Applications to Summer Internship Grant Program rise for sixth consecutive year

Austin Benavides, Assistant Campus Editor

Over 860 students applied for the Summer Internship Grant Program this year in hopes of receiving funds for their unpaid summer internships, continuing a six-year trend of applicant increase.

SIGP is a program that awards a maximum $3,000 grant to Northwestern undergraduates who are working in unpaid internships over the summer. To be considered, students complete an online application detailing their financial situation as well as the anticipated use of the grant money, said Mark Presnell, the executive director of Northwestern Career Advancement.

For Presnell, participation in a summer internship allows students more flexibility to test their interests without having to commit a large amount of time to a full-time job.

“It gives students an opportunity to explore different kinds of career paths that they normally wouldn’t have,” Presnell said. “(SIGP) gives them an opportunity to explore different kinds of things. For some students, they explore it, they fall in love with it and they pursue it. For other students, they explore it, they figure out it’s not for them and they go to different directions. And that’s healthy.”

Weinberg junior Alaina Arthurs was awarded a SIGP grant last summer when she interned for SIL International, a Dallas-based organization that focuses on documenting languages. Without SIGP, Arthurs said, she wouldn’t have have been able to afford living expenses like housing, food and travel.

”I probably would have just went home to live with my parents where I can live rent-free,” Arthurs said. “Maybe I would have gotten a summer job that would not have been relevant to my academic studies.”

Unlike some unpaid internship grant programs at other universities, SIGP does not require students to have secured an internship before applying for a grant, Presnell said. If a student is accepted for a SIGP grant, they will have a month to work with a Northwestern Career Advancement advisor to secure an internship before the list of accepted applicants is finalized in early June.

NCA also supports SIGP applicants by adding those who are accepted to a shared LinkedIn group as well as offering optional classes to help them learn skills like crafting their resume.

Communication junior Lauren Gold “didn’t know SIGP existed” until she heard about it from a friend before the application was due last year. She applied and was accepted for a grant, which she used to work in the publicity department of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago.

“I was working 40 hours a week unpaid,” Gold said. ”So I knew that because I was living in an apartment over the summer in Evanston, I had to pay for rent and pay for food. I had to pay to take the L and ideally, if I didn’t have that grant, I would have had to try to somehow find a part time job outside of a 40-hour-a-week work schedule.”

Last year, 449 students were accepted, and although the exact number of accepted applicants won’t be known until June, Presnell said he doesn’t “expect the number of students who are funded to go down.”

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