U of Dreams offers you “summer camp” internships

I told the campus rep from “University of Dreams” that I’d try to keep an open mind. Even told him I’d try to do an objective post on internprograms.com as soon as he sent more info. The information never came, so like any good skeptic, I went searching. You see, part of my job at Kent State is advising and placing public relations interns, so I gotta know what’s hot and what’s not.

uofd.gifInternprograms.com aroused my skepticism for a couple of reasons. First was the name: University of Dreams. A little corny, I thought. Then I read the details: Internship placement is guaranteed. Counselors coach you on your resume and set you up for interviews. Housing, transportation to and from your job, and weekday meals are part of the all-inclusive package. You also get 6 weekend getaways that are “all about fun,” says the website.

Geez! Is this an internship or spring break in Cancun? Toss me the sunscreen and show me where to sign!

For students, the package is, indeed, dreamlike. They complete an 8-week internship while living in a college dorm and continuing the college lifestyle. Add to this the attraction of an entirely new social network, developed in New York, Chicago, LA, SanFran, London or Barcelona.

It’s no surprise that testimonials on UofDreams’ website are glowing.

But I remain WAY skeptical. Other than the fact that I’m old and jaded, here’s why: Internships are about immersing students in the real world, which includes hard work and a fair number of obstacles to overcome. On paper, UofDreams sounds about as “real” as that posh resort I went to in Mexico year before last. It was a dream, to be sure, but the hardest work I did was raise my hand and say, “Senor, cerveza por favor.”

With UofDreams, students don’t need to research the market for internships; that’s done for you. They also don’t have to develop important networking skills; that’s done for you. From what I can tell, they don’t even need to perfect the skill of writing cover letters or the fine art of persistent follow-up. But most important, UofDreams students don’t have to deal with the rejection one invariably encounters as part of the internship-search process. The jobs are pretty much handpicked and served up on the proverbial silver platter.

So, can you see why most UofDreams students love the program? Who wouldn’t? You show up, take a few interviews, polish your shoes and go to work. In my world it’s called the path of least resistance, and it does little to thicken one’s professional hide or build personal character.

The UofDreams experience isn’t cheap, but that depends on your perspective. “Tuition” ranges from $6,500 in Chicago to $9,000 in London (airfare not included). For the students from Wellesley and Penn, that may sound like a bargain. But if you’re one of those public-school grunts, it’s a chunka change. A student at Kent State can cover a semester’s tuition plus room and board for just a tad more than the cost of 8 weeks with UofDreams in LA. But like I say, it all depends on your perspective — or the size of mom & dad’s bank account.

For Kent State students the cost is actually 25-50% higher when you figure lost income, as 95% of UofDreams internships are unpaid, while 95% of our internships offer compensation between $7 and $15/hour.

Anyhow, it’s little wonder UofDreams can guarantee internships. What business wouldn’t want a bright young slave for the summer?

To be fair, UofDreams doesn’t compel students to take any internship they don’t want. The student holds veto power on any placement, and a refund is available for those who don’t find the right one. But 99% of those accepted to the program stick with it, the website says.

Yeah, yeah. I know an internship at a PR firm in Cleveland or Pittsburgh is hardly as glamorous as one in New York or London. And you certainly don’t get the UofDreams “experience.” The internship in Columbus or Detroit may not seem like a “dream” job, but it is a very real experience that prepares you for the next step. If it knocks you around a bit in the process, get back up and press on.

So I come back to the summer-camp analogy in the headline. Clearly, the UofDreams program is popular with students. It’s a dream come true. And if Mom and Dad are willing to pony up, their kids all too often will follow that dream (with apologies to Elvis).

But eventually the UofDreams students will be out there fighting the battle with the rest of us. I just wonder if these summer-camp-like internships will truly prepare them for what lies ahead.

Call me old fashioned, but I believe the better internships more closely resemble boot camp than they do summer camp.

30 Responses to U of Dreams offers you “summer camp” internships

  1. Hey Bill. I just found your article on the web and I wanted to take a second to introduce myself. I am the CEO of the University of Dreams and I want thank you for taking the time to write about our program. It’s refreshing to see an informative piece on the web. We are still a very young company (only in our 7th year), and it will take time for school administrators to learn about the value of our program. I see that you teach public relations. That happens to be our number one industry of placement. If you ever need any more information about any of our programs, please feel free to email me direclty and I will make sure you get the information you need. Thank you again for taking the time to research our program. Happy New Year!

