College students have trouble finding summer jobs they want, teens have trouble finding work at all

Friday, May 3rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Last summer, Tracey Lomrantz was a paid intern for a New York law firm. This year, with a stack of rejections from journalism internships on her desk, she figures she'll wait tables.

``It's really frustrating,'' says Lomrantz, a junior at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.

Other young people know the feeling. College students who once had their pick of summer work that offered both professional experience and a paycheck are finding this year's market the toughest they've ever faced.

Some are turning to more traditional summer jobs, which is making it harder for high school students to get seasonal work at all.

Many companies have cut summer internships. And those who've kept them say they're getting an unprecedented number of applications _ even for unpaid positions.

At HWH Public Relations agency in New York, for example, 200 college students _ twice last year's number _ applied for this summer's unpaid internship at the firm.

In a climate where some college graduates are still looking for jobs or accepting positions that once went to students, experts say an undergrad might need to apply with 20 companies to get one offer _ and forgo a wage.

``This is not the summer to get rich. This is the summer to get experience,'' says Steven Rothberg, president and founder of, a Minneapolis-based jobs Web site for college students.

Officials at _ which runs such sites as and _ also say site traffic has risen 7 percent in a year when the company has cut back on advertising.

The trend is having a trickle down effect on high school students.

Joshua Ginsburg, a 17-year-old high school student from Houston, applied this spring for jobs at several sporting goods chains and music stores, but didn't land a thing.

He's decided to make the most of his misfortune _ volunteering his time teaching computer skills to disadvantaged kids and writing a book about ``teen stress from the male perspective.''

The flooded market is sending an overflow of college-age applicants to some traditional summer employers that, in recent years, have been crying for workers.

Sue Merrill, director of the Kampus Kampers camp in Boca Raton, Fla., says she's never been able to fill her counselor positions as quickly as she has this year.

Not everyone has been so lucky. In New Jersey, restaurateur Karen Parziale still reports a the dearth of students, especially teens, willing to work as wait staff. It's ``a desperate situation,'' she says.

``They would rather spend their summers at the beach tanning,'' says Parziale, who runs the Riverside Cafe & Restaurant with her brother in Manasquan, N.J.

Grimaldo Robles, seasonal employment coordinator at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in northern Michigan, says he's still scrambling to fill most of 115 slots for male camp counselors.

But at least one survey has found that college students are ready to work. A March survey commissioned by YouthStream Media Networks, a youth marketing and media company, found that nearly 60 percent of college students questioned plan to work or do an internship this summer. Another 19 percent plan to take classes.

Of those surveyed, 16 percent also said the recession had affected their summer plans. Some said they had to work full-time or more hours. Others said they had less money or had to cancel vacation plans.

Ryan Alexander, a student at John Marshall Law School in Chicago, says he was getting worried when none of the 150 internship applications he sent for positions this summer panned out.

``It's pretty tough unless you're in the top 10 or 15 percent of the class _ and I'm not,'' he says.

But he lucked out when some mock trial work he did impressed a representative from audio giant Harman International who happened to be visiting the school.

Next thing Alexander knew, he had an offer for a summer job at the California-based company's intellectual property unit.

Astrid Fernandez, a junior at NYU's Stern School of Business, is another of the fortunate ones. She got an internship at NYPR, a New York marketing and public relations firm.

But she knows many who've found nothing _ and one of her friends who graduated last May is still looking for a job.

``I'm very lucky to be graduating next year,'' she says. ''2002 is a really bad year to be graduating.''