No Sophomore Summer Internship, Feel Like An Idiot Doing Everything Wrong

I’m a rising junior in college. My Asian immigrant parents sacrificed everything for me to be at an Ivy. However, I cycled through three majors my freshman year. I started off as a Bio major with pre-med intentions but got low grades in that. I then switched to an Econ major with intentions to go into finance, but I got a low grade in the Econ class I took my freshman year. I then switched to CS with intentions to work in tech but had to drop the one CS class I took because I realized I wouldn’t get a passing grade.

When I came home my freshman year, my father yelled at me. In retrospect, I probably should’ve taken the full ride at Alabama to get away from him and not have him use the threat of cutting off college tuition to control me, but it’s too late now.

So I’m currently in a “useless humanities major with no real job prospects” according to my parents. I have a GPA on the lower end thanks to my awful freshman year. My current school requires all rising juniors to take a full load of classes during the summer and take a term off during their junior year to do an internship.

Here’s the catch: I decided to try to transfer out of my current school due to cultural/fit reasons (not academic or professional reasons). However, I wasn’t expecting on getting in anywhere as a transfer due to my low GPA, so I didn’t bother applying for internships this summer.

Surprisingly, I was accepted as a transfer at another Ivy, and I’ll be going there this fall. However, I’m still stuck with no internship this summer, and dad keeps yelling at me. I offered to work as a babysitter or as a waitress to make money this summer.

The only real option left for me is law school, which I’ve researched extensively the past few months. However, I’ve burst into tears almost every single time I do a deep dive into law school because being a lawyer sounds absolutely miserable (sorry to any lawyers reading this). I’m also taking on a (small) amount of loans for undergrad, so while I’m open to grad school at some point, I do need to get a paying job immediately after graduation. Sometimes I wish I went to a school that offered majors like business, accounting, or nursing so I would be more set in my career.

I’ve been applying to internships like crazy the past few weeks but obviously they won’t take me since it’s way too late.

It’s not all your fault. Having average grades at a college where most were top ten percent of high school class leads to unrealistic expectations.
Were the classes you struggled with large lectures graded on a bell curve with an A being two standard deviations above the mean?
Many employers cancelled internships. Does your college have an unpaid remote internship to help you fulfill requirement?

What about the Chegg website and a remote opportunity?

See Patreon’s founder’s optimism about the business of creativity on youtube.

Keep your chin up. There is dignity in work, servant leadership is taught and valued in many industries. See Servant Leadership Definition

Or https://www.purdueglobal.edu/blog/business/what-is-servant-leadership/
And its list of companies that have servant leadership
“ Some of the best-performing companies are well-versed in this style of leadership. Herman named the following companies with servant leaders at the helm:

  • Starbucks
  • Marriott
  • Nordstrom
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Zappos
  • Whole Foods
  • TDIndustries
  • Aflac
  • Men’s Wearhouse

“When we think of these organizations, we often think about how outstanding their customer service is,” she says. “It really isn’t accidental, because they’re servant-led companies, so their servant-led employees want to make sure the customer is always cared for.

“These are not just the best companies to work for, they’re also very high-performing companies—some of the most profitable and successful in the business world.”

And there’s a reason these are familiar companies with familiar stories being told. Servant leaders are very values-based and mission-driven, so they share stories frequently. That is an additional benefit for a servant-led company looking to build or sustain a brand.”

Or see Servant Leadership | Leadership Certification Programs | eCornell

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Your major is not worthless. I don’t care what it is in. You must be truly amazing to be doing what you are doing, even if you don’t have a gig lined up for the summer. I agree, there is honor in work and service. Period.

Your dad sounds intense and your relationship with him complicated. But know it is ok that you haven’t figured out your path yet. It is ok that you had a rough freshman year. It will get better. What worries me is that you sound burned out and depressed. When you get back to school, please seek out help. If you can find a support network this summer, even better. The sooner the better. You deserve to feel good about yourself for everything you have accomplished and who you are as a person.

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Can you create your own? Volunteer at some place that you are are interested in and can get passionate about, WHATEVER IT IS. That will be great for you.

