I need references to apply for a summer internship but...

  • #1
830
45
...I feel very uncomfortable asking any of the teachers who have taught the classes I have taken so far. There was one teacher who I was considering asking to be one of my two references. I have already tried e-mailing him even though he has left the university, but he did not reply; whether it was because he does not check the e-mail that my university gave him or whether he simply does not want to write a letter of recommendation, I don't think bothering this professor is a good idea.

In any case, this was the one professor I was comfortable asking since I had taken many of the classes that he taught during his time in my university. I feel very uncomfortable asking any other professors I have taken. None of them know me on a personal basis and every talk I have ever had with any of them involved giving me help with homework. Additionally, I need two of these references to vouch for an internship I am likely to not get, anyway.

It's an internship seeking students who possess an interest in mathematics and computer science. I'm mediocre at math, and my programming skills are bordering near non-existent. I don't need any vacuous words of encouragement telling me to apply anyway, because "I never know what could happen unless I try", or anything similar. The point is, I'm not a good math student, and I sure am not a computer science student. I am not qualified for this internship, period.

I've been having a rough week stressing out about my post-graduation career. I didn't visit the career center during that timespan, but the session I had with my career counselor at school during the winter semester was just frustrating and unhelpful. All he did was Google-search several times in our hour-long session what kind of things I could do with a math degree, and showing me descriptions of these jobs hoping I would name one and then focus in on it. When I said I considered becoming an actuary, all he did was continue Google-searching "actuary" and then he showed the results several times over. This was something I could have done on my own, and frankly this was a giant waste of my time. He also did not bother helping me shape up my resume, which was a side-objective of the counseling session. He just gave a quick scan of the resume I handed him, then gave me a sample resume to model mine after. I mean, this random person who used to work at my workplace did a better job of helping me edit my resume. He asked me questions about what I could do and what experience I had, what to take out, what skills I could add in, and general spacing and formatting tips.

Venting about that session aside, I did some studying for Exam FM over the past week, and I decided not to go through with it. The sample problems for the first module were much too difficult for me to understand, and it was needlessly frustrating to try, which is why I decided that I didn't want to go the actuary route. So now, I'm just panicking about having no career to pursue after graduation that uses my math degree. I was hoping I could pursue work in the data entry, even though it doesn't necessarily require a math degree, since this type of work seems to fit my current experience and qualifications the best. I've been browsing what jobs are available with a math degree, and a lot of them require years of prior experience working in the field the job is involved in--something that I have no idea how I could get. And with little to no programming experience, I cannot hope to pursue a job in data science so easily. In short, I'm not looking forward to my post-graduation life where I cannot make use of my math degree to pursue careers that require it. I'll just be stuck working at a job that doesn't even need it. Or worse, I'll have no job at all that can pay rent in this state.

I haven't been preparing for this as much as I ought to, and it really shows. My main goal in the latter years of college was to get out of there with my degree as soon as possible, because I was sick of school and was no longer happy studying math. I hadn't been planning much about what would happen after graduation, and now it's come back to haunt me. To sum it up, I am pretty much very ill-prepared come graduation time when I have no reputable job that I could have earned with better planning, and more work, in addition to a math degree that I (may not) have earned. I would have earned it for nothing, and now I'm thinking of all the time I've wasted not working as hard as I should.
 
Last edited:

Answers and Replies

  • #2
29,969
6,357
I am not qualified for this internship, period.
You should apply for internships that you are qualified for. You will probably still need to ask for teacher recommendations
 
  • #3
Well, first a couple of questions: What year are you in undergrad (senior)? What jobs did you have previously (anything relevant that you could continue to pursue)? What other recommenders could you possibly have (grad student TAs, work study boss, anyone)? What do you want to do with your life?

Based on your entry, I will assume your are a senior. IN the grand scheme of things, it is not too late to learn the skills you need to get to where you want to be. You may not have the skills for the types of jobs you've been looking at now, but if you know what you want, then you can develop a path to get there. Figure out what you might want to do and then see what other people had to do to get to that point (research the career)

However, on the timescale of college, it is a little late to start where you are (in my opinion). To get good recommendations, it takes some time/energy to cultivate useful relationships with mentors, etc., which is something you should have been working on over the years. Sorry this is hard news, but many people don't realize it's a game you have to start playing right away.

In the spirit of useful advice (not to pick on you), I also want to encourage you to be more active in getting what you want. I was struck by how you said the career counselor didn't help you:

When I said I considered becoming an actuary, all he did was continue Google-searching "actuary" and then he showed the results several times over. This was something I could have done on my own, and frankly this was a giant waste of my time.
Really, you must realize that YOU must be the biggest source of help to yourself. You can’t expect people to give you answers. You should have gone in there with a list of questions and objectives and a concept of what you wanted to get out of the meeting. If you see things leading in an unproductive direction, then take charge and push the agenda that is helpful to you.

This is one of the biggest things that I learned in college. To take control of your life.
 
  • Like
Likes quaerenz
  • #4
1,792
910
I'm mediocre at math
Really? Compared to whom? other math majors? That may be true, but compared to everyone else you're probably pretty good.

I looked just now at a sample Exam FM. You're right, this looks hard. But keep in mind, nobody takes this test without studying for it (and for alot longer than a week). To me it looks like you need to know the terminology (like what the heck is "Macaulay Duration"); but otherwise it is 200 questions twisting the interest rate / value equations around mercilessly. Requires study and alot of practice, but it isn't rocket surgery.

