Students face challenges as summer internships are canceled

April 12, 2020, 10:08 p.m.

As students embark on a historic, online-only spring quarter, some are being hit with even more unexpected news: the cancellation of summer internships. On-campus residential programs will not be offered at Stanford this summer and companies such as Glassdoor, Yelp and StubHub have cancelled their summer internships entirely. Other companies, such as Google, have moved their internships to a completely remote format.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers polled 217 employers as of April 10 to see how the coronavirus situation is affecting summer internship plans. Results showed that 36% have moved internships to a virtual format, 35% have delayed the start date, 30% have not made any changes and 18% have reduced the number of interns. 

Impact on students

Chetanya Rastogi, M.S. ’21 in computer science (CS), had multiple offers earlier this year but chose to intern with a startup this summer, a decision that made the most sense to him for his career development.

“I chose the start-up for two reasons — I have worked with Samsung before so wanted to experience how things differ when one works at a mid-stage startup,” Rastogi said. “Second, I wanted to work in the area of [Natural Language Processing] and my other offers were either related to data science or computer vision.”

Similarly, Bihan Jiang ’21, who studies CS and economics, opted to intern at L.E.K. Consulting this summer with the aim of gaining exposure in a new field.

“I had planned on using this summer to determine whether or not I was interested in consulting since all of my prior internship experiences have been in software engineering,” Jiang wrote in an email to The Daily.

Both Rastogi and Jiang’s internship offers were rescinded due to the uncertainty caused by coronavirus.

“This is indeed a setback for me as now I have to look again for opportunities amidst all this,” Rastogi said. “Definitely an extra thing on my plate to worry about apart from all other chaos that has been happening.”

Even though L.E.K. Consulting has converted its summer 2020 internship offers to full-time offers for 2021, Jiang wrote this has forced her to “scramble in a race against time to find something else before summer starts.” 

While some summer internships have been cancelled entirely, others have been shifted to a remote format, posing challenges for students. 

Esha Dhawan ’23 will not be able to begin research this summer because there is no on-campus housing available. 

“I was planning to work at the Parker Lab at the School of Medicine this summer but because undergrad housing is closed I don’t have a place to stay,” said Dhawan, who is also a staff writer for The Stanford Daily. “The research is still going to be continuing with the grad students and people who are physically on campus, but it looks like it’s not going to be able to have a remote opportunity.”

The setback has consequences for long-term planning. 

“Even though I still get to work at the lab, that timeline is pushed back,” Dhawan said. “I wanted to get started in a lab freshman year and get training early on because I had planned a more rigorous sophomore year academically.”

Potential solutions

Both students and groups offering summer internships have been forced to change plans on short notice.

Rastogi told The Daily that he is looking at various alternative options for the summer.

“I am now also considering applying to opportunities at Stanford itself (like the Data Science for Social Good program) or registering as a student in the summer and trying to get an RA to fund my summer quarter and intern during Fall,” Rastogi said. “But right now I will prioritize if I could get an exciting opportunity at some other firm.”

Jiang opted to go through a second round of recruitment and has been met with a supportive response from her network. 

“I made my first ever post [on LinkedIn] and didn’t expect that it would help that much, but in 24 hours it got over 500+ likes and 90,000+ views,” Jiang wrote. “Many people helped share the post and people reached out to me with roles that were still open or offered to make introductions. Within 2 days, I had 9 interviews set up for both software engineering and business development/strategy internships.” 

In an attempt to harness the power of community, Akshaya Dinesh ’22  and Andrew Tan, M.S. ’21 in CS, have created an initiative that helps provide mentorship, remote internships and community for college students whose career plans have been affected by coronavirus, Dinesh wrote. 

“We started out with a mentorship service that matches students with industry professionals willing to dedicate 30 minutes to help out a student with career advice,” Dinesh wrote in an email to The Daily. “Since then, we also compiled a database of remote work opportunities open to students and launched a newsletter to curate these opportunities and spread the word.”

Since its debut, their project has grown exponentially, according to Tan. 

“We’ve gotten tremendous reception from both sides — about 5,000 students and 400 mentors have signed up for the mentorship service, and over 12,000 students signed up for the remote opportunities newsletter,” Tan wrote. “We have about 200 remote opportunities in our database and we’re adding to it everyday.”

In addition, BEAM has compiled a set resources to help connect students and employers, according to BEAM Branding and Marketing Manager Bill McIndoo. 

“We developed a list of cross-departmental FAQs and a comprehensive

list of resources that live on our website,” McIndoo wrote in an email to The Daily. “We are launching a Virtual Spring Career Fair on April 23. To connect students who depend on employment at Stanford with other opportunities, we have developed a spreadsheet of positions posted to Handshake.”

Other resources include “online coaching and drop-in hours for all students” and “industry-specific appointments with our industry specialists.”

Companies are also taking steps to reach more students. One company tackling this issue is Cloudflare, an internet infrastructure company with offices in the Bay Area, that is working to help students whose internships have been cancelled. They are honoring all previous internships and doubling the size of their summer 2020 internship class to accommodate more students. 

Cloudflare also plans to work with other companies that can take on more interns and share applicants’ resumes with these companies.

Perhaps a silver lining to this situation is how quickly and extensively the community has come together to support students, according to Jiang. 

“I really underestimated the value of my network,” she wrote. “I was originally hesitant to ask for help since I didn’t know whether people would reply or take it seriously, but I’m glad I did because people have been so kind and generous.”

This article has been corrected to clarify that L.E.K. Consulting offers for 2021 are full-time, not summer internship offers. The Daily regrets this error.

Contact Ujwal Srivastava at ujwal ‘at’

Ujwal Srivastava '23 is from Palo Alto, Calif. He is a Science & Technology Desk Editor interested in the intersection of healthcare and technology. He is majoring in Computer Science on the Biocomputation track. Contact him at usrivastava 'at'

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