediately bombarded with documents explaining how to write a cover letter and perfect my resume — even as I was still getting lost in the Lowenstein Center.

Further, the emphasis on obtaining an internship as early as my first year created a toxic environment among students who had not yet met one another but were already competing for the same positions. While learning about the business world for the first time, I felt pressured to select a career path and pursue an internship immediately. Coming out of high school and straight into searching for work in the corporate world was an overwhelming jump. It felt as though everyone was somehow ahead of me and that the only way I would ever be successful was if I found an internship for the summer after my first year of college. 

Rather than focusing on my coursework, I put my time and energy into applying to internships and scouring Handshake for anything that looked remotely interesting. This turned out to be extremely counterproductive, as most employers do not hire first-year students. However, the more practitioner panel discussions I attended at Fordham, the more the importance of getting an internship was ingrained in me. This mentality — combined with being surrounded by people who are constantly striving to be their best — makes it difficult to construct your own path.

Fordham is a school filled with extremely talented and smart people who have ambitious goals and aspirations, which is part of why the university is so prestigious. Company representatives specifically come to Fordham in order to recruit students for their expertise; however, this should not be the main focus of each student’s time while at Fordham. Although it is hard to ignore talk about internships, it is important not to get too caught up in what can quickly become an extremely stressful culture, especially if you are only beginning your college career. Your time will come!

Rather than investing energy into getting an internship just to get one, it is more important to spend time discovering yourself. Making connections, joining clubs, participating in school events and discovering hobbies are just as important. When the time comes to get an internship, you will know more about your own interests, so you won’t be blindly searching for any available opportunities like I was. You’ll also know your strengths and weaknesses, and you’ll be able to get more useful hands-on experience.

Everything comes in due time. Letting toxic internship culture stress you out when you still haven’t completed your faith and critical reasoning requirement will not get you a job any sooner. By taking small steps toward big goals, you will thank yourself in the future for getting from point A to point B without burning out. Having or not having an internship does not highlight nor diminish your accomplishments. While Fordham’s internship statistics are impressive, students are not numbers, and this should be taken into consideration when setting expectations.

All in all, my advice to anyone who has been consumed by the internship hustle at Fordham is to focus on yourself and set your own pace. It is easy to become wrapped up in what others are doing and much more difficult to take an introspective look at yourself. 

If you do not get an internship, it is not the end of the world. If you get an internship, I congratulate you, but remember: Having a job is not a defining factor in anyone’s worth. Continue to work hard, and your results will reflect your effort. An internship is not a measure of success — it is simply a new learning experience.