Tip 1: Be honest with yourself. If you know that you can’t afford three months of no income, avoid unpaid positions during the summer. Focus on getting ahead financially, and work out a savings plan so you’re in the position to take an internship with low wages next summer. Or, take summer classes to lighten your course load in the fall, and look for an internship position then.
Tip 2: Ask for other perks. Your employer may not have the budget for a full-time intern, but negotiating your offer letter is common practice. Ask for things like a commuting budget, a flexible schedule, or even a little extra vacation time. Some employers may reimburse your bus pass or daily train ticket. And, by working out a flexible schedule, you may be able to pick up some extra money at a second, paying job (like being a swim coach, in my case!).
Tip 3: Live for free (or cheap). If your summer internship isn’t in your hometown, reach out to family and friends in the area where you will be working; and look into student housing options if there are colleges in the area.
For example, I lived at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA during my summer internship, even though I didn’t attend that college. I was given a discounted student rate so they could fill their otherwise empty dorms during the summer. Other schools, including Emory University in Atlanta and American University in Washington, D.C., offer similar programs.