Q. Should I give permission to students who want to leave their internships early because they have to return to campus to participate in pre-term activities?

July 13, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Posted in Advising interns, career center | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. The answer to your question depends largely on what arrangements were agreed upon before the internships began. If students had told you ahead of time that they had to leave early, then you should not penalize them for following through with their plans. However, if you had no idea they would leave early, then you’re under no obligation to give permission. Here are a few points to consider when making your decision:

  • Discuss the nature of the pre-term activities with the students who unexpectedly ask to leave early. If it’s a great honor, such as being accepted to participate in an honors program or to study abroad, then you might want to congratulate the students and offer them your best wishes. In other cases, you might want to check with the director of the activities to find out how crucial it is that your student interns attend the pre-term activities.
  • Ensure that the request to leave early is a valid one. For example, students may have medical issues or family problems.  In the case of medical issues, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for a copy of the medical report or the name and phone number of the doctor. The students’ advisors or professors may also be good resources if the reason to leave early is a personal one. You may be able to offer assistance in terms of counseling or financial aid to the student to help him/her in a difficult time.
  • Suggest alternate plans that could result in fulfilling the required amount of time for the internship without staying for the same length of time. For example, the student could put in longer days or work at home to complete the internship assignments. Talk with the internship supervisors at the companies to find out the company policies or alternate plans for interns that want to leave internships early. Some companies may be very understanding while others may take offense, which could harm your future relationships with that company. You may have taken years building up a strong internship program and are rightfully concerned about keeping it available for upcoming students.
  • Make sure that the students realize they might be hurting their own futures by leaving their internships early. They may have to balance pre-term activities, which seem important during the school years, with the long-term effects of a less than stellar internship record that could negatively impact their career goals. This is a tough decision for a student to make, and you might want to counsel him or her on how to proceed in order to protect his/her future and your career center’s reputation.

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