Civil Discourse – Should Colleges Require an Internship or Extracurricular Activity to Graduate?

Authors: Cheyanne Rider, Clayton Lynch, and The Civil Discourse Program

Do you remember a time when you participated in an internship and/or extracurricular activity? Was this a required activity, or did you choose to pursue this activity? I’m sure many of you were required to complete some sort of volunteer work to graduate high school. Should we hold college students to a standard that most would consider trivial or arbitrary? In our opinion, the answer is no.     

Internships and extracurricular activities are fulfilling, fun, and extremely beneficial to many college students. Gaining experience in a given field, making connections both personal and professional, and the many personal benefits that can come from these sorts of activities certainly enrich the college experience. But they should not be required for graduation. The benefits listed above only exist if a student is in a place financially and academically to participate in an internship or extracurricular. 

Many students, particularly those in community colleges, simply do not have the time to work for free. With the ever-increasing cost of higher education, it is very common for students to have part-time or even full-time jobs in addition to their course loads. Adding a required internship or extracurricular will only increase the weight on these already overburdened students’ shoulders. Cheyanne works full-time, takes a full-time course load, and has a fellowship with Braver Angels. She is able to juggle all of these tasks but it’s challenging. There are times when she’s overwhelmed and tempted to drop all of her responsibilities.  However, it is her choice to take on this work.  Nobody is requiring her to do it.  Cheyanne’s circumstances allow her to take on her roles as a student leader and fellow. That is not the case for every college student.

In addition to being a financial burden, requiring internships/extracurricular activities is an infringement on students’ freedom. Not every student has the capacity nor desire for such a significant requirement. Especially one that may hinder their financial stability in the present and not benefit their professional portfolio in the future.  Forcing every student to complete one of these superfluous tasks would require students to put in time and effort into an activity they have little to no interest in. 

The point of higher education is to prepare students for the professional world as well as to offer social experiences and a wide range of opportunities. It is undeniable that in some cases, for some majors and some specific students, an internship or extracurricular activity would fit into that model of higher education. It is not, however, the case for all students in all majors. 

This is a complex topic to discuss, but in the final analysis, the result is clear. College students are aggressively overworked and stressed beyond their limits. These additional requirements to graduate would create additional burdens that push too many students over the edge. Colleges should find ways to lower student stress without compromising the quality of their education. This proposition will directly oppose that goal by creating more stress and little positive impact for the majority of students.         

Authors: Abby Sutton, Eagle Hunt, and The Civil Discourse Program

College students should be required to participate in an extracurricular activity or complete an internship in order to graduate. First, they allow students to test if their chosen field aligns with their passions. Second, they help students gain a knowledgeable mentor who is dedicated to their success.  Finally, internships and extracurriculars provide students with a competitive edge in an increasingly competitive world.

By participating in an internship, students learn the day-to-day life, responsibilities, and challenges that come with their chosen field. In high school, Abby did an internship with a therapist and learned what it takes to be a therapist. At the time, this helped her determine that the career didn’t align with her interests, skills, and long-term goals. While Abby enjoyed studying psychology, she realized that a job in the field wasn’t something she wanted to do. Extracurricular activities also have the potential to do this. By trying different clubs and co-curricular programs, college students can get a sense of what they like to do and where they’ll excel. 

This graduation requirement will also help students build relationships, gain mentors, and potentially secure job opportunities in the future. The connections a student gets through an internship or extracurricular program can be invaluable when it comes to securing meaningful employment after graduation. Internships offer students the chance to interact with professionals and seek guidance and mentorship. They can ask questions, gain insights, and learn from experienced individuals in the field. This relationship can provide valuable advice and help students make informed decisions about their career trajectory.

The Civil Discourse Program provides all of its members with Mark Urista as a mentor. Mark has successfully guided many students along their college journey by providing opportunities to network, academic advice, and professional recommendations.  Many other programs at LBCC have dedicated faculty who provide similar support to students.

Finally, internships and extracurriculars provide real-world experience that makes students more competitive after graduation.  The hands-on experience gained during internships allows students to develop crucial skills, including problem-solving, teamwork, communication, and adaptability. By implementing this graduation requirement, colleges will ensure that their graduates emerge not only with a degree but also with the confidence, skills, and practical experience needed to excel. This year, Eagle completed an internship where he acquired real-world experience on a software development team and learned an entirely new programming language with the guidance of software engineers as mentors. He also is a student fellow for Braver Angels where he is developing leadership and civil discourse skills in real-world settings. These skills are highly coveted and Eagle can cite numerous concrete examples to demonstrate that he has them.

Requiring students to complete internships or engage in extracurricular activities before graduation should be required. It empowers students to confirm their career choices, fosters essential real-world skills, and provides a competitive edge in a demanding job market. This requirement aligns education with the needs of the professional world, ensuring graduates are not just qualified, but truly ready to succeed.

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