Perhaps you can write a paper for an independent study or for one of your upcoming classes etc based on this experience. It’s not necessary, but why not add something tangible as a result of your passion (or at least interest).

BE CREATIVE. Out of trouble comes opportunity. Be creative and you will go far.

(P.S. I am a lawyer, and love it! You can do so many things with a law degree. But don’t go to law school for the sake of going to law school. It’s not for everyone. I actually was pretty clueless as a 1L. However, my first summer clerkship was a miracle: I fell in love with the law, as I started to work on real-world matters, and finally began to understand how many of the things I had studied were relevant. I used to sleep in my law firm during summer nights, not because I had to, but because I was so fascinated with law applied to real life, not just reading some old case that I didn’t really understand what was motivating the parties. I still feel that way today, decades after graduating. I like to fix things that are broken and right injustices as I see them. That’s what ignites me and gives me passion. I come alive in tough cases.)

I got lucky because I sorta’ fell into things that really worked out for me. But with a little more insight, it can happen to you too. Maybe not law, but something else.

There is no “useless” degree! It’s what you make of it, now and in the future.

Find what you love (or at least like). Things will follow.

You are just starting out. Don’t give up just yet. Wait about six decades or so (or hopefully shorter) when you can retire!

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Humanities majors at Ivies have lots of job prospects when they graduate, even without a prior internship. I know English majors who worked in consulting or for big tech companies (not in a CS capacity), You will do fine.

I am concerned that you view medicine and law as the only viable paths. This may be your family culture. If you graduate from an Ivy you will have many job opportunities, and the job market does not always fall into those neat categories. Be open to possibilities, of which there are many.

Finally I hope you can see a counselor to help you with the pressures from your father. I don’t mean to disrespect him but clearly his expectations are having a negative impact on your self-esteem.

Study what you are interested in and what you are good at, and have faith that you will have a job you like. You don’t have to know right now what that might be.

I hope the new school is a better fit as well.

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When you’re a senior, use your college career center and the alumni network and find a job. Graduate with a job ready to go and leave your father behind. Start looking for internships in the fall, and get something secured for NEXT summer by January. Same with when you’re ready to look for a full time job.

Please stop beating yourself up. There is zero problem with changing your major three times. That’s the beauty of the American system. Your humanities major can land you a six figure job right out of college if you go into consulting or manufacturing management. You’re far too focused on what you’re doing wrong to consider what you’re doing right. You will graduate with a degree from an Ivy League school and with it comes a certain amount of implied success.

You need to find help so that you can learn to endure the abusive home situation for the next couple of years. Or find a way to escape. You are NOT a failure. You are NOT doing everything wrong. So what if you don’t have an internship? My friend’s kid attends HYP. She took a year off during Covid and worked at a fast food Mexican chain. That’s not failure. That’s doing the best you can in the circumstances. I suggest you get a job anywhere, maybe even as a summer camp counselor so you can live away from home.

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It sounds like your dad pressured you to attend a school that wasn’t a good fit for you. Kudos to you for persevering and attempting to turn things around.

I don’t think you necessarily needed to drop your previous majors because of one bad grade in a related class. CS, bio & econ classes are difficult and challenging for most people - I would guess even more so at an Ivy. If you liked any of those fields I would encourage you to revisit. There are many medical professionals who would tell you that they struggled through some of the sciences, many successful business professionals who would tell you that econ classes are a bear.

I wouldn’t focus on the internship at this point. You’re about to reset, at a new college - focus on that transition for now and take the great advice given in this thread re work and service opportunities over the summer. Once settled in the fall, you could lean on your new Ivy’s career/internship resources and see what your options are going forward. You’re at an Ivy - you’ll be okay :slight_smile:

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Great post by @Lindagaf,

Many students even at top schools don’t do internships until after junior year. Mainly because companies are looking to hire.

Definitely use career services and set up interviews for the fall of senior year. Even if you wait, you will have good prospects.

Your father may be coming from some cultural values but he also may not understand how things work at school and for careers. A narrow focus on medicine and law might be evidence of that.

Definitely work this summer, and maybe stay in an apartment with friends or through a service like craigslist.

