Find the college version of something you enjoyed in high school, and sign up.
Find something that will allow you to use your skill with or love of words, and sign up.
Find something that is entirely outside your experience, and sign up.
Find something that seems interesting to you for no particular reason, and sign up.
Take joy in the sheer variety on display: there truly is something for everyone on a huge campus like this.
Register to vote! Lots of political groups will be out registering voters. It’s not a presidential election year BUT
— If you’ll be 18 in time for the 2018 election on Nov. 7, you can register to vote. Think of it like flossing your teeth, or checking the oil in your car, or writing thank-you emails. Even if you’re not excited about doing it, it’s an important part of civic maintenance, and it’s good to start the habit early.
— If you’ve live in Champaign-Urbana because you go to college here, you are eligible to register to vote here. Some people chose to register in their home district. You can only vote once in any given election, but if you have two different addresses, you can decide which of them you want to vote from. Read more about voter registration in Champaign County here.
— Your vote counts whether you participate or not. Both parties work from their assumptions about what college-students-in-general (and 18 – 25 year olds) will do. The only way to make your vote say what you mean is to cast it.
Thinking about a career writing for video games? It’s a hard field to break into, but it is a thing people do. We have a post about it here, with some resources to explore.
In considering any career path, a useful step (whether you’re just starting out in college or about to graduate) is to look at some ads for entry-level jobs in that field. Use those close reading and critical thinking skills to learn about the field and its threshold for entry.
“Temporary.” That may mean that they have a project underway that requires some extra help, or it might mean that they don’t want to commit to a full-time hire at this level until they’ve had a chance to see someone do the job for a while. Entry-level jobs in creative fields are often provisional this way. Either way, it’s experience that will help you prove yourself to future employers — even if that employer is not DS Volition. Also, rapid turnover is characteristic of video game jobs. If your goal is a stable, permanent job with one company, gaming is not a good career path.
They don’t stipulate previous years of experience (that is, after all, what makes an entry-level job entry-level), but they do want “Sample Work.” Many employers in creative fields are less interested in what you’ve studied or what qualifications you have than in examples of how you use your creative skills. They are often particularly interested in things that you’ve created in collaboration with other people.
They don’t stipulate a major — it’s on you to demonstrate how your college coursework is “a game relevant discipline.” Note that the ability to be “Proactive in seeking feedback and resolving issues” is baked into success in a Creative Writing workshop-style class. Video game developers who interview a lot of engineers may not know this — but you can tell them.
There’s some industry jargon here: “level-design,” “scripting,” “iterate gameplay,” “AAA project.” If you are not conversant with these (and other) terms, then you have a goal for future networking. Find people in the field that you can talk to until you get to a point where you can drop these terms into conversation without feeling self-conscious.
The “Qualifications” section mentions a lot of soft skills. Phrases like “self-motivated with a strong work ethic” and “Ability to think creatively and analytically” often sound like white noise, but employers mean something by them and take them seriously. Consider the things that you can point to a resume, or anecdotes from your life that you could bring up in an interview, that would demonstrate that you have these qualities.
Bottom line: if you’re passionate enough about the inner workings of video games to start creating a portfolio and seeking out industry professionals, then you will be able to make a case for yourself as a candidate for a job like this. If thought of doing those things just makes you feel…tired, then gaming might not be the right industry for you. That’s okay. Look at some entry-level job ads in other fields. Read them with the level of care and attention demonstrated here. Look at lots of ads, in a wide range of fields. Talk to people about what they do and why they like it. There are many paths open to you.
Which is to say: to answer that question, you have to ask some others.
What do I want out of an internship?
If your goal is simply to start getting some work experience because you have none and to start exploring what’s out there, then any time is a good time to apply. An unpaid internship can be a good place to start building your skills and network.
If you are hoping to land an internship with a company that will hire you after graduation, then you should definitely plan on doing a paid summer corporate internship between your junior and senior year (and you should plan to go to the fall career fairs to explore your options, even if you’re a freshman or sophomore).
If your goal is to get experience in a specific industry (like museum work or publishing or event planning), then follow the opportunities as they arise — and be aware that an internship is not your only path to experience. A paid job or volunteer position might be equally relevant.
Do I have time for an internship?
