Jeenah Moon / The New York Times

In the light of COVID-19 and social distancing attempts, many companies have cancelled their internships or made them remote, as in the case of Goldman Sachs.

April 9, 2020

COVID-19 Slashes Students’ Summer Employment Plans

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On top of plans and celebrations for the end of the semester, Cornellians can add their summer internships to COVID-19’s toll.

After hours spent in the fall agonizing over internship applications, Noah Endreny ’22, a sophomore studying biometry and statistics was overjoyed when he got accepted to intern at Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield, a health insurance company in his hometown of Syracuse.

However, in the midst of the University shutting down, Endreny received even more devastating news: The company was canceling his internship.

“I spent a long time last semester, probably as much time as I did school work, to find an internship,” Endreny said. “For that to be taken away from me, that was definitely disappointing.”

Endreny is not alone. Major companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, Lyft, Google and American Express have announced that their summer internship programs will be remote. L’Oreal, Indeed, Discovery Inc. and Buzzfeed have fully canceled theirs.

Many students with canceled internships were relying on the stable income that they would have received during the summer. These students now have to think about how they will make up for this lost compensation.

“I’m planning on working for the 2020 census instead to make money, just knocking on people’s doors,” Endreny said.

Although many were disappointed after finding out that the pandemic derailed their summer plans, the lack of communication from other companies was also unsettling.

Eliana Kaplan ’21, who is studying policy analysis and management, had planned since October 2019 to work at the Goldman Sachs office in San Francisco as a private wealth management intern. While schools and companies across the country shut down, she had not heard from Goldman Sachs in weeks.

Kaplan was planning to live in San Francisco for her internship, but the housing situation was “a big stressor” because of the uncertainty.

“If I were to go through with housing and then I lose my internship, that’s a very large sum of money that I would then need to pay for,” Kaplan said.

Fortunately, Goldman Sachs decided to still offer the experience to its interns, albeit shortened. Kaplan received an email on April 7 that said the original 10-week internship would be reduced to five weeks, keeping the same amount of pay. Kaplan said she felt relieved that she had not already paid for her June housing.

This job anxiety is widespread for Cornellians, including graduating seniors preparing to enter the workforce as full-time employees.

Louisa Heywood ’20, a senior studying industrial and labor relations, received an offer for a compensation consulting position in October 2019. The job is in New York City — the current virus epicenter.

The company said that it still plans to hire all new employees, but is unsure of the initial start date in early July. There has been no discussion yet of working remotely.

“I think it’s a job where people can work remotely, but I imagine it’d be hard for a new person to start doing that since I don’t have clients and projects that I can work on in a self-directed way,” Heywood said.

One of her fears was that there could be dramatic changes to her job because of the current conditions.

“It’s possible that our salary will be cut or there might be employment losses,” Heywood said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they decide to postpone starting until August.”

Like Kaplan, Heywood’s housing situation is considerably dependent on when her job will start.

“I live on the other side of the country, so to move [to New York] in the middle of the pandemic when you can’t do apartment showings and find somewhere to live and find people to live with is more stressful than if I were in Ithaca and could just drive down and live with friends,” Heywood said.

The overall shared attitude among these students was that no matter the outcome, they would take the situation in their stride. Although the pandemic has brought economic downturns worldwide, they realized that not much can be done right now, other than to wait.