Avoiding Summer Intern Housing Horror Stories

By Marjorie McCamey posted 05-07-2019 07:36


Summer internships, along with GPAs, have been shown to be the best predictors of post-graduate success, according to the NACE report, “The Impact of Undergraduate Internships on Post-Graduate Outcomes for the Liberal Arts.” But one aspect of the internship experience that was not addressed in this or other studies is the difficulty in finding temporary intern housing, especially in expensive cities like New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

These cities offer exceptional, appealing internships for students in finance, communications, law, and government, yet they are notoriously expensive cities in which to find housing, with demand far outstripping supply—particularly for short-term housing. The abundance of nomad housing sites (i.e., Airbnb, Craigslist, sublet.com, etc.) gives a false impression that short-term housing is plentiful and cheap. This is simply not the case in major cities with extremely tight markets.

In fact, state lawmakers in New York are pushing to have online platforms such as  Airbnb collect occupancy and hotel taxes—another source of revenue!

But that’s not the worst of it. Imagine a student’s delight at being accepted for a dream internship—a highly competitive process in New York City—and feel that excitement turn to anxiety as the daunting search for housing begins. In fact, students consider finding a place to live for their summer internships the most stressful part of the experience. Parents agree; worry about the safety of their children—college students testing their wings—is a huge concern.

And it’s no wonder. Left on their own, students will look for the cheapest possible place to stay, which may not bode well for their experience—or for the sponsoring companies who put so much time into making sure their internship programs are top-notch. No amount of swag branded with company logos will make up for a student’s apartment-sublet horror story!

Student Housing Horror Stories

Not unheard of: students waiting in a line that stretches down the block with other hopeful tenants for a single available apartment; a cheap share in Chinatown, with one catch—at night the landlord runs a gambling den in the kitchen. Or, the two friends who arrive in the city to sublet together, only to be told by the condo’s owner that they have to pretend to be married when they appear before the co-op board. These are all housing nightmares that can negatively impact the intern’s experience.

That’s why summer internship residence buildings that have cropped up in cities such as New York, Chicago, and Washington D.C. can fill a much-needed niche for everyone involved in the internship program process. These intern-only residences are set up in various ways, but most offer a range of options—from more affordable shared rooms (with another student intern as a roomie) to an entire solo studio apartment.

Temporary intern-focused accommodations feature common areas, and the opportunity to immediately connect with other students, state-of-the-art security, gyms, group kitchens, and shared laundry facilities. These residences are easier to rent, safer, and eliminate the hassles and dangers of trying to navigate short-term housing alone. A few urban universities offer a limited number of rooms in their dorms for summer intern housing, while independent intern accommodations aim beyond merely housing students.

Independent intern residences may also schedule social and professional events to help students make connections and build community, as well as craft a compelling Linked In presence and cultivate a professional network. Our circle of friends is different from our circle of colleagues and these residences help interns create the links for their future business lives.

Quality Temporary Housing

Some relocation management firms advocate for companies to consider scaled-down relocation assistance for their interns, with (intern) budgets allocated for intern-specific housing rather than intern salaries. The return-on-investment (ROI) that companies get from their internship programs are proportionate to the degree that interns have a favorable experience. Scrambling to find a place to sleep after being turned away from the Airbnb that has been shut down as an illegal sublet detracts from that experience.

What would happen if a full class of incoming freshmen arriving at a university were not given the support of the residence hall system? What if they were simply told to “find their own” housing? In the corporate world, companies routinely invest in relocation management for new full-time employees in order to reduce the stress of relocating and help new hires adjust to a new and unfamiliar city. Yet summer interns are usually expected to do all this on their own—and on an incredibly shortened time-frame!

Companies that offer internship programs, universities that work hard to help place their students in such programs, and the student interns themselves all benefit from a well-designed and executed summer experience. These may well translate into full-time positions for the students at the companies where they have interned. It is in everyone’s best interest to ensure that students live in a safe place, well-suited to their unique needs for the duration of the internship. A best practice for internship programs should include a move toward helping students find the kind of intern-specific housing that will make their summer experience the best that it can be.




05-11-2019 17:24

Hey Marjorie, this was a really good (and informative) read! You're right, there is a pretty big gap in the literature about best practices for securing housing for summer internships; it's definitely something I'll be paying closer attention to in the future when advising students about internships!