You should only accept an internship, whether paid or unpaid, if you can devote the time and attention it deserves — so trying to do an internship during a semester when you know you’ll be swamped with other commitments is probably a bad idea. Be aware, however, that the time commitment for an internship can range from 3 hours/week to 20 hours a week — so much may depend on the particular internship you have in mind. A paid internship can take the place of a paying job, and some unpaid internships can offer the same rewards that you get from volunteer activities — so keep in mind your own big picture.
What can I expect to get out of an internship?
Some internships can lead directly to post-graduate employment, but many do not. Some of the other benefits of an internship can be
(in some cases), a wage or stipend
references and networking contacts to help you on your next steps towards a career
greater knowledge of the strengths you bring to a team or organization
insight into the kinds of work settings where you thrive
first-hand knowledge of what a particular line of work is like, day-to-day
relevant experiences to talk about in an interview
recognition of the kinds of work settings and conditions that you don’t want — negative experience is still experience.
Am I qualified to apply for interesting internships?
Probably. In many cases, enthusiasm for the job is a relevant qualification. Customize a resume that highlights any relevant experience you have and write a compelling cover letter or email that conveys your interest in the position. (Pro-tip: most employers are not interested in what they will do for you in advancing your career — they want to know what you can do for them.) In any event, why NOT apply? if you aren’t qualified, the employer will decide that for themselves — you don’t get extra credit for ruling yourself out ahead of time.
But…I’m just a freshman (sophomore, junior, senior….). Is NOW the right time? Is it too soon? Too late?
Some employers only want sophomore or juniors; many don’t state a preference. Some freshman find an internship as soon as they get to campus, others prefer to wait until they’ve gotten used to college life. Some students never hold an internship but find post-graduate employment on the basis of other kinds of experience. There’s no right time. There’s no wrong time. There’s just your time, which you should use in the ways that work for you.
It’s the time of year when you’re getting bombarded with information about internship opportunities. Here are a few things to know:
Internships can be useful, but they’re not a magic bullet. There are majors that position students to go into specific kinds of industries, and for those programs an internship with the right company is the key to success after graduation (think engineering, computer science, accounting, finance). English, Creative Writing, and Teaching of English don’t work like that. These majors equip you to excel in a wide range of internships, but an internship may not be the best path to a career that interests you.
Internships are a great way to get experience, but they’re not the only way. If your goal is a job in management or consulting with a large corporation, then a paid summer internship with the kind of company you have in mind is a great first step. if your goal is a creative career in screen-writing or TV production, you might be better off spending a summer working a retail job that will give you time and energy to hone your skills on your own independent film project. The secondary education program here has a built-in internship in the form of student teaching — there’s really no need to seek out an additional internship unless you want to explore other career paths.
Volunteer work, paid part-time employment, and RSO leadership are also important ways to explore your career interests and gain experience — and depending on your career path, some of these might be more helpful than an internship. If you are interested in publishing or editing, for example, most paid internships (and even unpaid internships with prestigious organizations) will expect you to have experience already — which you can best get by working on a student publication (high school experience has a limited shelf life once you’re out of high school), volunteering your editing skills for a nonprofit organization, or getting a part-time job with a communications component to it.
Not all internships are the same. Some are paid, some are not. Some give you hands-on responsibility, some give you the opportunity to watch from the sidelines. Some organizations have a lot of experience working with interns, others craft the internship position as they go along. Some internships serve as a pipeline to a full-time job after graduation, some do not. Some employers expect applicants to relocate and provide housing, others leave you to your own devices. Some internship programs are thinly-disguised schemes to get low-cost labor, others are equivalent to well-paid part-time or short-term jobs.
You have time, and you have choices. If you’re not sure what kind of internship you’d want, or how an internship might fit into your future goals, it’s okay. Look at the information you get about internships as it comes your way and see what piques your interest or sounds like something you might want to try. Read up on the employers offering summer internships at the the campus career fairs this fall, and go talk to a couple just to expand your sense of what’s possible. Find ways to get involved around campus. If you need to work while you’re here, think about how your choice of part-time work can help you build some relevant skills. As you get more familiar with what’s available and what you like doing, you’ll find it easier to sift through the possibilities and seek out the things that can help you.