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Students Pay for Entry-Level Jobs in Chicago

Posted on March 2, 2010

The Chicago Tribune reported this week that students (or their parents) are shelling out thousands of dollars to pay for entry-level jobs in Chicago that qualify as internships (click here).

The students are paying big bucks for internships in the hopes that it will land them a full time job.

The newspaper reports that internship placement companies say more students are applying for such internships and some have shelled out $8,000 in exchange for a summer of unpaid work.

So why the drastic measures? Many students are jumping at the chance to enhance their resumes while working in fields such as marketing, public relations or entertainment and living in big cities like New York or Chicago, the Tribune said.

According to Upi.com, Mike Smith, chief executive at internship placement company The Washington Center, said scholarships, grants and loans help cover the tab for most of the company’s 768 summer participants.

Being college students, some simply put off contacting companies for internships — and pay the price in the form of the fee for a placement company’s help.

“I guess I put off thinking about the summer until March,” said Laura Lombardo, a senior English major at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., who had no internships before her junior year. “It was probably me trying to deny that I was going to have to get an internship that summer.”

Her father, James Lombardo, a sales manager in Richmond, Va., paid a placement company $6,999 to get his daughter a summer internship at Creative Consortium, a Chicago public relations firm.

“I look at it as a good investment in future development,” he said. “It was a chance for her to spread her wings a little bit.”

The Tribune also highlighted this story as an example of students paying for jobs.

Carmelle Hayes, a junior theater and voice major from Stephens College in Columbia, Mo. The 20-year-old works in her school’s costume department and loves being on stage. But her goal is to work in casting.

So Hayes agreed to pay $7,999 to University of Dreams for a casting internship in New York for the summer (she’s deciding among three choices) as well as handling her living arrangements.

Hayes is raising cash for the program. So far, she has gotten $1,500 from her school’s financial aid office, and she has gone door-to-door soliciting money from businesses in Columbia and in her hometown of Topeka, Kan.

“My mom is a single parent, and it’s hard for her to do much,” she said.

Coming up with the thousands of dollars for an internship can be daunting. However, scholarships are available at University of Dreams and The Washington Center.
But some experts say students learn a great deal by finding their own internships, which includes researching companies and writing cover letters and resumes.

“I think there’s an important learning process students go through in doing their own internship search,” said Lonnie Dunlap, executive director of University Career Services at Northwestern University, which provides internship advice. “It’s an important skill to know how to search, identify and locate employers.”