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Affording Your Unpaid Internship

Before You Go...

MSU Resources:

Career Services

  • MSU offers an unpaid internship Scholarship called the MSUFCU Internship Opportunity Award, which awards up to $1000 to help cover costs of your off campus, U.S.-based internship. Applications are due early, so plan ahead!
  • Career Consultants or career advisors can help you with your essays for funding.

Financial Aid

  • MSU offers an unpaid internship Scholarship called the MSUFCU Internship Opportunity Award, which awards up to $1000 to help cover costs of your off campus, U.S.-based internship. Applications are due early, so plan ahead!

Colleges/Program Offices

  • Check with your academic advisor or college office. Some colleges have funds for Scholarships or grants for unpaid internships in addition to the funds in career services and OFA.
  • If you are a part of a special program or office (ROTC, RCPD, Veterans, etc.) check with the staff there for any special funding they may be aware of.

Grants and Scholarship off Campus:

Search for grants and Scholarship outside of MSU! Use your research and networking skills to learn more. Here are few examples:

  • Ask your parents if their employers have scholarship programs for their children.
  • The B.A. Rudolph Foundation provides a $4,500 scholarship to women in summer public service internships in the Washington, D.C. area. 
  • The Brown and Caldwell Minority Scholarship Program offers a $5,000 scholarship and an optional paid summer internship at a Brown and Caldwell office for minority students who are aspiring scientists and engineers with a 3.0 GPA or higher.
  • The Chicago Headline Club Foundation offers two $3,000 Scholarship for journalism students doing internships in the Chicago area.
  • Professional Associations: check with a professional association in your field/s of interest. See if they offer awards, micro grants, or Scholarships to help fund your internship.
  • MSU’s Grants Librarian has developed an excellent resource page for research grant funding.
  • The MSUFCU Internship Opportunity Award awards students up to $1000 to help cover the costs of any off campus, US-based unpaid internship.

Warning! Do not pay money to compete for an internship scholarship. Learn more about spotting possible scams.

Reduce your Expenses at Home:

  • Sublease your apartment.
  • Let a good friend or sibling use your car while you’re gone in exchange for making all or part of your car payments.
  • Park your car somewhere safe and change your car insurance to “storage” level coverage.
  • Put your Netflix, gym memberships, and other paid services ‘on vacation’ for a couple of months.

Increase your Income at Home:

  • Organize a can drive in your residence hall or collect cans during tailgating. Be sure to identify yourself and your goal so fans readily pass on their returnables.
  • Join friends and get paid to clean up the Breslin Center after an event (sign up in advance).
  • Work for MSU Police for special event parking, MSU Telemarketing, etc. – check with Career Services on part time job search strategies.

Talk with your Internship Site Coordinator:

  • Ask for advice from your internship employer; what resources are they aware of? Local cost-saving advice? How have other students made their situation work? Ask for the names and contact info of some prior interns to pick their brains for tips to afford the internship.

Savings Plan:

  • Start saving! Identify how much you need (a budget) and divide that by the number of months you have till you leave.
  • Be sure you’re making good progress toward your goal each month to stay on track.

While you’re there...

Reduce your Costs While Away:

  • Check with other students about staying with them thus reducing your housing costs. Plus, staying on track with a tight budget is easier with friends in the same boat. You can work together to stay on track.
  • Check with local colleges and universities about staying in campus housing short term. Many schools offer affordable summer housing programs specifically for interns.
  • Check with the local MSU Alumni chapter on affordable housing options.

Increase Your Income While Away:

  • Work on the side, part-time, off hours, or freelance (but watch out for Job Scams).
  • Check with events companies in the area about serving, hosting, or tending bar at special events outside of the hours of your internship. This has the added bonus of meeting locals and learning more about the city.

Creative Other...

  • Waive birthday and holiday gifts and request financial gifts or loans instead.
  • Ask friends to help you raise money by organizing painting, cleaning, or car washing services.
  • Ask friends to join you in providing instruction for others for a couple of hours (cooking, crafting, yoga, karate, computer services, dancing, language, etc.) and soliciting donations from your students.
  • Collect used books, DVDs, video games, electronics, home goods, etc. and have a sale.
  • Sell Coffee and baked goods with a sign stating your goal.
  • Ask your church, temple, or synagogue to sponsor a special offering, dinner, or raffle.
  • Save all your spare change in jars; small amounts can add up!

Credit or non-Credit? That is the question...

What are the pros and cons of doing an internship for credit, versus doing the internship without credit?

Internship for Credit

  • Can meet a graduation requirement you need anyway
  • Allows time in your class schedule to do the internship
  • Provides structured opportunities to reflect on your internship experience and its relationship to your goals
  • Provides some accountability for the employer
  • Internships approved for credit are more likely to be of high quality (no coffee runs, please)
  • Internships for academic credit may allow you to access aid through the financial aid office

Internship without Credit

  • Can get you experience without paying for academic credits
  • A great opportunity may not meet all MSU’s requirements (unrelated to your major, number of hours, start date, etc.) but might still be valuable and interesting to you
  • Some employers may be unwilling to work with the University to meet requirements for credit, but the opportunity might still be valuable and interesting to you
  • You may not need the academic credit, but want to intern anyway