  2. Hmmm. Glad you liked it. Drop by anytime.

  3. Angela Chang says:

    Hello. As an alumni of U of Dreams, I feel that I need to speak up for the program. I was in the program in 2002 as a rising college junior and despite all my mother’s misgivings, thought it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. The internship spends a lot of evenings providing sessions that teach students to network, write cover letters, work on their resumes, among other practical career skills. Many times, students just need a chance to get their foot in the door, and have an experience to list on their resume. I truly feel that U of Dreams helped me get started to an always sucessful job search and really helped me search for a career that satisfies me. I am now in law school and still carry the lessons learned with me, and I have had no trouble finding employment. Moreover, it is a wonderful experience to live somewhere else and explore a new city, which students do as exchange students and willingly pay for that experience as well. I hope you take this into consideration!

  4. Bill Sledzik says:

    Thanks, Angela. That’s what’s great about blogs, you get to commment and to ensure that all sides are considered. I don’t doubt UofD can connect students to some great internships. It’ just that…well, you read my post. And my opinion hasn’t changed.

  5. Anon says:

    I agree with you Bill. But have you thought of this? What about a student who is attempting to get into a highly competitive field. Take for instance, Investment Banking, public schooler would have difficulties trying to get a position generally filled by ivy leaguers.

  6. Bill Sledzik says:

    Are you suggesting an internship from UofD makes a student competitive with the Ivy League? Or that UofD can somehow connect a student to a high-level career track? I’m not sure where you agree with me here, and I guess I’ll never know — the price we pay for allowing anonymous comments on our blogs. It’s about transparency, dude. Show yourself.

  7. Anon says:

    Okay “dude”, I agree with you in the sense that internship hunting forces a student to do important things (“fine art of persistent follow-up” and the ability to rebound from rejection) But what I am suggesting is that for 6-9k you get the opportunity to have a leg up, when getting an internship through them its as if you have a family member/friend working for the company your trying to intern with.

  8. Bill Sledzik says:

    Dude, do you work for these “dreamers” or what? If so, not to worry. Very few people read 3-month-old posts. And I ain’t that influential to begin with. Check the Technorati ratings.

    Whatever gives you the idea that interns land their positions though friends or family? Students in my program land internships every bit as good as the ones the UofD folks can offer. And my students don’t pay $6-9,000 for the privilege of working for free. I keep more than 40 paid internship in the database, and I can’t fill even half of them. My students are paid (rates vary from $8-$16 and hour) because they bring talent and experience to the table. Employers recognize this, and are willing to pay for it.

    And sorry if you’re insulted by “dude,” but “Anon” seems so impersonal. Know what I mean, dude?

  9. Anon says:

    Because, I prefer to remain anonymous. I’m a Junior at a public University and a customer, and you just dumped on them and it felt as if you dumped on me too. I work very hard and I found a number of internships, I was even offer a HIGHLY paid one listed in the Princeton review as a top 10 internship. But the field of Investment Banking is incredibly difficult to get an internship in, and if you want to work in the field it REQUIRES an internship. UofD is the only shot I have to get one.

  10. Bill Sledzik says:

    Fair enough, my friend. You have stayed with this conversation when a lotta folks would have bailed. That shows you are passionate about your topic and faithful to the spirit of the blogosphere. I will look past the the anonymity and will no longer dump on you. I’ll only dump of UofD when asked to respond. Don’t take it personally.

    I don’t know doodly about investment banking or about large public universities who have Huskies as mascots. I know even less about internships in this field. I wish you the best, and I hope you get your shot. Everyone deserves that.

  11. Anon says:

    Should of hit it from off-campus….damn trace route

  12. k says:

    lol @ the dichotomy between wellesley/penn and “public school grunts”.
    trust me, it’s too much for the financial-aid-laden private school world as well.

  13. Tiff says:

    I just wanted to say thanks for writing about University of Dreams. I have been researching internships all summer and UofD just sounded so appealing. 9k is a small fortune that us public school grunts could never afford.

    It is good to find a voice of reason.

  14. Bill Sledzik says:

    I’ve opted to take down a comment by Steve G. following an email discussion with Eric Lochtefeld, CEO of University of Dreams. While I abhor censorship, Eric made a very reasonable appeal, pointing out that Steve’s comments were unfair and in bad taste. He’s right. Hat’s off to Eric, a CEO who pays close attention to what the blogosphere is saying about his company. I need to do same when approving comments, which has become way too automatic for me.

    There’s a lesson here, and if all goes well I’ll be writing about it in a few days once I have a chance to talk a bit more with Eric.