I'm just trying to be encouraging here without being vacuous o_O.

And listen to @Dale -- applying for internships you really aren't qualified for will likely make you feel even worse.
 
  • #5
830
45
What year are you in undergrad (senior)?
I'm a senior entering my last semester come January the eighth of the new year.

What jobs did you have previously (anything relevant that you could continue to pursue)?
Just the one I've been doing for over two years now, which mainly involves data entry and sometimes data analysis.

What other recommenders could you possibly have (grad student TAs, work study boss, anyone)?
I have my current boss I could ask, but in the context of pursuing academic scholarships, I think that someone not involved in my education would not be a good reference. In addition, I have very, very poor social skills, so I haven't been socializing with him casually. I haven't been socializing casually with anyone, really, in the entirety of my college career. I cannot talk to students for the fun of it, let alone professors whom I wish to ask favors from

What do you want to do with your life?
At first, I wanted to become an actuary. Unfortunately, I haven't been dedicating much of my time towards this goal during my college career. I'm only now, during the winter vacation before my final semester, starting to study for my first exam. But as I have said, I'm finding the first chapter's sample exam problems a bit hard to understand, which is why I'm questioning going this route if the first chapter is giving me this much trouble. In any case, my other plan was to go the data science route, but with little to no programming experience, professional or otherwise, I cannot see how I could. In short, I don't really know anymore, and it's become the main cause of my worries for the past few days...
 
  • #6
ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
35,847
4,663
You do not sound like someone who should be applying for an internship, and if you do, you don't appear to be someone who would be selected for one.

Zz.
 
  • #7
Vanadium 50
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
2019 Award
25,137
8,252
Wow, Zz, and people say I'm harsh!

Eclair, I will repeat what I said several threads ago.

As you point out, you have asked us many, many times what to do. You get the same advice, over and over. You don't take it, wanting to do everything on your own. Fair enough, but if you don't change what you're doing, you won't change the outcome.

What would Bob Newhart say about this?

You keep asking us for advice, you keep getting it, you keep not taking it, and you keep wondering why the outcomes are unfavorable. Over and over and over.
 
  • #8
ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
35,847
4,663
Wow, Zz, and people say I'm harsh!
But I say it with a smile and with a twinkle in my eye!

Zz.
 
  • #9
Dr. Courtney
Education Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
3,242
2,381
Just the one I've been doing for over two years now, which mainly involves data entry and sometimes data analysis.

I have my current boss I could ask, but in the context of pursuing academic scholarships, I think that someone not involved in my education would not be a good reference.
It really depends. A computer job reference is better than no reference. A boss can also speak to basic work ethic issues: showing up on time, working hard, not being disruptive, and so on.

Some hiring managers prefer references from teachers, others prefer bosses, other like to hear from both sides. Unless a job applicant asks specifically which is preferred for a given application, you don't really know.

I applied for a few jobs in college where at least one of my references was a boss at a fast food restaurant. Dunno if it helped or hurt. But I do know the fast food managers thought highly of my work ethic and I was offered just about every job I interviewed for.

I'll also emphasize that I advise the students I mentor to carefully select and cultivate relationships throughout their high school and college years with an eye toward references and recommendations that will be needed later. Sure that job at the tutoring center may not pay as well or be as exciting as some jobs relating to the campus night life. But the potential recommendations from supervisors at the tutoring center will likely be worth more when the time comes. Likewise, a lot of research opportunities are unpaid. But when one needs a reference or recommendation, a good word from a research supervisor for who you have worked hard and been productive is a golden ticket to open doors for your next stop.

Case in point, I met a high school student a couple years ago here on PF and mentored two high school science projects. He did a great job, not only performing well in his science fairs, but co-authoring a couple of published papers. The relationship with me and my recommendations immediately opened research jobs for him at his chosen undergrad institution, majoring in Physics. Most freshman Physics majors have to knock on lots of doors and have a tough time finding opportunities. This young man had faculty with great research opportunities seeking him out.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Likes plasmon_shmasmon and Dale
  • #10
At first, I wanted to become an actuary. Unfortunately, I haven't been dedicating much of my time towards this goal during my college career.
my other plan was to go the data science route, but with little to no programming experience, professional or otherwise, I cannot see how I could.
I just want to say that you can still pursue these things if you come up with a solid plan (but maybe this internship that you've mentioned is not part of it?). College is not the only way to learn these skills, nor does it have to be the end of the road for your personal education. A solid career can take a decade or more to cultivate (that's why many jobs that you see will require "x years of experience"). So maybe you're not as behind the curve as you feel. That being said, it seems you do have to get more serious.

BTW, you mentioned fields of interest (actuary or data science), but you didn't mention jobs. Take some time to look at what types of jobs are in these fields and figure out if they appeal to you.

Last but not least, your references. You gotta start somewhere, so go with any boss that you've had. Moving forward, you now know that professional relationships are important to cultivate, so keep on it.
 
Last edited:

Related Threads on I need references to apply for a summer internship but...

Replies
7
Views
911
Replies
3
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
2
Views
1K
  • Last Post
Replies
5
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
5
Views
4K
Replies
7
Views
15K
Replies
8
Views
4K
  • Last Post
Replies
2
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
1
Views
823
Top