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Unpaid internships are a swindle: Why students choose free labor

The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.

It's a relatively new idea among millennials: the feeling that students need to have multiple internships in order to get a leg up in their careers. For past generations, the path to employment was always cut-and-dry. Now, it is filled with potholes - students are expected to hurdle over or be left in the dust.

For most students, an internship is just the second of many steps on the road toward a stable job. They need to attend a good university, they need a college degree, they need an internship.

But soon they discover they need multiple internships. They discover they need to go to graduate school. They discover they need to "build their personal brand."

Students could spend their entire personal life, using every ounce of their energy, to create an obedient worker's persona. They could also spend their entire savings account.

Even when paid (and they very rarely are), internships do not take into account an intern's cost of living.

For journalism and communication majors, many of the worthwhile internships are in major metropolitan areas - New York, Washington D.C. or Los Angeles - cities with some of the highest costs of living in the world

To even accept an internship in a city outside commuting distance, you have to have some form of funding or financial support (or privilege). It's just one of the many foibles fueling the "rich get richer" truism.

The student is being paid in experience, and that is all that matters to them. They'll accept the lack of wages for the abundance of opportunities it may - or may not - give them. They will feel like they are indebted to the place that is giving them the oh-so necessary internship - even if that employer is breaking a worker's wage law.

Sometimes, it depends on the career path. Someone with a finance or economics degree will most likely come out of an internship with a job offer, while someone with an internship in the public sector may come out with nothing but an empty bank account, a sudden realization that they don't want to work for the government -- and tears.

A lot of students coming out of unpaid internships are losing money. It's a vicious cycle: students have to pay for a degree and an internship to get a career to pay back the cost of their degree.

Today, students treat college like a four-year conveyer belt to employment. We no longer use university as a tool to craft new mindsets and share knowledge that could make the world a better place.

Students of the millennial generation have to decide what we want to do sooner than any other generation before us. And what is that doing to us as people? Why are we constantly preparing for the "next thing" that may never even happen?

All of this begs the question: are students really better off having spent their summer in an unpaid internship?

That depends what "better off" means. Is better off having spent the summer working for people who don't care about you? Is better off being able to take a tropical vacation a couple times a year? Or is better off flying by the seat of your pants, taking jobs here and there and simply scrounging by your whole life?