Six weeks into her freshman year in the College of Human Ecology, Laura Morrison ’12 is already planning her next three summers.
Morrison, who has high hopes of becoming a doctor, wants to shadow a dermatologist or intern at a hospital. Increasingly across all fields, a high-profile internship is necessary to secure a top job or to get into the best graduate school, but only in some colleges within Cornell does internship experience count for academic credit.
While many internships offer college students credit instead of a paycheck, Morrison and many other students may have trouble receiving credit for their future internship because of Cornell’s policies on accepting internal credit. Each of Cornell’s seven undergraduate colleges, as well as the departments within each school, has different policies on granting credit for internships.
Students in the College of Engineering cannot receive academic credit for internships.
In an e-mail, Claire Benton, assistant director of Co-op and Career Services, explained that while “engineering students are encouraged to seek hands-on experience through internships, Co-op, research and project teams … the college does not grant credit [for such programs].”
Instead, engineering students who complete internships and cooperative education programs receive a notation on their transcript recognizing their participation.
In contrast, the School of Industrial and Labor Relations offers a specific, semester-long credit internship program. The program is available to ILR juniors and seniors and allows students to intern around the world for a full semester’s credit. Interns are supervised by a member of the organization they are working for and by an ILR faculty member.
Students in the School of Hotel Administration do not earn credit that equates to an academic class, but instead receive hours towards a different graduation requirement. Molly de Roos, associate director of career management, acknowledged that while the Hotel School requires students to work 800 hours in the hospitality industry — either at the Statler Hotel or at another company — students do not receive academic credit.
In Cornell’s other undergraduate colleges, policies differ by department and by internship.
For instance, students in the architecture program in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning cannot earn internship credit, yet the department of art allows students to receive one academic credit for related internships.
While many departments in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences offer supervised internships for academic credit, the number of credits awarded by the college varies and “should reflect the amount of knowledge gained per internship,” according to the University.
Students in the College of Human Ecology can participate in one of two programs. Both the Urban Semester Program and the Capital Semester Program offer students 15 credits per semester.
Paula Jacobs, senior associate director of student and career development, said that in order for students in the College of Human Ecology to receive credit for internships, programs “need to have an academic component.”
Some students who cannot receive credit for their internships, however, run into trouble when desired internships require interns to receive credit. However, according to Benton, most employers will accept the policy of no credit upon receipt of a signed note from the college’s staff.
The possibility of not getting credit for an internship may be discouraging to students. Morrison admits that while she wants to intern in the field of medicine, “If I wasn’t getting credit for it, that would definitely make me think twice.”