Imagine this: it’s the beginning of March, spring semester is halfway over, and you don’t have an internship. You might as well drop out of school now, since no future employer will ever take you seriously with the lack of experience on your resume.
For sophomores and juniors, this panic may ring all too true. But for first-year students, it might be beneficial to break down the anxiety over securing internships for the summer. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t really matter. Admittedly, I am writing this from the perspective of an A.B. Molecular Biology student, but unless you’re on the Econ track with ambitions to run Goldman Sachs one day, I think you can trust my opinion on this subject.
My first — and arguably most important — piece of advice is to take a deep breath. The choice to take a summer off and give your brain a break is not only valid but should be widely accepted. I decided to do so myself, and I could not be happier with my decision. While it might have not been a true “summer off,” since I chose to take summer courses, I didn’t apply for any career building opportunities. I simply focused on the present. Honestly, I wasn’t even worried that I had no plans for working, and if you don’t have an internship, you shouldn’t worry either. Let me explain why.
You’ve just spent a grueling year at Princeton, working your butt off for what may or may not have resulted in your definition of academic success. You absolutely deserve a break, and you shouldn’t try to convince yourself otherwise. Summer marks the end of school, and it’s the perfect time to focus on friends, family, and most importantly, yourself. In fact, summer is arguably a necessary time for a mental check-in. As students at a demanding university with high expectations, we shouldn’t be manipulated into thinking that it’s a waste of time to recuperate and explore interests outside our academic spheres.
I’m not saying that if you genuinely want to be an intern, you shouldn’t apply, but you don’t have to spend your summer working if you don’t really want to. Even if your parents or professors “strongly encourage” you to seek out internship opportunities, you’re the one who makes the decision in the end. Don’t forcibly chain yourself to a desk, especially when it’s probably more beneficial to take a mental break instead. Remember — as a freshman, you have three more years of academic pressure ahead, so don’t prematurely burn out just because you want to add a line to your resume. At the end of the day, your success at Princeton is both more impressive and will most likely help you when seeking out internships in subsequent summers.
When I say it doesn’t matter if you have an internship, I mean that no one will judge you for not having an internship between freshman and sophomore year. Not everyone can be granted the opportunities they want, so you have to accept that sometimes, the universe has other plans. You should embrace the free time you have. Who knows — it could be the last time you won’t spend a summer completely focused on another job that just builds on the stress of Princeton.
If you don’t have an internship, don’t panic. Move on and look at it as an opportunity to expand out of the tunnel vision of the past nine months.
So take the summer off. Revisit old hobbies, finally take that trip you’ve always wanted to go on, or simply enjoy staying at home. Most importantly, remember that your success in life is not dependent on those intern responsibilities you exaggerate on your resume. Remind yourself what it is like to enjoy your life, and mentally prepare yourself for another year in orange and black.
Brigitte Harbers is a sophomore from New York, N.Y. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.