By: Resa Brinkley, Health Professions Advising Coordinator

You hear it everywhere. “I finally lined up my internship.” “Where is your summer internship?” “Internships are SO important.” So, do you really need a prehealth internship?

An internship is defined as “a temporary position with an emphasis on on-the-job training rather than merely employment, and it can be paid or unpaid.” Formal (e.g. structured or credit-based) prehealth internships are few and far between, and many positive credentials for an eventual application don’t even fit in that box! So, let’s take that popular nomenclature and chuck it straight out the window. Instead, you should focus on the quality of the activity you’ll be taking part in, and what it can mean for your overall application.  Here are a few examples:

Shadowing
As most of you have noticed, it can be difficult to get shadowing hours with a UNC health professional. Many students will seek opportunities with a doctor or health professional with which they feel comfortable – their own pediatrician, PA, PT, etc. Build connections and networks through those experiences and you’ll likely find more openings stemming from them.

Volunteering
If you’re staying in Chapel Hill over the summer, many organizations that may otherwise rely on student aid may find themselves short-staffed. Or there may be expanded opportunities for service – perhaps there’s a summer camp you’re interested in helping. Find something you’re actually interested in. There are only so many hours in the day, and you never want to end it feeling like you’ve wasted a sizable portion of them.

Classes
Taking courses over the summer is a given for most prehealth students. It helps relieve some of the strain of what would otherwise be placed on the regular semester schedule, and allows students to complete their prerequisites sooner (or even get some courses not offered here at UNC). In most instances, taking classes outside UNC, so long as it is at another four-year institution and is justified by making the most of your time and resources while close to home, should be fine. Be careful about breaking up sequences in your planning, though. Academic Advising gives additional guidance and approval on this.

Study Abroad
As impressive as the roster of UNC Faculty Led study abroad courses has become, the bottom line is that an entire academic semester can just be too much for some students (finances, major requirements, or any number of other reasons). So the bulk of prehealth students will seek summer semesters abroad. Be sure to work with the Global Studies Office in conjunction with prehealth and your academic advisor to ensure you’re finding the best fit.

Any of these, or even a combination of some of these, would be an incredibly beneficial and poignant use of your summer. And not a single one of them is a traditional “internship”.

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