When you come to college, you start with an empty toolbox. You’ll get the tools to fill your toolbox in your classes. But you won’t actually know how the tools will work to build your career until you test them out. That’s where the college internship comes in — and why you want a university that recognizes the value of internships.

Internships connect your academic success to your professional success.
At St. Edward’s University, I’ve heard one phrase over and over again: transferrable skills. Professors want the skills used and learned in the classroom to be directly applicable to your career. A school that encourages students to pursue internships realizes the that students want to be in control of their learning, and internships allow them to do that.

They let you test-drive different careers.
Internships foster a sort of professional experimentation with low risk. Students are given the opportunity to find their place in the real world, without actually having to be in the real world yet.

In my case, I had a variety of internships before I found my niche. I interned at a newspaper and at a magazine, in a sales department, and at the Texas State Capitol. I tried several different fields and forms of writing so that I could test which one I liked the most. It wasn’t until I actually got into the field that I was able to make informed decisions about my professional calling.

You’ll have a better chance of discovering your passion.
I’ve heard the horror stories of adults who hate their jobs and wish they could find something that inspired them. Universities that encourage internships value professional fulfillment: They want you to like what you do. Internships are a good way to test out and avoid the job-hating phase because you get to discover what you want before you even begin your career.

You’ll be more marketable as a job candidate.
Internships let you build the experience employers are looking for and make you a more attractive candidate in the job hunt. Consider Elizabeth Ucles, a St. Edward’s student who found her niche in journalism. She landed internships at magazines including Texas Monthly, Austin Monthly and Austin Woman, and she gained experience by working on the campus newspaper. These experiences led her to a summer fellowship at the Knightly Journalism School at the City University of New York where she is interning at WNYC, all of which will make her more marketable when she graduates.

Ucles exemplifies of the power of internships: She took her tools and built her path. Along the way, she discovered her passion and profession at the same time.

Laura Irwin is a Writing and Rhetoric major at St. Edward’s University. She has completed internships at El Economista, Austin Monthly and the Texas State Capitol. She is currently completing a research fellowship at the Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in New York City.