How to Survive an Unpaid Internship

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Part of my college curriculum was an internship. It was unpaid. Despite the fact that we all knew it was coming at the end of our studies, many of my classmates were unprepared. They couldn’t support themselves without their jobs, which conflicted with the times they would have to be completing their internship. I’ve heard many other millennials complaining about lack of pay at their internships, claiming that the company they are interning with is abusing their work and the fact that it comes free.

There are two simple steps to be able to complete your internship and your studies, and still keep a smile on your face even when you feel like you’re being taken advantage of.

Read the rest of my post on Undergrad Success!

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5 thoughts on “How to Survive an Unpaid Internship

  1. Kate

    There’s definitely some sound advice here. Unpaid internships are sometimes a necessary evil. I’ve had both good experiences and bad, usually while balancing coursework and a work study job that did pay.

    The best unpaid internship I had was at a magazine out of state. They providing housing for interns, at an “intern house” within walking distance to the office. We had to commit to working 30 hours a week for at least three months, so it was not a commitment to be taken lightly. They also provided food, cheap things to do, etc. whenever possible.

    EBT is also something that some students might be eligible for, especially if the internship they have potentially leads to full time employment. Some of my intern roommates took advantage of that so they could eat some decent food during their stay.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Kate, you are an awesome commenter. I’m always so happy when you come around! These are such helpful tips from someone who’s been there…thank you!!

  2. Jessi Fearon (@thebudgetmama)

    I was fortunate enough that my job and school allowed me to do a co-op. It was over 3 semesters but super easy and so worth it! Definitely planning ahead is the key with things like this and I know many schools are starting to require that you have either an internship completed or a study aboard program completed before you can graduate.

  3. Suburbam Finance

    My first internship was unpaid, but it was still in the same city so I could stay at my then current apartment and used my savings to finance my living cost over the summer. My second internship was full time and I was paid. It was pretty nice — I could cover rent and living cost with the money I earned and we sometimes had free lunches.

  4. JeanGalvinNR

    My youngest son’s (required) internship was unpaid as well. It was a painful summer for him, but he’d saved up for it and knew how to live cheaply.

    That internship was an investment in his career though — in a field with a high unemployment rate (recreation management) he had three job offers out of college, largely because of the experience gleaned during the internship.

    Would I rather he’d found a paid internship? Yes, IF it had the same high-quality experience. I think it’s a matter of deciding if you’re going to get experience that will truly be valuable to your future career.

    Great article!


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