More than once this past week, a student has emailed me to say that they had decided not to complete their college or test prep assignment, because they were too fatigued by their internship or other form of work experience.

I understand the temptation to put your work experience first, because it seems so much more important than what you may consider the babyish activity of simply going to school. “Humble bragging” about how busy you are at “real” work may make you feel as important as the guy in the photo below.

Or perhaps you are sincerely shocked by the demands of a job.

Athena Advises

Internships are exciting! They give you a first look at possible careers, and life outside the classroom.

They are also a first chance to be treated like a responsible adult with a contribution to make to the world.

Here’s the important thing: Your biggest job right now is success in school. Super-cool grades and stellar test scores are Thing One and Thing Two. You need a solid academic record to get serious consideration at competitive colleges. Extracurricular activities–including internships–follow behind.

Here’s a sports metaphor: Grades and test scores get you into the ballpark. Once you’re in the ballpark, extracurricular activities–including internships–show how you can play ball.

All too often, I hear from students who are counting on extracurricular activities to make up for unimpressive grades and test scores. Does this strategy work? In extraordinary cases, yes. I encourage you to check the statistics available online, to see how many “outliers” were admitted last year; that is, students who fell considerably below the norm of the academic qualifications for first-year admits at that college.

What did you discover?

So what’s Athena’s advice?

No matter how thrilling your current work experience or summer internship may be, make sure to schedule time for Thing One and Thing Two. If your grades need a boost, schedule review time this summer, or consider a course that will prepare you to rocket into your next academic year. If you will be taking the ACT or SAT next fall, put that at the top of your priority list for this summer.

Have a rewarding time on your internship! Just make sure it doesn’t eclipse your academic life!


Dr. Marlena Corcoran
Founder and CEO