They did it — your college student landed a summer internship!
Now the school year’s winding down and they’re getting excited about the upcoming adventure. For you, though, this may be a bittersweet moment. On one hand, you’re happy and proud; on the other, this might be the first summer they won’t spend at home.
For college parents, finding that balance between supporting our students and tending to our own emotions is an ongoing process and the internship experience is no exception. There are ways to do both this summer.
1. Help your student find housing.
If the internship isn’t local, finding housing is the next step after accepting a position. The type of housing assistance offered to summer interns varies from one company to another. If assistance is minimal, you can help your student make affordable, convenient, safe living arrangements in their summer city.
Before launching a search, suggest they check with the employer to see if they provide assistance or suggestions (they should at least be able to say where previous interns lived). Other housing options include:
- Sharing a rental with other summer interns (many companies won’t release names of employees but do set up social media sites so interns can connect with one another);
- Living with a nearby relative or family friend;
- Seeking out recent alumni from their school who may have a spare room/bed;
- Short-term dorm housing at a local university;
- Reaching out to your religious community in the area; and
- Online resources such as internhousing.com, roomorama.com and Craigslist.
When moving time arrives, your student might appreciate support. If it’s a long trip and they’re driving, offer to go with them — split the time behind the wheel, then fly home on a one-way ticket. This gives you a chance to see the neighborhood and meet their summer roommate(s).
2. Tackle transportation.
Is your student’s internship in a city with good public transportation? Big sigh of relief. If not, they have pre-internship work to do figuring out a reliable way to get to and from work each day and you can help.
If your family can spare a vehicle, letting them borrow a car for the summer might be the easiest solution. Here are other possibilities to discuss.
- Connect with fellow interns and make carpool arrangements before moving.
- Bicycle (verify that there is a safe biking route — not always obvious on an online map).
- Rent a car for the summer (local companies may have better long-term rates than national companies).
- Buy a used car once they get there (it only has to last a few months and may be cheaper than renting).
- Take over the end of a lease on a vehicle (check out swapalease.com).
- Explore alternatives to traditional car rentals (Zipcar, RelayRides, Getaround, etc.) and taxi services (Uber and Lyft).
I’ve worked with students who didn’t think about daily transportation until after they arrived for the internship, and as a result spent the whole summer begging rides from their fellow interns.
A dry run to the workplace ahead of time — figuring out the train or bus, parking, etc. — will help quell your student’s first-day jitters.
3. Pull together a suitable work wardrobe.
In the hectic weeks before an internship, some students completely forget that they won’t be living in shorts and flip-flops this summer. “My daughter was surprised at her intern training when the other interns persisted in asking the HR person if they could wear jeans and t-shirts — in their Manhattan offices — even after the dress code had been thoroughly presented,” one parent said.
Now’s the perfect time to check in with your student about their professional wardrobe.
They should have a good idea about the culture of their new workplace from their interview(s). If not, I recommend a quick email to their contact or recruiter asking about the dress style for interns. Here are a few suggestions when the closet comes up short:
- Invest in quality, classic items that can be worn for other occasions (like future internships). “Plan the big shopping trip well in advance to leave time for alterations, and pick a shop with a good salesperson — male or female — to help instruct them on how it’s done,” an experienced parent recommended.
- Loan them a few pieces from your own wardrobe, including accessories (scarves, jewelry, ties, etc.) that can be used to change the look of their basics.
- Many resale stores carry stylish, name-brand clothing at budget prices. Check out thethriftshopper.com for locations.
- Don’t forget shoes, belts and (depending on location) outerwear and an umbrella. (“My son does not own an overcoat,” one parent recalled, “and was caught in a torrential downpour so he was soaking wet through an entire day of interviews!”)
Presenting a professional image from day one will be a confidence booster for your student.
My son was completely clueless about attire before his internship (and didn’t want to take advice from me and his dad). Fortunately he had fraternity brothers, and when I showed up to collect him at the end of the semester, he had a stack of khakis and button-down shirts, fresh out of their Lands End bags! — A college mom in Connecticut
4. Give your student time to settle in before you visit.
It’s natural to want to visit early in your student’s internship, especially if their campus is a distance from home and you rarely see them during the school year. I encourage you to resist the temptation, at least for a few weeks. This may be their first foray into the adult working world and they need time to adjust and find their rhythm. Wait till they’re ready to play host, and then keep in mind that their schedule may only allow them free time on the weekends.
5. Be there for them.
Summer internships can be as fun as they are rewarding and I hope that will be true for your student. Some are disappointing, however — the interns aren’t kept busy enough, projects don’t feel meaningful, the position turns out to be a mismatch. For many students, internships are intensely challenging as they immerse themselves in professional workplace culture (perhaps for the first time), adjust to new expectations, and learn new ways of doing things. Your student may thrive under the pressure, or possibly struggle a bit as they discover who they are and what they’re capable of.
Be ready with encouragement and emotional support. In situations that are less than ideal, you can be a sounding board: listening, asking questions, helping your student find ways to resolve things on their own.
A first internship means this will be a really different kind of summer…for your student and you.
My daughter’s internship required a drug test which turned into a major hassle. She spent a few days driving from lab to lab because they didn’t have the correct supplies. Don’t leave this till the last minute!