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Hi everyone,

Thanks for all the great advice and reassurance. I really want to work this summer and stay in an apartment away from my family, but my dad keeps telling me that he won’t pay my college tuition if I “take a useless job like waitress or babysitter this summer” (which are all that’s left for me at this point since it’s so late in the internship search) or move out of the house for this summer. I’d love to work at a normal fast food or retail job like @Lindagaf 's family friend, but that’s unfortunately not an option for me at this point. Yes, I realize I should’ve taken the full ride at a state school to get away from my parents. Yes, this predicament is my fault. Unfortunately, it’s too late to do anything about that.

I’m currently trying to find virtual internship opportunities (mainly unpaid since the paid ones all found their interns WAY before I got into my new school as a transfer), but it’s definitely tight with this timeline. I think my dad has unrealistic expectations for the internship search even this late in the game because he thinks employers will be salivating at the opportunity to have an intern from an Ivy, but obviously that’s not how anything works at all. When I tell him that, he gets INFURIATED and says things like “WELL THEN WHY AM I PAYING YOUR EXPENSIVE IVY TUITION IF IT’S NOT GONNA RESULT IN A GREAT JOB AND GREAT INTERNSHIPS?”

Your Dad doesn’t seem to know that many do their first internships after junior year.

Maybe you should call his bluff. It is unlikely that he will stop paying. You could get a job or volunteer or do an internship. Are you interested in history? Historic organizations need tour guides.

Is your Dad only happy if it is an internship with prestige? Again, that can wait a year. Can someone talk to him? A therapist?

Is your Dad only happy if it is an internship with prestige? Again, that can wait a year. Can someone talk to him? A therapist?

He realizes all the prestigious internships have already picked their interns WAY before I got into my new school as a transfer, but he still wants me to do some type of career-related internship this summer (again, a far stretch as most internships in my major are unpaid and picked their interns in the winter).

My parents sent me to a therapist a few times in high school, but unfortunately this therapist was someone from the same Asian country as us, spoke very little English, and was very unfamiliar with greater American culture. She told me and my parents that my parents spoiled me too much growing up, and as a result, I’m an unrepentant narcissist. Because I’m apparently so spoiled and selfish, my depression is apparently a sad stunt for attention that only causes my parents great suffering. Ever since my Asian therapist told our family this in high school, my parents have essentially used her “expertise” as proof that they can do whatever they want to me and it’s always justified since they were “too nice” to me as a child.

Can you try to volunteer with a professor helping with research this summer and work part time waitressing or babysitting on the side? You could emphasize the research piece with your dad and maybe not mention that you are doing it as a volunteer. Could you cover your rent that way just working PT?

I started out with pre-med intentions at an Ivy as well. You figured out it wasn’t for you quicker than I did. Honestly, so many students start college without really knowing their strengths. I say kudos for trying different things and being open to different majors.

Don’t wait to go to the career office. See if they can help you with a strengths inventory to help match you with a career you can be excited about.

FWIW, I graduated with a psych degree. I did take a low paying, entry level type job out of school but, in my field. Within 2 years, I was managing a department and then joined the senior management team with a different organization. There are many many differently pathways to success.

Best of luck to you!

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SSnicker- it’s not too late to cobble together something “prestigious” to make your dad happy, and a normal type summer job.

Hospital near you? With Covid they aren’t opening up the doors to interns like they used to, but reach out to their community engagement department, PR, marketing, fundraising/development, finance departments to see if anybody wants a diligent and smart “intern” to volunteer for the summer. Your dad gets to tell people you have an internship at ABC teaching hospital; you’ll learn some new skills, tell them you can commit 20 hours a week. There are computer programs like Raiser’s Edge (used by non-profits for fundraising), or just you getting better at Excel or Powerpoint which will help you in the long run- employers are always looking for new hires proficient in these.

Then- get a “waste of time” job to fill in the extra hours. I can promise you these are not “wastes of time”- I have been hiring in corporate America for over 30 years and NOTHING beats grit, work ethic, hustle- as demonstrated by summer jobs, working while in college etc.

