Washington Internship Program

Photo of Washington DCSince the mid-1970s well over 900 Stockton students have completed para-professional internships in Washington, DC. One of the largest groups of Washington Center alumni is from Stockton University. It is very common to find Stockton alumni – in the Washington, DC metropolitan region – who trace the trajectory of their career paths to their internships as Stockton undergraduates.

General Description:

The Washington Internship program is an intensive para-professional and academic experience in which Stockton students live, work, and study in the Washington, DC metropolitan region. Stockton University is affiliated with the nation’s largest internship organization, The Washington Center. This organization provides all the major facets of a student’s internship experience, i.e., facilitating the application process; distributing the application to potential placement sites; providing program activities, advising, supervision, and evaluation; hiring faculty for the evening classes; and providing housing and residence life activities.

  • Internships are available for all majors at Stockton University.

    Interns receive 12 academic credits that are applied to graduation requirements (e.g. Program, Cognate, ASD). Internships are available during the regular Fall & Spring semesters (15 weeks) and during the summer (10 weeks). Stockton students who are unable to do an internship during their undergraduate years can apply for a Post-Graduate internship (available Fall, Spring, and Summer).

  • Internship expenses are comparable to the costs of a semester at Stockton.
    Generally, the cost of a Washington internship is comparable to the expenses (i.e., tuition, fees, room & board, books) for a full semester at Stockton University. This is the case because Stockton University is the only institution in the country that receives an automatic $2,550 discount from the Washington Center. Whatever financial assistance Stockton students receive during the regular academic semesters is applied directly to the costs of a Washington internship. The Washington Center provides scholarships and a few fully paid internships (on a competitive basis). Moreover, all Stockton interns also receive an $800 stipend that can be used to defray the costs of commuting, meals, tuition, or personal amenities.
  • Internships significantly enhance marketability for professional jobs and graduate schools.
    In addition to academic credit, internships represent an invaluable opportunity to significantly enhance a student’s resume by developing professional skills, on-the-job training, and analytical tools for jobs and graduate school. Interns also acquire a broad network of contacts which can be critical in job searches, job referrals, and letters of recommendations for professional positions or graduate school.
  • Internships offer innumerable opportunities for personal development.
    A semester can profoundly (and positively) affect an individual’s growth and maturity. Many students become increasingly self-confident by successfully negotiating the demands of working at a full-time (36 hours weekly) internship; commuting to their internship job and program activities; meeting the academic requirements of their internship class; developing new friendships, enjoying the rich social and cultural life of the nation’s capital; and maintaining an apartment with three (fellow-intern) roommates

Types of Internships:

It is important to bear in mind that there are literally hundreds of individual internship placements within the following list of internship categories.

  • US Congressional Offices; the White House, Political Campaigns
  • Executive Branch Departments & Federal Agencies
  • Nonprofit, Social Service & Advocacy Organizations
  • Federal and Local Criminal Justice Agencies & Law Firms
  • Broadcast & Print Media
  • Public Relations and Lobbying Firms
  • Museum & Cultural Institutions
  • Investment, Accounting, Marketing, and Advertising Firms
  • Foreign Policy & International Aid Organizations
  • Research Organizations in the Natural, Biological, & Medical Sciences

As the largest internship organization in the country, the Washington Center utilizes its vast network of contacts to facilitate the placement of students. Internships are also possible with organizations, firms, agencies, etc. that are not currently part of the Washington Center’s network of placement sites, i.e., for students that a particular placement site in mind that has not previously had an internship relationship with the Washington Center.

Who is Eligible for an Internship?

Many students believe incorrectly that it is quite difficult to be accepted into the Washington Center’s internship program. In fact, the admission requirements are fairly minimal, a 2.75 GPA. Essentially, once the Campus Liaison signs a student’s application they are virtually assured of acceptance. If a student’s GPA is slightly below a 2.75 an additional letter of recommendation is required, and the application is given an additional level of review by the Washington Center. Thus far, the (very) few Stockton students who have applied with a GPA below a 2.75 have all been accepted, and have received excellent internship placements.

