Career Services tweaks externship program

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The externship program is one of the highlights of Career Service’s offerings. Founded by a group of alumni over 30 years ago, the program has continued to grow each year and, according to externship head Laura Sibson, is now the largest of its kind among similar colleges. However, the externship system has become unwieldy in recent years as the number of students participating has increased—180 students had externships last year—leading to new changes being implemented this year.

In previous years, students would simply mark off their preferences for cities and interests, and it would be up to alumni teams in each of the locations—Philly, New York, Boston, DC, San Francisco, Cleveland, and Baltimore—to scout out alums who would be interested in either having a student shadow them or providing housing. With the program growing so large, it was becoming a massive job for the teams, said Sibson, so Career Services searched for a new process.

This year, willing alumni sent in descriptions of their externship ahead of time, allowing students to pick jobs that interest them. Students can pick up to four potential positions, and the externships will be given out through a special lottery system. Those who do not receive any of their choices or those who aren’t interested in any of the listed positions simply give their interests and are matched manually using the old method.

One of the largest benefits of the new system is that students are able to select programs that they are specifically interested in, as opposed to being matched by interest alone. “The old process was pretty opaque,” said participant Matt Sollenberger ’05, “The externship I had last year was in my field, but it wasn’t something I was interested in.” Sibson hopes that the increased commitment to the program will reduce the number of dropouts, which, while quite small, are still undesired.

This year’s externship program, which closed to applicants last weekend, had about142 sponsors register early, equating to around 160 spots. The lottery was run over break, with manual matching beginning afterwards.

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