By: Liorah Yaghoubzar  | 

The Internship Shortage: Why Students Are Being Faced With Immense Rejection Before Even Entering the Workforce

The summer internship application process is more competitive than ever before. It is hard to believe that a short while ago employers were not only on the hunt to hire employees, they were doing anything they could to simplify the application process. Today, however, students across the world are dealing with the most difficult and competitive job market in years. 

Summer internships are highly sought-after and rewarding experiences for college students, especially in corporate America. They usually consist of anywhere from 7 to 11 weeks of long workdays, invaluable learning opportunities, team-building exercises and an insider’s look into the realities and intricacies of the workforce. For years these internships have served as a direct path for college students into the industry they aspire to join. However, in recent years securing a summer internship has become extremely difficult and often dissuades college students. 

I had the opportunity to speak with a number of YU students who, like most college students, have struggled immensely with securing an internship in the current job market. One student told me, “It’s the most frustrating and tiring process ever. I’ve applied to 30+ internships and have only been faced with rejections.” Another student I spoke to said, “I’m at the point where I’m just sending out mass applications to any job opening I find. Any job that I’m even remotely interested in, I’m forced to apply to.” Students are forced to put their aspirations and interests to the side and settle for whatever specialization will give them the time of day. 

“The process is extremely frustrating, you put hours of your time and effort into networking and getting referrals, only to be rejected," said another student.

 The current internship market is creating an atmosphere of defeatism in students before their journeys even begin. "Getting rejected time after time makes it extremely difficult to not give up and continue to put in the work," said another. 

These students are not the only job seekers concerned about today's market. Research shows that 60% of Gen Zers are not confident that they will find a role that they are satisfied with in 2023. As students continue to watch the volatile and unpredictable economy with widespread layoffs, it’s understandable why Gen Z’s confidence in the job market is so low. Students have been forced to increase the volume of their applications, with an average of 60 applications being sent out per student. 

Many companies have been cutting back on their summer internship programs, as the concern for a global recession remains prevalent among employers. For example, Amazon considered reducing their internship program for 2023 by 50%.

According to a Harris Poll conducted by TIME, it was discovered that 52% of applicants with a bachelor’s degree complete their interview process without receiving an offer, showing just how competitive the job market is for current college students. This not only poses a problem for students applying to these internships but also, as a direct result of candidates being forced to apply to any program they can regardless of interest or compatibility, the job market becomes even more saturated and employees are faced with thousands of applications to sort through. Employers are forced to turn to softwares in order to sort through the mass amount of applications they receive, causing many qualified students' applications to be rejected before even being seen by an actual employee at the company. 

The power dynamic in the job market has clearly shifted and today the future of our students is in the hands of the employers who are forced to reject thousands of qualified applicants creating this cycle of over-rejection and over-application.

Of course, the question arises of how college students can succeed in this highly selective, and at times random, job market that exists today. 

  1. Don’t wait! Many summer internship applications open more than a year in advance, and many look at candidates on a rolling timeline. Getting your application out early can significantly increase your chances as many positions are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. 
  2. Do your research! Identify and research potential industries that you might be interested in, and then research companies and positions that would be a proper fit for you. Look beyond the popular firms and programs, and find opportunities with smaller firms or startups that align with your interests. Lastly, make sure to understand and research the company values and role requirements in order to tailor your application to align with the firm. 
  3. Stand out! Thousands of students are applying to these applications, causing many applications to just get lost in the mix of applicants. Don’t let your application look like another student’s in the large mix. Draw attention and speak about your unique skills and background and what you can bring to the company that any other student can’t. 
  4. Network, Network, Network! Make sure to spend a significant amount of time speaking to people at the companies in which you're applying to. Not only will you benefit from learning if the company or position is a good fit for you, but it will also show employers that you are highly interested in the position. 

And for those struggling, just know that we students are the future of the job market. Regardless of all this struggle and frustration, one day we will have the power to make systematic changes and ensure that all voices are heard and given a fair chance. The only way to secure our future is to keep on trying and never give up.  


Photo Caption: “The summer internship application process is more competitive than ever before.”

Photo Credit: ArtisticOperations / Pixbay