Please Note: Internships are open to both US and international students. However, some (Washington Center) scholarship opportunities are available only to US citizens. Also, all prospective interns cannot start a Washington internship until they are at least a second-semester sophomore.

It is crucial to bear in mind that the main question for any prospective Stockton student is not whether they will be accepted into the Washington internship – that is virtually assured with a 2.75 GPA and the Campus Liaison’s signature on the application. Nor is it a question of whether a student will receive an internship placement – once their application is accepted an internship is guaranteed. Instead, the only real question is “where” a student will be placed.

Preliminary Considerations before Applying for an Internship:

What is the best semester for an internship? – Students should weigh carefully which semester is the most appropriate time for an internship. Students who hope to turn their internship experience into a possible (permanent) job offer – which does occur at times – should consider an internship during their very last semester at Stockton. That will enable interns who are offered a permanent job to transition easily into their full-time position. Other students are seeking an internship experience, the enhancement of their resumes, and the development of para-professional skills, without necessarily hoping to turn their internship into a permanent job in Washington. For these students, any semester – after the sophomore year – would be a good time to be in Washington. Some students are in majors with fairly structured curricular requirements. If students cannot be away from Stockton during the Fall/Spring semesters then a (10-week) summer internship may be the best option. Also, for students who cannot do an internship at all during their undergraduate years, a post-graduate internship is also available for students who have recently graduated. While the post-graduate internships are substantially less expensive than an undergraduate internship, financial assistance is typically not available because the interns are no longer students. Another consideration is that there is significantly less competition for the more coveted internship positions during the Fall/Spring semesters. During the regular academic year, there are many more internship opportunities than students to fill them. The competition for internships is especially intense during the summer. However, it is important to bear in mind, that all Stockton students who are accepted into the Washington Center are guaranteed an internship placement; this is also true during the summer when the competition is much greater.

Talk to parents – it is absolutely essential that students discuss with their parents what a Washington internship entails. This should be done well before a student begins the application process, especially if parents are contributing financially to a student’s undergraduate education.

Review program/graduation requirements with a preceptor – students receive 12 academic credits for a Washington internship. Of these, 8 credits are for the internship itself, and 4 credits are for the course all students take during their Washington internship. Before an application is submitted, students should consult with their preceptor to decide – before the internship begins – where the 12 credits should be allocated, i.e., either to program, cognate, or ASD requirements. Presently, there is a loophole within the Washington Center’s program that has benefited a few Stockton students. Interns can take a second course during their internship without any additional costs. This allows students to transfer 16 credits to Stockton University after they complete their internship. However, because the internship experience is quite intensive, students should only consider taking an additional course during their internship if they absolutely need 16 credits – during their internship semester – in order to graduate on time. Interested students should discuss this option with their preceptors and the Campus Liaison.

Review Financial Assistance Status – there are several considerations that students should bear in mind as they make arrangements to pay for their internship.

First, the costs of the Washington internship program are paid directly to the Washington Center, not to Stockton University. In fact, during the semester that students are in DC, they do not pay tuition, student fees, etc. to Stockton.

Second, whatever financial assistance (e.g. scholarships, grants, loans) students usually receive during the Fall/Spring is applied to the program/housing fees of the Washington Center.

Third, generally, an internship semester in Washington, DC costs about what is needed for a full-time semester at Stockton (i.e., the tuition and student fees for four courses, room and board, books, and personal expenses).

Fourth, what makes the full cost of an academic semester at Stockton comparable to the overall budget for a Washington internship is the $2,550 discount that all Stockton students receive from the Washington Center. Moreover, unlike many other institutions, Stockton does not charge tuition, student fees, etc. to students who are doing a Washington internship. Again, all the relevant fees are paid directly to the Washington Center, not to Stockton University.

