The Importance of Internships for Students with Learning Disabilities

written by: Eagle Hill School
Getting into college is more difficult and more competitive than ever. The process has become increasingly complicated, stressful, and even emotionally taxing for both students and parents. However, like anything, being prepared and well equipped can greatly help smooth the process.

Experience breeds confidence, which is a wonderful side effect of any internship. For many students with learning differences, building confidence is the key that can turn everything around for them. One of the ways in which students can better ready themselves for the college application process is by building up a “story” of their experience. People typically do this with their resumes when looking to switch jobs or positions, but there is no reason not to start this type of thinking earlier especially if your child struggles with a learning difference.

What Your Experience Says

An internship, and a meaningful one at that, is one of the best ways to show colleges many things without having to say a word. For example, if a child interns at an aquarium and lists specific experience working with coastal cleanup efforts and involvement with nonprofit organizations during the internship, a college might deduce the following:
  • This applicant is clearly interested in biology (which might be reinforced by classes he or she is taking in school).
  • Beyond this area of study, this student is also showing a deep interest in climate sciences and social change—he or she displays a willingness for community involvement and team work.
  • In addition, this person has shown a commitment to advancing his or her career, strong work ethic, and a fundamental understanding of being a true functional member of society.
In other words, a few lines on an application would speak for themselves and provide an interesting talking point during the college interview process.

How to Get There

The first thing that your child should ask themselves when considering an internship is “What actually interests me?”

But let’s back up for a minute—for many parents it is going to be a challenge to get their child interested in doing a summer internship in the first place. After all, why work all summer when you can lounge at the beach? It might be helpful to remind your child of just how competitive applying to college is these days. Remind them of things they have expressed interest in in the past. The approach here should be gentle—pushing too hard will turn them off entirely. However, it is important to be clear about the very real risks of not getting ahead.

Now, let’s assume that a child has finally relented and agreed to consider a summer internship; maybe they’ve even secretly become a little bit excited.

Finding an Opportunity

Again, let’s pretend the search is on. There are so many opportunities out there that it can be overwhelming for parents, let alone students, to just “jump in.” As a parent, you should encourage your child to think about the following:
  • What do I want to study in college? (If this is an unknown that’s completely fine.)
  • What am I studying right now in school that interests me?
  • What are my hobbies and passions?
  • Have any of my friends done something like this? What was their experience like?
  • How can I use this to “tell my story?”
As a parent, you can be asking the same questions, but should also consider this:
  • Do I have anyone in my network that can help fulfill my child’s goal?
  • What can I do to equip my child with the tools they need for an internship? (Travel, a stipend if it isn’t offered, etc.)
  • Is my child’s school offering a program or does it know of any programs that might be what my child is looking for?
Summer is a way off, but starting to look and express interest now in different opportunities will not only provide your child with the best outcome, but will be impressive to potential employers, and ultimately to colleges.
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What is Learning Diversity About?

Learning Diversity is a blog hosted by Eagle Hill School where educators, students, and other members of the LD community regularly contribute posts and critical essays about learning and living in spaces that privilege the inevitability of human diversity.

The contributors of Learning Diversity come together to engage our readers from a variety of disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences, biological sciences and mathematics, athletics, and residential life. Embracing learning diversity means understanding and respecting our students as whole persons.


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