Is Your Internship Going to Be Canceled Too?

Graduates and current students are having to adjust to a new work world. How will the coronavirus affect summer internships?

Jacqueline Gualtieri - Author

Jun. 2 2020, Updated 7:41 p.m. ET

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Thanks to the novel coronavirus, current students and new graduates are having to adjust to a lot of changes. They've already lost quite a bit, like their proms and graduation ceremonies. And they will soon lose out on the normalcy of their summer break as well. For those who were looking to work on building their resume this summer, they may be sorely disappointed.

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Are all summer internships going to get canceled? Maybe not, but they're definitely not going to look like they usually do.

Will COVID-19 ruin summer internships?

As many students have likely already figured out, their internships will either not look like they usually do or just not happen at all. If you have an internship that you've already signed up for and you haven't heard anything about in a while, double check as the date gets closer to be sure that there haven't been any severe changes, like, you know, a cancellation. 

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For instance, a junior at Tufts University informed CNBC that she had taken an unpaid internship (side note: please pay your interns) with the western hemisphere affairs desk at the U.S. State Department. The State Department never told her it wasn't happening anymore. Her college contacted her mid-April to tell her they were sorry that it was canceled, which is how she found out that it was. 

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Also check with your employer and see if virtual options are available. If they are, it's not quite as fulfilling as learning and networking with your colleagues in person, but it's still a valuable learning experience. And it'll show your employer that you're a team player, willing to work in these circumstances, which may help you in your career with that company following your internship's end. 

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If your internship gets canceled and you cannot find another, do not beat yourself up.

Look, whether you're in college already or you're a new high school graduate, it really doesn't matter. It's a scary time with so many "what ifs" right now. You should know that 16 percent of employers have revoked their internship offers. You're not the only one this is happening to and it's not your fault that it's happening.

If your internship was revoked and you want to find a replacement, there are some resources. Check in with your college's career center and set up some time with a counselor. Some schools are also hosting virtual career fairs as well, which may help you in your search. 

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And don't be afraid to reach out to people. Sure, sometimes you won't get a response (and you might even get some rude people who respond back not so nicely) but the only people that matter are the ones who respond back with something helpful, or even just kind, to say. You never know if the person you're messaging about advice on your career path could end up being your future boss.

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What happens if I can't find anything?

The junior who had her State Department internship canceled told CNBC, "I was a lot sadder than I thought I was going to be because one of my main worries is that an internship right before your senior year is usually really important for job prospects when you graduate.”

Comparing the world now to the world that existed before 2020 is unfair to say the least. Consider the fact that grades legitimately can't matter right now. Colleges, high schools, even elementary schools have essentially thrown grades out the window because it's not feasible to imagine that even the best students could excel while distance learning during a pandemic. 

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As Chandra Turner, founder and CEO of media networking community Ed2010 and recruiting service The Talent Fairy, told CNN, we are essentially in a "holding pattern." You're not falling behind and people aren't getting ahead of you. You will not be penalized for a pandemic. 

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Do not beat yourself up for things that you cannot control. Do not spend your summer mourning your internship and fearing for the future because you didn't get to do it this year. We cannot stress this enough: We are in a pandemic.

Anxiety, depression, and stress have grown exponentially for college students over the past two decades. This pandemic didn't replace those things with new issues; they just added on to what was already there. Your internship can wait, but your health can't. It's okay to take the summer to take care of yourself and put your work out of your mind. In fact, it might be the best thing to do right now. 

The best way to prevent contracting or spreading coronavirus is with thorough hand washing and social distancing. If you feel you may be experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, which include persistent cough (usually dry), fever, shortness of breath, and fatigue, please call your doctor before going to get tested. For comprehensive resources and updates, visit the CDC website. If you are experiencing anxiety about the virus, seek out mental health support from your provider or visit

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