Internship Best Practices
Reporting Students Hired
The rankings of business schools in the popular press have become increasingly important to the way we manage our business. One of the ways that these rankings are determined is by studying the trends of students in the college who participate in internships. At the end of each semester, you will receive a request to submit the names of the Penn State Smeal students who have been hired to work with your firm (or you can download the form HERE). We would appreciate your cooperation in submitting this information. It helps us in our attempt to continually improve our status in the business and academic communities and helps identify those students who may have neglected to self-report.
Credit / Work Standards
Companies need to be cognizant of the fact that the Smeal College does not recognize internships or award this credit for work done outside the classroom if it does not meet academic standards. The Smeal College awards credit for intellectual exploration and learning associated with work experience. Students should be able, within the context of the internship, to relate their work experience in some way to their course of study and gain insight from it. In order for our program to award credit or formally recognize an internship, the duties of the intern must be directly related to their major and the work performed must enhance their education.
The job should involve some managerial or decision-making activity and should not be clerical in nature. The intern's job should be structured with specific and varied duties that are meaningful to the firm and to its success and performance. In evaluating the job description, ask the question, "Could this work be performed by a nonexempt level or clerical employee?" If the answer is "yes", typically the internship will not be approved for recognition or credit. Internships should consist of assignments that are usually handled by exempt level, management, or professional staff. Students typically expect a high-level assignment that builds on skills learned in the classroom and offers the opportunity to learn new skills.
It is recommended that students who take a semester off to work full time, perform an internship from 35-40 hours per week. Part-time internships require students to work an average of 10-15 hours per week for a minimum of 10 weeks for a Summer internship, 15 weeks for a semester long internship, and 6-8 months for a co-op.
Student evaluations have indicated that the most valuable internships are those where there is structured supervision. It is expected that internships, especially those in which the student is earning credit, will include:
- an orientation to the firm and the expectations of the intern;
- time allotted for any necessary training of the intern to learn new systems, processes or procedures;
- ongoing (at least biweekly) meetings with the supervisor to discuss progress;
- and assignment to a mentor who is committed to and engaged in the process.
The supervisor will be completing an evaluation of the experience which serves as a performance review for the student. A grade will be assigned and submitted to the Internship Program to be recorded on the student's transcript (to view the University's grading system, click here). The student also completes an evaluation that can be shared with other students who are interested in an internship at the same firm. Students should be providing you with the evaluation form, but if you would like to view it ahead of time, you can download it HERE.
Students highly praise internships where there are social opportunities provided to meet others within the organization, both other interns and other staff (i.e., company picnics or outings, dinners or receptions, or even organized team sports like softball or volleyball). Business travel is considered a plus, particularly when it involves an international experience. Students consistently award high marks to those companies who provide time for the student to network within the organization to meet new people, be exposed to managers or company executives, or to conduct informational interviews with people in other divisions or areas of the firm. Students understand that they are at your firm to learn, but also appreciate internship opportunities where they feel like they are considered employees and not temporary help. It is important for the students to feel as though they have added value to the organization in a meaningful way. Project-oriented internships are highly touted, as are internships where the student has the opportunity to make presentations or present information to superiors.
Housing & Transportation
The most attractive companies are those that offer some kind of assistance with housing. Our local landlords do not offer month-to-month leases, making it very expensive for students contemplating offers to relocate for internships. When the company recognizes this, and steps forward with some assistance, it is highly valued and touted among the student body. Providing assistance can be as simple as giving students a list of reliable local realtors who offer comfortable, affordable housing at a reasonable distance from the company. According to our statistics, at least 30% of our participating companies offer a stipend for monthly rental expenses. An additional 43% offer to compensate students for relocation expenses as well. At minimum, companies should offer students a list of other interns allowing them the opportunity to pair up in the housing search and to share expenses. If students must provide their own transportation that must be made very clear on the job posting and during the interview process so there is no misunderstanding when it comes time to accept offers.