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I Didn’t Get the Summer Internship. Now What?

Life in college is stressful enough with the balancing of classes, tuition, friendships as well as physical/mental health remaining an ever-constant struggle for the average young adult. Worse yet, however, may be the pressure to always be ‘on,’ especially during our presupposed time off between semesters.

“Do you know what you’re doing this summer?” may be the most dreaded and damning question any college kid could possibly be posed with. How you answer it is, of course, dependent on your situation.

If you are of the set that has already accepted an offer to intern, volunteer, research, travel, or otherwise study somewhere with some specified organization, then hat’s off to you. Feel free to let your fellow conversationalist know.

Many of us, however, may fall outside of this respective group. You either have received an offer or two that you aren’t exactly thrilled with or you haven’t received any offer at all. The current stress that you’re feeling right now (which is something that I can personally relate to, for I’m sitting in the same boat) is a mixture of your daily stressors combined with the uneasiness of not knowing when or how you’re going to provide a definitive answer to that question.Unlike when we were all applying to colleges, “undecided” no longer really cuts it as an answer these days.

So what’s the best advice I can give you (and by extension, myself)?

Go out of your comfort zone and apply for something you would normally not have considered. Remember that time at the mall when you needed something to wear and your friend found a piece that you would never have picked out yourself? Try it on. If it’s a fit, stick with it. If not, move on to the next item.

At the end of the day, you’ll at least have a better idea of which clothes (or job descriptions) suit you best, and which ones don’t.

Also, don’t knock yourself if you return home with something other than your dream outfit. Keep in mind the items and skills that you do have that would allow you to spruce-up the product. Remember, it’s always the more time and energy that you put towards something that will allow you to reap the most out of it.

Furthermore, try not to be too down if you come home empty-handed. While rejection is never the greatest feeling, it could be the impetus you need to return to items that are already tried and true. Just as you might look back to your favorite blouse, approaching former managers and coworkers could be a logical next step.

You could even find a piece of clothing that you never really made full use of – something that’s been largely untouched. Remember that novel you once dreamed of writing as a kid? Or how about spending more time with your family and finally learning how to drive? Look to these goals as next action steps for the free time you will have.

More importantly, try not to compare yourself with others, even though I know it’s hard. We all have different interests and experiences so don’t spend needless time and energy being frustrated with why you weren’t able to rock the same outfit as another girl or land a similar internship. Instead, focus on investing those vital resources back towards yourself.

At the end of the day, the best answer you can provide to the question of what you’re doing this summer is one that you’re ultimately comfortable with – it’s only when you’re comfortable that you can truly embrace whatever situation you’re in.


Caroline HerrmannCaroline Herrmann is a junior at Duke University majoring in Cognitive Science and minoring in German Studies. She is working on a Markets & Management Studies certificate. Her goal is to attend business school and she would love to work in marketing or consulting in the United States or Europe. She was a part of the first Forté College Leadership Conference and can be found on Twitter at @caroooline717.

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