Although an internship is usually pursued outside of the college setting, it should not be viewed as "time-out" from school to go to work. An internship is a learning experience. Some people learn more effectively through experience, and internships provide that opportunity. Remember, credit for an internship is based on what you can show or demonstrate you learned during the internship, not solely on the evaluation of your performance.
Most students report working just as hard, if not harder, on their internships as they do for classes on campus. Pursuing an off-campus internship along with several other classes creates a demanding schedule and requires a lot of time and energy. Be careful not to plan an internship during an otherwise "heavy" semester.
Regardless of the financial arrangements, an intern is not the same as a volunteer. An intern earns credit based on what is learned for the internship experience. A faculty coordinator evaluates the quality of the learning experience. A volunteer may perform the same tasks equally well but may or may not be self-conscious about the learning derived. As an intern, you must be self-conscious of what you are learning and strive to meet identified learning goals in order to successfully earn credit.
Student interns bring special skills, knowledge, and fresh ideas to an organization. It is not appropriate, however, for an organization to expect an intern to be the "resident expert" or to fill a gap in an area in which the staff lacks basic skills or knowledge. You should be supervised by an on-site professional staff person who has some expertise in the area in which you are working.
An intern is not supposed to perform all the routine or uninteresting work within an organization. An internship should be a meaningful learning experience; whether or not it is meaningful is a judgment you must make in conjunction with your faculty internship coordinator. Most positions and projects will involve some routine work; however, it is recommended that it be limited to ten percent of your time as an intern.
Sometimes interns are offered part- or full-time employment as a result of contacts made during their internships, but there is no guarantee that an internship will get you a job. Many employers value hiring someone who has had an internship experience; therefore, when you are competing for a particular position in a given field, your internship may prove beneficial. The best way to gain career and job advantages from your internship is to build an information and referral network for yourself.