Fifth, Stockton University gives each of its interns an $800 stipend to help defray the costs of a Washington internship. The stipend is generally received at the mid-point of a student’s internship in DC. These funds can be used to pay down a student’s outstanding balance to the Washington Center. Or, the money can be used for commuting expenses, meals, and personal items.

Sixth, the Washington Center also offers – on a competitive basis – scholarships of various amounts. In order to be considered for scholarships students need to submit their application before the “Competitive Deadline” for each individual semester. There are also a few fully-funded internship opportunities. These are few in number and they are quite competitive. However, every semester at least one, or more, Stockton interns receive some form of financial assistance from the Washington Center. There is not a separate application for scholarships. Students merely have to mark the scholarship categories on the first page of the application form, in order to be considered.

The Application Process:

Stockton students applying for an internship should visit the Washington Center’s website (http://www.twc.edu) and click on “Find a Program,” then "Academic Internship Program." A great deal of pertinent information is available by following the links from the menu on the right-hand side of the page. The Washington Center’s homepage also has a short online video in which interns discuss various dimensions of the internship experience.

Students should familiarize themselves with the general details of the program; speak with their preceptor to discuss how the 12 credits may be allocated among program, cognate, or ASD graduation requirements, carefully review whether they are financially prepared to assume the costs of an internship in Washington, and meet with the Campus Liaison (Assoc. Professor Michael S. Rodriguez) before the application process is initiated.

It is important to remember that whatever financial assistance Stockton students receive can be applied to the costs of a Washington internship. Students should also bear in mind that the two main costs (program and housing) as listed on the Washington Center’s website do not reflect the $2,500 discount that only Stockton students receive. That discount should be subtracted from the program and housing costs that are listed on the Washington Center’s website. Stockton students also receive an $800 stipend that is paid by Stockton University.

The application packet includes the following items:

The application form – students can apply either online or by submitting a paper version of the application. For either method, the application can be obtained through the Washington Center’s website (http://www.twc.edu/programs/academic-internship-program#how-to-apply). From there, students can either start the online application process or download a hard copy of the application form. It is entirely at a student’s discretion to submit either an online or a hard copy application. The mode of submission has no effect on how quickly an application is processed, nor does it influence the type of internship a student receives.

A current resume – students should have the Career Services staff review their resumes before submitting them to the Washington Center. For assistance on developing a professional resume students should call Career Services to set up an appointment for a one-on-one session. The office number is 609-652-4650.

An official Stockton transcript – the Campus Liaison will obtain an official transcript from Student Records. Students must have at least a 2.75 GPA – at the time the application is submitted – to be accepted into the Washington Internship Program. However, the cut-off is not absolute. If a student is slightly below the minimum GPA an additional letter of recommendation is required (for a total of 3). The critical difference is that as long as students meet the minimum GPA they are virtually assured of being accepted into the internship program. For students, below the minimum 2.75 GPA, the third letter is usually enough to ensure admission. However, it must be noted that for students below the minimum there is a remote possibility that the Washington Center may reject their applications.

Two essays – these are probably the most important (and time-consuming) items of the application packet. Prospective students are required to write two essays. The first one (750 words) covers two issues of interest to the applicant. The essay is an opinion (or reflection) piece that demonstrates a student’s ability to think clearly, write cogently, and formulate a reasonably coherent argument. The two issues for the first essay should be topics with which the student is generally familiar. The 750-word essay is not a research paper, though a cursory review of a few news articles may be helpful in developing a more informed essay. At least one of the two themes should generally relate to the type of internship a student is seeking. For instance, a Biology major who is interested in a research based internship may write about the ongoing debate, and controversy, on public funding of stem cell research.

The second essay (100 words) is a very short description of the type of internship work a student envisions, and how it relates to their broader educational and professional aspirations. It is very important for a student to not mention that they want an internship at a specific place. A number of prospective employers will read a student’s application. It is important for students to not give the impression that they are interested in only one potential internship placement.

Both essays are reviewed by the Campus Liaison and returned for subsequent revision, if necessary.

