8 Reasons Summer Internships Matter, Because They're About Much More Than Fetching Coffee

One of the best things I did in college was my summer internship at Southeast Missouri State University Press. Having a summer internship was a non-negotiable requirement for me to be allowed to graduate from my alma mater. But required or not, the experience of a summer internship needed to happen for me — and if you're still in school, it probably needs to happen for you too.

Summer internships really do offer a unique opportunity to figuratively taste test your options before you graduate college and are forced to start becoming a "real" adult. They're also just a more engaging, hands on way to earn college credit than trying not to fall asleep in class. And though monetary compensation varies based on where you're interning, there are many internship programs that pay their interns an average of $17.20 hourly, according to a nationwide survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (henceforth referred to as NACE) earlier this year. That's kind of incredible considering how inexperienced the average intern is, and considering how much most college students make before graduating (for me, it was a measly $7.50 an hour!)

If you're still unsure whether to hand your summer over to interning, then just read the following eight reasons why you really shouldn't leave college without having at least one internship on your resume.

1. They Give You A Taste Of The Real World

I worked retail in high school and all through college, but retail work did almost nothing to prepare me for my post-grad career adventures. Yes, it was still work experience. But it's a completely different industry than the one I studied. If this sounds familiar to you, start applying for internships that match your long term professional ambitions. Because unless you're majoring in retail management, don't expect all those hours of cleaning fitting rooms and helping customers to prepare you for your post-grad job hunt.

Before interning in my senior year, I had no idea what working in the publishing field was like at all. If it weren't for my internship, I would have left university with an expensive degree and literally zero hands-on knowledge of how I was supposed to use It.

2. They Help You Narrow Down What You Want In A Career

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One of the best arguments I can give for having a summer internship, or any internship, is it will either confirm your love for a field, or brutally alert you to the fact that you need to pick a different one. Studying a profession and actually working in it are completely different things, and you need to know if the profession you're studying is a good fit before committing to it.

For me, interning just solidified my decision to pursue writing and publishing. Most of the time my shift at the university press would be the best part of my day, but not all my fellow interns shared my sentiment — and it's good they figured that out when they did.

3. They Beef Up Your Resume

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Before June 2014, the most impressive thing on my resume, aside from my college education, was my internship, and it definitely helped me stand out when I was applying for the day job I hold now (even though it's not in publishing). Keep in mind that being able to list an internship on your resume will help counteract a lackluster employment history.

Additionally, where you intern matters. So make an effort to intern somewhere you'd be proud to claim, because leading with "Part-time sandwich artist" under your listed work experience just won't cut it.

4. They're a Relatively Low-Pressure Way To Gain Experience

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Although many interns dream of getting hired on by the company they're interning for, and 70.8 percent of employers surveyed in NACE's 2015 study stated that converting students into full time employees was the primary focus of their internship programs, internships are by nature usually short-term gigs.

It's really quite freeing, in a way. Personally, while I wouldn't have complained if my internship had turned into a full time gig, I didn't particularly hope for it either. For me, it was all about the work experience and the college credit, and I really enjoyed being able to learn and develop without feeling the pressure of serious commitment that I generally feel when starting a new job.

5. They're A Great Way To Make Important Connections

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Almost everyone I interned with is successful in some branch of the English/writing/publishing field, and the editor I worked under is one of the best professional references I can claim. And since it's pretty common knowledge that no one really ever makes it in their career without help, you should consider cultivating your connections now by interning.

6. They Can Be Super Fun

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I loved interning at my university's press. I got to sit on comfy couches reading contest submissions and evaluating manuscripts for hours a day — who wouldn't love that? Plus, it gave me hope that the soul-sucking retail work I spent so much time on wasn't going to be my future. I also had a blast bonding with my fellow interns. Because, yes, interns do have their own specific bond — and it's awesome.

7. They Challenge You To Grow Professionally And Personally

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Interning while working part-time and finishing up my senior year forced me to learn how to budget time and energy while somehow maintaining my sanity. (A skill that's really come in handy since I started working a day job in healthcare while pursuing the work I hope to make my full time gig someday — freelance writing.)

Interning also allowed me to learn about the practical applications of my many, many, writing and editing classes. It taught me how to trust my instincts and just "wing it" when my editor purposely gave me assignments with semi-vague instructions. And it taught me teamwork in a way that no prior experience in school had. But the most important thing I took away from interning was much needed confidence in both myself as a future professional and in the career path I chose to pursue.

8. You Really Might Get A Job Out Of One

If making bank and earning college credit isn't enough motivation for you to start filling out internship applications the second you finish reading this article, then consider this: according to the 2015 NACE survey quoted above, 51.7 percent of interns are converted to full time employees by the end of their internship. And since landing a job is kind of the whole purpose of going to school and interning in the first place, not interning just doesn't make sense.

So go for it! Trust me, you'll still enjoy your summer.

Images: Giphy/(8)