You can do this! If not a hospital- then helping an animal shelter computerize its records? (Tell your dad you’re considering Vet school). Help the local library create their Fall “calendar of events” which include STEM-type programs for kids (tell your dad you’re working to make science and math more accessible to children). Help a local non-profit nursing home evaluate its covid safety protocols-- interview the RN’s and LPN’s and the administrators-- and a few families of residents. Then write up your findings- what worked, what didn’t, what caused frustration among the families, which will be SUPER helpful the next pandemic or even just for better management of annual flu season. And the message to your dad- you’ve developed an interest in public health and have an internship examining pandemic responses by institutions. Or volunteer for the mayor’s office in your city/town improving their social media-- start a twitter feed for the mayor or the head of the police department, tell your Dad you’re interested in a political career and want to learn how government works from the group up. Have you ever used Survey Monkey? There are probably 10 groups/community organizations in your town that would love to have an intern help them do membership surveys, understand who is coming back after Covid, who is not, why, what they can do to help. Collating the results is super easy, but the message to your dad is that you’re doing statistical analysis on the post-Covid environment and how organizations should adapt to the “new normal”. Use your phenomenal language skills to “lean in” to whatever message gets him off your back.

There are literally dozens of “do it yourself” internships you can create- get going. It will reduce the heat and friction at home, it will give you some valuable work experience AND will help you see that there are hundreds of careers that are not finance, medicine, the law.

Kudo’s for you on the transfer, things are looking up for you!

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Thanks for all these suggestions! I’m going to look into trying to implement some of these where I am right now.

I can promise you these are not “wastes of time”- I have been hiring in corporate America for over 30 years and NOTHING beats grit, work ethic, hustle- as demonstrated by summer jobs, working while in college etc.

I know many people subscribe to your philosophy, but unfortunately, my dad views these as “worthless jobs that are a waste of time and also very distracting.” He believes that taking a job like this will significantly hinder me in my career since they’re a “big distraction.” He told me that if I take a “worthless” job, he will stop paying my college tuition and punish me in other ways (which again, he feels emboldened to do because of my previous run-in with the therapist).

So don’t take a worthless job. If money isn’t an issue, lean in hard on an internship of your own creation. My town has a largely volunteer fire department- they NEVER have enough people to do analysis- how many calls per month over the last year, how did that differ from pre-covid times, what is the optimal staffing level, are they purchasing equipment in the most efficient way possible, how have their expenses gone up in the last five years and why- what are they spending the money on and could it be better deployed. To your dad- you’re developing a resource optimization model for first responders. This stuff is not hard- but it takes someone with an analytical mind and TIME which volunteer organizations do not have!!!

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I am curious, when you say you got bad grades, how bad is bad?

Also, what have been your favorite classes so far, and why? What do you like to do?

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Working at low level jobs is very respected in this country and may help in future careers in terms of understanding the lives of others.

You need to choose a therapist yourself. Does your current school have mental health services? Do you have independent health insurance through school so your parents don’t see that you are seeing someone?

Again, much of this is cultural but some of it is not. You absolutely need a counselor of your own. Please try to find one. This is a serious and terrible situation and you deserve help.

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Humanities majors do get internships and jobs, especially if they attend an Ivy.

Rather than focus on content, which may be harder to equate to a job, think about skills. Although I’m a therapist now (and I concur with @compmom that you need to find your own!), I used to be a management consultant. I have a degree in Geography! I also used to help with recruitment for the firm.

You need to be able to-

  • write well, (your degree: check)
  • research, (could you work with a prof during the year?)
  • summarize complex ideas and data succinctly, (degree)
  • have decent quantitive skills and feel comfortable on a spreadsheet (what quant classes have you taken? Don’t worry about the grade, have you mastered the skills?)
  • get on well with lots of people (this is where the retail/waiting jobs come in handy!)
  • be self motivated (those low key jobs again)
  • understand client service and relationship building (those jobs again)
  • be tenacious (and again)

We always looked for graduate recruits who had held these jobs at some point as it showed grit, determination, ability to deal with less than nice people/situations, willingness to follow rules (uniform, clocking in time), self motivation etc.

Even if not a consultant, there are lots of different companies, organizations and industries out there, and lots of different types of roles. They might not all sound sexy, and may not be in NYC/SF etc, but they will launch your career, pay a decent salary and get you away from your dad.

Wishing you all the best - and find a therapist!

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