Two letters of recommendation – students need to identify two individuals to write strong letters of recommendation. At least one recommender must be a current or former professor. The second letter can also be from a professor, but many students also ask individuals who have supervised them in an employment setting. Students cannot ask fellow students for a letter of recommendation. The application has a form (p. 6 Recommendation Letter) which students must download and give to their recommenders. In addition to filling out that form, recommenders must also write a separate letter on their institution’s letterhead.

There is a non-refundable $60 application fee. It is important to note that submitting an application to the Washington Center does not mean that a student is somehow “locked” into going to Washington. If circumstances arise that preclude a student from accepting an internship offer, their application can be withdrawn. Since Fall 2006 approximately 8 students have withdrawn their applications (all with valid reasons), even after they were awarded an internship placement. However, if a student applies and subsequently withdraws his/her application the $60 fee will not be reimbursed.

The Placement Process:

Once a student’s application is received by the Washington Center the following steps ensue:

  1. An email is immediately dispatched to the student acknowledging receipt of the application.
  2. Typically, within a couple of weeks from that point the applicant receives the acceptance letter (through email and a hard copy).
  3. A few weeks thereafter the Washington Center assigns a Program Advisor (PA) to each student. The PA contacts the student to discuss the range of internship opportunities that may suit a student’s interests.
  4. The Washington Center identifies a variety of potential placement sites (anywhere from 6 to 10, or even more) and sends a copy of a student’s application packet to each site.
  5. Each student is given a username and password to monitor the progress of their applications through the Washington Center’s website for “Accepted Students.” Web links for all the placement sites that receive a student’s application are posted on this website.
  6. At this point students need to be patient -- several weeks may lapse from the time a student’s application is distributed to potential placement sites and when the first interviews occur.
  7. It is important for prospective interns to realize that it is not the Washington Center that will be determining where a student will be placed for an internship. That question is in the hands of the placement sites that receive a student’s application.
  8. Usually, a student is contacted by phone to arrange a time for a phone interview. Before the interview, students should research the potential placement site through the link provided on the Washington Center’s “Accepted Students” webpage.
  9. The phone interview is generally rather informal, but it presents an important opportunity for prospective interns to ask how the placement site utilizes interns, what opportunities exist for enhancing job skills, the type of mentoring an intern can expect, the dress code for that particular placement site, etc. Students are well advised to speak with former interns to get a sense of how the phone interview is conducted. However, it should be noted that there is not a standard format for these interviews.
  10. Students should not expect to be interviewed by every placement site that receives their application. It is possible that a student may receive only 1 or 2 interviews. Conversely, a student could be interviewed by several placement sites. The factors that influence this are typically the strength of a student’s application (the essays, the quality of writing, the GPA, and the strength of the letters of recommendation). It is important to realize that placement sites receive many internship applications, and they may be looking for only 1 intern. However, the Washington Center has a strong reputation and prospective placement sites know that internship applications that come through the Washington Center are consistently from strong candidates.
  11. After a student is interviewed, an internship offer may be made within a few days. If a student receives an offer from one placement site but is waiting to hear from another site, it is not uncommon to ask for a few additional days to decide whether to accept the first internship offer.
  12. Before any internship offer is accepted, students should speak with their Program Advisor at the Washington Center and/or the Campus Liaison at Stockton. Students can accept only one internship offer.

What Happens before an Internship?

In addition to interviewing for – and securing – an internship placement, there are a number of steps students need to take before their internship begins.

