How to navigate internships and other opportunities

Illustration by Uri Hamman

This story ran as part of a VCU Student Media Center summer special publication, The Compass, which serves as a guidebook for new students.

Naomi Ghahrai, Contributing Writer

Internships. Networking. Opportunities. These words constantly bombard the minds of college students. Although academics may be at the forefront of a college education, graduate schools and employers want to see experience outside of the classroom. 

According to a 2012 survey conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education cited in The Atlantic, employers listed experiences outside of academics — such as internships, jobs, volunteering and extracurriculars — as the most important element in hiring a recent graduate. College students constantly feel the pressure to maintain good grades, but on top of that, they have to find meaningful experiences outside of the classroom. 

VCU provides multiple channels to discover university, local and national opportunities. For example, on the VCU Career Services website, at, students can find internships through Handshake. If you need guidance to find the perfect internship, Career Services welcomes students to set an appointment. Many departments also host their own internship events, and some majors require internships in order to graduate. 

An appointment with the National Scholarship Office, or NSO, helps students explore prestigious opportunities such as the James C. Gaither Junior Fellows Program, Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellowship, Fulbright scholarships and the SMART Scholarship, short for Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation. Moreover, NSO helps students create competitive applications for these scholarships and fellowships. 

Sometimes, the best internships are hidden from public view, usually resulting from networking. VCU Career Services hosts multiple networking events such as the Education Career Fair, Nonprofit Organization Fair, and Math & Science Career and Internship Fair. For pre-med students, events at the MCV campus can be networking opportunities too. 

In addition, the daily late-night TelegRam email is a source of networking events around campus. One of the most well-known events on campus for exploring opportunities is the Student Organization Fair, formerly known as the SOVO Fair, which is held at the beginning of each semester. 

On another note, professors are also sources for networking. Students can become research assistants for a professor, or the professor can be a source of contact for other opportunities. Office hours are an undergraduate’s best friend. 

Moreover, events hosted by the student’s academic department are excellent for networking. For instance, the math department hosts a “Math Tea” event every Friday in which undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty can mingle. 

Involvement in research is beneficial for academic and career goals for many areas of study. Research symposiums and seminars introduce undergraduate students to the faculty and graduate students conducting professional research in their fields. Although research is generally associated with STEM, research is relevant to all disciplines. The VCU Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship Summer Fellowship is a great starting point for research exposure. 

Even with all the campus resources and events, with the right search terms, Google can be a source of valuable internships and opportunities. However, it is important to ensure these internships and opportunities are reputable and legitimate. 

Opportunities and internships outside the classroom are readily available. It can be stressful to choose which opportunity to pursue, but it is important to find internships that resonate with your passion and future goals.

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