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by Derek Loosvelt | November 12, 2014


With 40 percent of all entry-level full-time hires now being sourced from internship programs, you'd think that the most important factor to college students when choosing an internship would be full-time employment prospects. But that isn’t the case at all. In fact, the two most important factors to students are these: location and pay.

Earlier this year, Vault administered its annual Internship Experience Survey to 5,800 interns at 100 different internship programs. Along with asking these interns to rate their internship experiences in five categories (quality of life, compensation and benefits, interview process, career development, and full-time employment prospects), we asked them to list the three most important factors when choosing an internship program to join. To that end, below is what interns told us in response this year as well as in the past two years:

factors for interns

As you can see, "location" was the most important factor this year and last year, with 44 percent and 41 percent, respectively, telling us that it was one of the top three factors. Closely behind this year was "pay," with 43 percent saying it was one of the top three factors. "Career advancement" was a close third at 42 percent

Surprisingly, given that so many full-time hires come out of internship programs, "opportunity for full-time position" declined in importance this year and was just the fourth most important factor to prospective interns. Also surprisingly, "prestige," which typically trumps "pay" and "location" in our annual professional workplace surveys (in which we ask full-time professionals about why they chose their employers), rated rather low on the importance scale.

In thinking about what might be the cause for location and pay to be more important than prestige and full-time employment prospects, it seems likely that the growing burden that student loan debt places upon students plays a part. That is, students are now being crushed by debt—in 2012, graduates left school with an average of $29,400 in debt, a 57 percent increase versus the $18,750 that graduates in 2004 left with—and so can't afford to take any low-paying jobs, even before they graduate, even internships.

Not long ago, many internships were unpaid positions, or at best were positions that weren't very lucrative. Even then, they were highly sought after jobs, and students were able to somehow figure out how to take them and get by without getting paid. But now, with student loan debt and default rates on that debt climbing, it gives students no choice but to take high paying internships in locations that are economical—where they can find cheap housing, or that are close to home.

Which underscores, yet again, the need for our nation's universities to rethink how and what they charge students to obtain their BAs and BSs. And also underscores the need for and rise of CommonBond and similar types of finance companies that are helping graduates deal with the escalating cost of a college degree.

Follow me @VaultFinance.

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