Scholarship for Unpaid Internships

George Mason University — Goal 1 Initiative Scholarship for Unpaid Internships

Many career fields have traditions of unpaid internships, and these internships offer critical career development opportunities that have proven to be important differentiators to full-time employment and launching of careers upon graduation. A significant portion of George Mason University students, however, are first-generation, and many financially support their families – often in low-wage roles in service industries. As such, they are unable to forgo their income and accept unpaid internships that can be crucial to securing a full-time role in their intended field.

George Mason's scholarship program provides financial support for students who demonstrate financial need seeking their first internship and career experience. Demand for this support has grown significantly during the pandemic, further proving the need for these critical resources. Financial resources will focus on the students who need this intervention most, supporting students with limited professional experience to gain that experience through internships.

When employers offer unpaid internships, they can miss an entire population of talented students who are just as smart and at least as resilient as those who have the luxury of working for free. By paying promising students who earn participation in unpaid internships, we extend the promise of inclusive excellence to them, and broaden the pool of talented intern applicants available to employers.

Gregory Washington, George Mason University

Initiative Differentiators

George Mason's initiative is unique in focusing on the students who exhibit financial need, as opposed to traditional merit-based scholarships. The scholarship's GPA requirement is intentionally low, and the initiative actively seeks out students with limited experience, who often must choose between a paid, non-career-related part-time role versus an internship related to their studies. George Mason's best and brightest are already successful without its intervention, and this initiative seeks to fund students who need an intervention to help pave their path to success. 

Key Interventions and Milestones

Students apply for support from the program, demonstrating the relevance of the internship to their career plans and outlining their specific development goals during the experience. Preference is given to students seeking their first internship and career experience. 

Given that demonstrated need for the program increased substantially in the current pandemic environment, next stages in development focus on increasing participation and funding available.  

Expected Impact

Through this scholarship initiative, George Mason hopes to increase the number of students able to pursue internships, particularly those with demonstrated financial need. The effort will track participants and draw from their feedback assess the impact of the program and continue expanding its reach.