Stevick was matched with her position through University of Dreams, an organization that helps students find summer internships.
Especially given current economic conditions and their impact on hiring, many Princeton students are paying middlemen organizations like University of Dreams to make their search easier, University of Dreams Chief Marketing Officer Eric Normington said.
In the past year, “about a dozen” Princeton students have worked with the company, which secures internships and organizes the logistics of living in one of 16 cities around the world, Normington said. The cost of these services range from $5,499 for a program in Costa Rica to $9,499 in London, and the program places interns in a wide range of industries, including finance and film.
With the help of University of Dreams, Stevick landed an internship with a film production company in Los Angeles two summers ago and was given support to help her adjust to living in an unfamiliar city.
“It definitely didn’t disappoint as far as what I expected, which was really just a structured program,” she said. “I didn’t have to worry about eating. I didn’t have to worry about housing. I didn’t have to worry about transportation. It was very hassle-free.”
Some students balk at the idea of paying for this kind of convenience, but Ammar Shallal, an internship coordinator and former University of Dreams participant, said the personal investment is worth it.
He added that the relative cost of a summer position is minimal compared to tuition costs.
“What’s the average cost of a semester of college?” he asked, adding that living in a city would still be expensive for a summer intern who wasn’t paying for University of Dreams.
Stevick said her parents paid the bill. “If I would have had to pay for it, it’s definitely something that I would not have borrowed money or taken out a loan for, because I wasn’t absolutely dying to get into the film industry,” she said. “I wouldn’t say it was life-changing or a particularly revolutionary experience.”
Some students might be more willing to pay for positions because internships can lead to full-time positions in an increasingly competitive job market. Employers plan to hire about 7 percent fewer graduates than they hired last year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers 2010 Fall Preview.
Princeton Career Services director Beverly Hamilton-Chandler said in an e-mail that companies are increasingly looking first to their interns when hiring full-time employees, and the internship market has not particularly improved in the past year.
“I’ve never talked to anyone who has said, ‘I’ve secured an internship by filling out an online application,’ ” Normington said. “Call the 1-800 number for UBS, Merrill Lynch. If you don’t know who you’re going to talk to, those organizations are designed with gates.”
On the other hand, he said that 85 percent of the applicants to University of Dreams are accepted into the program and most then find an opportunity they like. The company had 1,500 participants last year and expects to work with 2,000 students this year, he added.
Rachel Orland ’10 interned through University of Dreams last summer and also received financial support from her parents. She wrote for the sports section of The Washington Times and got the chance to cover the Washington Redskins. She is currently the University of Dreams campus marketing intern at the University. Orland is also an associate sports editor for The Daily Princetonian.
“It was my first real internship in journalism,” she said. “I know how tough it is to break into the industry if you haven’t had a professional internship.”
Orland said that the “tons of clips” and potential recommendations she got out of the internship made it worthwhile, adding that University of Dreams was better at helping her secure an internship than Princeton’s Career Services primarily because of the specialized attention it provided.
Stevick said that in addition to the logistical support provided by the company, she also received help in refining her resume, practicing for interviews and getting her foot in the door.
Chris Detert, owner of American Rebel PR, a public relations company in Los Angeles, said the University of Dreams program matches his company well with interns. Five of the 10 interns at the company last summer worked with University of Dreams.
“When I first heard about the details of the program, I said, ‘Are you serious? They’ll show up for five days a week and work for free?’ ” Detert said, adding, “You definitely get a higher caliber of people. Virtually everyone we have just seems to be very well-refined and worldly.”
Some critics argue that programs such as University of Dreams widen a socioeconomic gap between people who can and cannot afford to spend several thousand dollars getting a summer internship. Those programs “privilege the already privileged,” Princeton sociology professor Thomas Espenshade GS ’72 said in an e-mail.
University of Dreams does attempt to defray the costs for some applicants, providing 11 individual scholarships ranging from half to full tuition, according to its website.
“We are definitely sensitive to that [criticism],” Normington said. He added that he hoped schools like Princeton and federal programs could help provide funding.
“Everyone is realizing how critically important getting work experience is.” Normington added, saying he wished third-party funders would “realize how difficult it is for students to pay for it.”
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2009/10/13/24118/