Housing during the internship – housing is provided by the Washington Center. It is important to note that interns do not live in Washington, DC. All interns live in Arlington (VA), Alexandria (VA), Bethesda (MD), or North Bethesda (MD). Interns are generally quite surprised by the superior quality of the housing – it is not what one generally associates with student housing. The Washington Center leases blocks of apartments in high-rise, commercial residential buildings. Former Stockton interns have lived down the hall from members of Congress and high-level professionals of the federal government. The Washington Center provides residence life staff members that provide assistance with housing issues and occasional social activities. The furnished apartments are single-sex, with two bedrooms (2 interns per room), 2 bathrooms, a kitchen, and a spacious living room. Some of the apartment complexes have a variety of amenities like fitness rooms, laundry services, swimming pools, etc. Before an internship begins students fill out and submit a housing form to the Washington Center. The form is an opportunity for students to identify any accommodations they may need, a preference for certain types of students (e.g. vegetarians), and a preference for a particular roommate (if they have one in mind). The form can also be used to pay a $300 housing deposit that the Washington Center requires from all prospective interns. ***Important*** It is strongly suggested that students use a credit card number for the deposit. The Washington Center will not charge the credit card unless a fine is imposed at the end of an internship. Fines are typically imposed for not cleaning an apartment when interns move out, or damaging the furniture. If students pay the housing deposit with a check, the Washington Center will deposit it and the money will be drawn from a student’s bank account. If no fines are imposed at the end of the internship all the money will be returned, but it might take several weeks from the end of the internship to actually receive the funds. For that reason, it is better to use a credit card for the housing deposit. The housing form can be downloaded from the Washington Center’s website for “Accepted Students.”

Selecting the internship course – several weeks before an internship begins the Washington Center will ask prospective interns to identify their top five choices for the class they will take during their internship. The form and a list of classes (along with course descriptions) can be accessed through the “Accepted Students” website. The Washington Center typically offers between 30-35 courses each semester. The Washington Center hires the faculty, who are professors and practitioners from the Washington, DC metropolitan region. The Washington Center estimates that students spend $50-$100 on books. The classes meet once a week, in the evening for 3 hours (6:30-9:30pm). All the classroom sites are within a short walking distance from a metro station. To be frank, the quality of the classes can be uneven. Some courses are exceedingly rigorous, while others clearly are not. Stockton students receive 4 credits for the course they take during the internship. However, they are transfer credits; this means that the credits can be used to satisfy graduation requirements, but the grade a student receives is not reflected in their Stockton GPA.

Registering for internship credits – before students begin their Washington internship they are registered for the following credits: Washington Internship (WASH 3940 – 8 credits) and Washington Seminar (WASH 3620 – 4 credits). Students cannot register for these credits on their own. The Campus Liaison gives Student Records a list of all the prospective students. The registration is done by the Student Records staff. These are non-billable credits, which means that Stockton University does not charge tuition or student fees for these credits. As noted earlier, students pay only the Washington Center, not Stockton University, for all internship fees. The eight credits (WASH 3940) are now treated as “home credits,” which means that the grade for those credits will be reflected in a student’s Stockton GPA. However, the four credits (WASH 3620) for the course students take during their internship are treated as transfer credits – the credits apply to graduation requirements, but the grade is not reflected in a student’s GPA.

Notifying Stockton offices – the Campus Liaison emails a list of interns to a number of Stockton University offices and departments, to notify them of the students who will be away for a semester (some of the offices are Student Records, Financial Aid, Academic Affairs, the Bursar’s Office, etc.).

Paying the Washington Center bill – a few weeks before an internship begins the Washington Center will send a bill to each intern. The statement will include the program and housing fees. The $2,550 discount that (only) Stockton students receive will also be noted on the statement. For students on financial aid, the statement should be taken to Marylee Kurtz in the Bursar’s Office. Marylee will inform students of the financial aid (scholarships, grants, loans) they are expected to receive for their internship semester. That amount should be deducted from the total amount on the Washington Center statement. The difference is what the intern (and/or their family) will need to pay directly to the Washington Center. Students are encouraged to speak with Elena Surina (202-238-7900) – she handles financial assistance for the Washington Center. Students should inform her of how they plan to pay their remaining balance. **IMPORTANT** The statement from the Washington Center will indicate that the balance is due before a student begins their internship. It will also indicate that if that amount is not paid before an internship begins, a late fee ($275) will be imposed. This does not apply to Stockton students. Students can make arrangements with Elena Surina to pay off their balance either at the beginning of their internship, or on whatever schedule of payments works best for them. In terms of the Stockton financial aid (scholarships, grants, loans), Marylee Kurtz will send those funds directly to Washington Center, once it arrives in a student’s financial aid account.

