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​Why do so many summer internships require students to go back to school in Fall? (in the United States)

Example:

Must be currently enrolled in a full time degree program and returning to the program after the completion of the internship.

Why do firms add such a requirement, and what happens to me if I graduate before the start of the internship?

  • They do this to ensure that you'll quit at the end of the internship. The worst intern is the permaintern. – RoboKaren Sep 19 '16 at 1:53
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    Isn't that the definition of a summer internship? There are longer internships but they aren't what you are asking about. – keshlam Sep 19 '16 at 1:53
  • @RoboKaren the contract stipulates the end date of the internship. – speech Sep 19 '16 at 2:59
  • @keshlam I could go somewhere else after the summer (e.g., traveling, working on a startup, applying to grad school while doing research for some academic lab unrelated to my school, etc.). – speech Sep 19 '16 at 3:00
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    There are tax benefits, and Incentives for companies that take on these type of interns. I do not have the time to do the research to write up a good answer so if someone else does feel free. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 19 '16 at 16:24
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The short answer is that they're using it as a recruitment pipeline for future software engineering employees, a position for which they require a four year degree. See this (cached) copy of a different job at Google.

Intern Recruiter, Staffing Programs EMEA

Responsibilities

Partner with the University Programs team to help position Google as the top destination for students. Keep candidates continually informed with quality communications throughout the hiring process.

Assist with strategy and planning in the development of intern programs to build Google's short and long term candidate pipeline, including its diversity pipeline.

Participate in the development and execution of communication and engagement strategies to ensure long-term candidate cultivation.

These internships in particular are concerned with cultivating candidates that they'd look at hiring in a couple years, after completion of the degree program. If you're expecting to graduate, go to grad school, found a startup, or take a year off to travel, you're not what they're looking for in a candidate for this particular program.

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  • Why wouldn't say hire right after the internship? – speech Sep 19 '16 at 19:29
  • @speech Well, for one thing, internships are generally for people who are still students. The summer following your graduation, you are no longer a student; you are a graduate, and are generally looking for a job, rather than an internship. – HopelessN00b Sep 19 '16 at 19:32
  • True, but an internship right before becoming a full-time employee can make sense, e.g. to explore a field a bit different from the diploma, or to get more industry experience. – speech Sep 19 '16 at 21:21
  • @speech Alright. No one's stopping you from making that case to Google. Good luck with that. – HopelessN00b Sep 19 '16 at 21:24
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They're not hiring interns because they're looking for cheap labor, and not out of the kindness of their hearts either. These kinds of summer internships have one primary purpose:

Find good candidates to earmark for after they graduate so you can identify and encourage good candidates to apply early.

If you're not pursuing a degree thats required for any of the jobs the company wants to fill that way, you're not the target audience for these internships.

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    Then why not bring in interns that are about to graduate? it would seem that interns that will be available to shift to full time employment upon completion of the internship – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 19 '16 at 16:16
  • @Chad If I were graduating and looking for employment, I would certainly not be looking for internships that could possibly end in three months. I would want a full-time job that I expect to last a while. Additionally, from an HR perspective, hiring an intern vs hiring a full-time staff has a lot of different requirements, from which training to assign, to performance reviews, to benefits, etc, etc. – David K Sep 19 '16 at 17:01
  • @Chd, maybe they think having an early internship will mean they pay more attention in their last year or two of classes because they now have an understanding of why they are learning certain things? – HLGEM Sep 19 '16 at 17:01
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    @DavidK - Sometimes an internship is one of the choices to fill graduation requirements. Not to mention an internship is often a great way to get your foot in the door with a company. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 19 '16 at 17:12
  • @DavidK OP is maybe not american and is just looking to get the foot through the door at a company by doing an internship after graduating and is asking because he noticed this limitation a lot. In many countries getting a full-time job in stuff like software engineering after graduation without doing some unpaid or very low paid internships first to let the company try you out or to gain experience is not likely, if you don't come recommended or weren't outstanding in university. – Formagella Sep 20 '16 at 17:23
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Simple answer: we are trying to recruit the best employees. That means we have two competing goals:

  1. We want to hire well-rounded, well-educated, smart, disciplined people, and that usually means people who have graduated university with high grades
  2. We want to beat out all the other firms trying to do the same

How do you beat your competitors? Get there earlier! If we wait until the students are near graduation, other companies have already recruited them. And if we pull them out of school before they are done, they won't have finished the work that makes them truly well-rounded and well-educated.

A summer internship well before graduation allows us to essentially run a 10-week interview, where we can evaluate potential, and if we like what we see, we can lock them in with a guaranteed job offer when they're done. We also get all kinds of secondary benefits, like sending well-paid interns who (hopefully) had a great time working for us back into the academic pool for another year. That's word-of-mouth advertising to further build our recruitment pipeline. We also build credibility and relationships with the universities, which makes partnerships more likely. And by putting pre-graduates onto our teams, we get to inject unique perspectives and new ways of thinking.

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  • Thanks! Then why adding the go-back-to-school requirement for internships, since some of the best people may be looking for internships instead of full-time positions, for the above-mentioned reasons? – speech Sep 20 '16 at 21:33
  • Exceptions can always be made, but generally speaking if somebody made it to the end of their program without already getting recruited, there's a reason why. The strategy is to get the best before anyone else does, not get the leftovers at the end. – Rex M Sep 21 '16 at 14:11

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