Leaving college and stepping out into the “real world” can be scary. Beginning this new chapter in life with no professional background makes it even worse. While our school comes equipped with an array of classes and nationally-recognized professors, there is something that our school cannot offer us: on-the-job experience. That is where internships come in. They are a great way to get a glimpse into what a field truly is before committing to it. With such great benefits, it seems perfectly logical that completing one would be a graduation requirement. There has been much debate, however, over whether an off-campus internship should count toward college credit. Some students believe that this is an unfair request from the University that adds too much pressure to an already stressful part of life. While I agree that trying to track down the right internship can be hectic, the benefits you reap well surpass those gained from flipping through a textbook.

Almost 80 percent of college students change their major at some point during college, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This is a testament to how little we know about the fields we are committing to. There is nothing wrong with this. We are at a point in life where we are figuring out what our true interests are and how we can utilize our skills. This takes time and, as highlighted in the above statistic, some trial-and-error. There are very few people who know exactly what their career path will be when they first enter college. For example, I was convinced that I was going to be a nurse upon graduation. Then I decided to take a job in a hospital to see what it was really like. After working in that environment and learning about what the job entails, I quickly found out that the medical field is not where I need to be. If I had not taken that job, I would have had no way of knowing that I was headed down the wrong path. It is common belief that internships are just a way to secure you a certain job out of college, but in reality, internships are just as much a way for you to figure out what you really want to do. It is perfectly okay to realize that where you thought you were going to end up isn’t actually where you need to be going. Taking up internships while still in college enables you to find out early enough so that you can create a new plan if need be.

It’s easy to say that you want to enter into a certain profession based on what you have heard from other people or what you’ve read on the Internet. The problem is, most of these job descriptions have been greatly exaggerated and glamorized. Jobs are presented to us in a format similar to a sales pitch rather than an informative explanation. It is up to employers to make a job seem as attractive as possible. This is how they pull in potential candidates. Scarily enough, it is completely legal for them to do this. There is “no law that requires the [job] description to be accurate,” according to Parks, Chesin and Walbert Law Firm. The truth is: every job has its negatives. Some people get trapped into doing jobs far different than they were promised in the beginning because they had no read idea of what they were getting into. Completing internships allows you do see every side of a job, including the parts that you won’t see listed on a job site. You can then truly decide if the unforeseen cons are more than you are willing to handle.

Another, and possibly the most important, reason internships should be mandatory is their ability to make you more marketable to potential employers. When we were younger, we were told that getting a college degree was the key to success. While our education is extremely valuable, it is no longer the golden ticket to a lucrative future. Over 1.9 million students obtained a bachelor’s degree in 2015 alone, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This has made the job market incredibly competitive, especially for recent graduates. Employers are now looking for much more than a diploma. They want to see that students have taken the initiative to get an early start in their chosen career paths. The modern-day job seeker is expected to come already equipped with an array of skills and talents. These standards may seem absurdly high, but with so many students fighting over a limited number of jobs, there isn’t much of a choice but to comply. Having an internship on your résumé is one of the most effective ways to stay afloat in a job market that is so cut-throat. Without one, you are likely just to become one résumé in a sea of millions.

With all the stresses of being a university student, adding an internship to your plate might be the last thing you want to do. We need to realize that internships are becoming increasingly more important. With competition among students and misguided information about career paths, we need internships to guide us in the right direction. The countless number of benefits we gain for having on-the-job experience is so incredibly valuable. While some might think it’s unfair to make an internship mandatory for course credit, it is that internship that could mean the difference between landing a job or standing in the unemployment line.