College education should require internships

By Megan Hale | Reporter

The goal of college is to prepare students for successful careers. However, it’s common to go to class every day and feel disconnected, unprepared and overwhelmed with the unknowns of the future.

College allows you the opportunity to grow, learn and meet people of all different backgrounds and perspectives. However, I believe colleges should adopt a more holistic view of education and encourage learning outside the confines of a classroom. Education should be less about simply learning material for a test and more about applying that material in a real-life setting.

This past year, I interned full time for eight months at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Through this experience, I saw firsthand just how important and impactful real-world experience is. The lessons I learned and the knowledge I gained through this position went far beyond the classroom. I gained confidence in my academic abilities and assurance that my voice and opinions are valid and worth sharing. This opportunity helped me discover my specific passions while allowing me to gain exposure to new interests that I didn’t even know existed.

Internships greatly complement university teachings by providing an outlet to apply knowledge and practice what is preached in a lecture hall. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), an estimated 60% of students participate in internships during their college careers between 2013 and 2017. It was also estimated that in 2019, 70.4% of these organizations end up offering full-time positions to those interns. Therefore, by encouraging individuals to participate in relevant undergraduate work experience, students can get a head start on preparing for the future.

The professional and personal development that takes place during an internship is something that can only be achieved through exposure. Students learn how to solve real-world problems, communicate effectively and work efficiently in real workplace settings. Networking and seeking mentors who will walk alongside you — providing guidance, encouragement and support during this transition season — can also lead to open doors and unexpected opportunities. A college education should entail more than just sitting in a classroom or reading a textbook.

Baylor wants to see students thrive. Through the Career Center, resources have been set in place to aid students on their internship and career-seeking journeys. Career assessments, alumni connections and career success professionals are available to consult. Work experience sets students apart immensely when entering the job market post-graduation, as they gain a sense of passion and a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of their chosen field.

Real-world experience brings purpose and meaning to why we go to class every day. As a senior, I can attest to the cliche that college goes by faster than you expect. Taking advantage of the opportunities around you and being willing to try things that are outside your comfort zone can result in incredible lifelong impacts.