What Happens During an Internship?

A Washington internship is a very intensive experience. Essentially, students do the following activities in the course of a typical week

36-hour work-week – a Washington internship should be viewed as a full-time work experience. Interns work along-side regular professional staffs at their placement sites. Internships are designed to provide real, hands-on experience and development of para-professional skills. The Washington Center requires that at least 80% of an intern’s work assignments be substantive. If interns find that they are spending more than 20% of their time answering phones, photocopying, or performing other menial tasks they should speak with their Program Advisor at the Washington Center, as well as Stockton’s Campus Liaison.

Monday afternoon activities – every Monday afternoon all the Washington Center interns are released from their placement sites at noon, in order to attend activities that are sponsored by the Washington Center. These include lectures by prominent public officials, panel discussions, focused presentations (e.g. developing a professional resume), or embassy visits. Throughout the internship semester, students will be required to write short papers on some of these activities – the papers are included in an intern’s portfolio.

Internship class – as noted earlier the internship class meets once a week, for three hours (from 6:30-9:30 pm). Classes are typically held on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. As with any class, attendance is mandatory, and interns are required to do the reading and writing assignments on a timely basis.

The internship portfolio – every week interns work on some aspect of their portfolio, with supervision from their Program Advisors. This is a bound compilation of an intern’s written work throughout the semester. This includes a Learning Objectives Statement, a Defense Letter (a self evaluation at the end of the semester), reaction papers on some of the Monday afternoon activities, a work sample, a report on an informational interview, a resume, the course syllabus, course papers, etc. The portfolio is a very important component of the internship experience. After the internship it can be shown to prospective employers or graduate schools as an demonstration of a student’s career potential, para-professional experiences, and analytical ability. Interns work closely with the Program Advisors throughout the semester to develop their portfolios.

Social activities – during any given semester, as many as 500 interns are part of the Washington Center’s program, from throughout the United States and several other countries. The opportunities to make enduring friendships are innumerable, as are the opportunities to enjoy the vibrant social and cultural life in the nation’s capital.

Interns Beware:

Stockton students need to be fully aware that Washington, DC is a very expensive city. One of the biggest concerns for Stockton interns is that they invariably spend more money than they anticipated – particularly on meals and social activities. It is very common for interns to be invited to restaurants during the workday, and to clubs and other social venues at night. An active social life can be exceedingly expensive. Students need to exercise caution and discipline in how they budget and spend their money. For the most part, interns do not have paid internships, and it is very difficult to hold down a part-time job while doing an internship in Washington. Interns are generally advised to budget approximately $100 a week for commuting expenses, meals, social activities, and personal expenses.

The Friday before the internship semester begins all students attend a full-day orientation. A great deal of attention is paid to the Do’s and Don’ts of living and working in the Washington, DC area. It is not necessary to rehearse those warnings, admonitions, and advice at this moment. Suffice it to say, however, Washington, DC is a highly complex, and cosmopolitan urban center – as well as the nation’s seat of power. For students who are unaccustomed to living in an urban environment, they should be cognizant of the fact that it is always safer to explore Washington, DC in the company of fellow interns.

General Remarks:

It is certainly a bit cliché, but true nonetheless: An internship is what one makes of it. A Washington internship has the potential to be a uniquely transformative period in a student’s life. There are a great many examples of Stockton alums whose personal and professional development was immensely enhanced by their Washington internship. But, it is up to each individual student to make the most of the experience. This means that students should be especially diligent in performing their internship responsibilities. They should volunteer for additional work assignments and seek out the mentorship and advice of Washingtonians who have achieved professional success. Washington, DC is a city of very prominent and powerful people. It is incumbent upon Stockton students to “rub elbows” with these folks, to learn as much as is possible from them, and to emulate their strategies and philosophies for achieving success in one’s career.

Visit The Washington Center