  15. Tracy says:

    I also found my way to this blog after looking into the University of Dreams. I agree with what you had to say as far as having everything done for you doesn’t exactly prepare you for the real world. I’m a journalism student at a state university with limited finances and feel like I could benefit a lot from a summer experience abroad but I’m not thinking UD is the ticket. As we become an increasingly global society I feel that no one will take me seriously as a journalist if I haven’t stepped out of the US. Do you have any recommendations for obtaining internships abroad without going through a frills program like UD?

  16. Bill Sledzik says:

    Tracy,

    Understand that when I wrote this post I didn’t mean to imply UofD had bad internships or that somehow the experience with UofD is second-cabin. Fact is, U of D alumni seem very positive about their experience. Run the Google search on this company and you don’t turn up many negatives.

    I simply feel a big part of the learning experience is researching the market, competing for and landing the internship on you own. UofD does a lot of that for you. Many students sign up for that very reason.

    Competing for an internship in London, Paris or Hong Kong is no east task. And the same is true if you’re an east-coaster trying to land a gig in LA, or vice versa. Is UofD pricey? Sure. But think about what it’ll cost you to make connections overseas, find housing, etc., assuming you could even do it on your own. So UofD might be worth a look. You are under no obligation to accept the internship they find you.

    What’s critical is that you get the internship you really want. That’s far more important than how you found it or who helped you. I’m going to be talking to our Career Services folks at KSU next week. I’ll let you know if they offer additional advice.

  17. […] removed a comment last week (from this post), and I have no plans to re-approve it. The author of that comment has demanded I restore his […]

  18. Lisa says:

    As an alumni of the University of Dreams, I am disgusted by the nature of this article. I once worked for a newspaper too. We all know, slander sells. Sure, we can all be skeptics, but until you actually take the time and talk to people who have completed the program or who have applied, I cannot see how you could possibly publish something of this nature.

    I’ll admit, I was a skeptic when I first started researching the company, as you said, who wouldn’t with a name like University of Dreams? But in all seriousness, I had the best 8 weeks of my life while I was in this program in New York and I gained invaluable contacts and a wealth of inforamtion. My internship has led me to places that my fellow classmates could never have dreamed of having. The internship, the atmosphere, and the people gave me the confidence to apply for jobs and contact professionals I would have never contacted.

    All in all, I’m EXTREMELY proud to say I’m a dreamer and that this experience was beyond what I could have ever expected.

  19. James says:

    Wassup Bill,

    Ive read a few of the postings on your blog and I think that everyone has made good points. I have a question though, what about international students that want to start their careers in America? In my case I attend a college in Michigan and want to work in America when i graduate. However obtaining an internship is next to impossible due the cost that are linked with me getting the visa needed for me to work for the summer. Whats your opinion on international students getting involved in the UoDReams program?

  20. Bill Sledzik says:

    Seems to me that an internship broker like UofD is idea for students who are shopping in foreign lands. That’s true for U.S. students looking to Europe or Asia, but it’s also true for Europeans & Asians looking to the U.S.

    But since you already attend school in Michigan, I would begin my quest by seeing what resources your own university has. Check the Career Services department. Ask your faculty for advice. And if you can avoid it, James, don’t work for free. Interns bring value to their employers and should be compensated for that value.

  21. Katie says:

    I participated in UOD this summer in New York. I worked as a design intern at Maxim, and I currently have a page that I designed in the September 07 issue. Without UOD that NEVER would have happened. Partially because I wouldn’t have looked for it in New York. Where would I live? I’m from Indianapolis, and I never knew anyone from NYC. The program gave me a place to live, other participants to live with and get to know, and excursions I wouldn’t have experienced without the program. They offered support, and even took me to the hospital for free when I got hurt.

    I had no contacts before Maxim. Zero. I was a sophomore at a private Christian school in Indiana. I didn’t stand out from anyone else. Because the companies go to UOD for interns, you know they’re looking to “hire.” And by the way, none of the Maxim interns get paid. Even if I found the internship on my own I wouldn’t have gotten paid.

    Without UOD I wouldn’t have had any confidence to apply for internships. And I know what it’s like to apply for jobs and send resumes, I had plenty of experience there, trust me. And UOD helped me with my resume so it didn’t look like crap.

    The program was invaluable, and I appreciate everything they did for me. It sounded too good to be true, but it wasn’t. I just got accepted for the Sydney program, and God knows I’d never be able to work that out on my own (I’d have to find my own housing in a foreign country, have nobody I know to be with, and arrange transportation). I guess that’s the part you think students need to experience.

  22. Tina H. says:

    I’m not understanding any of this. Everything that I have read seems to be contradictory to others. I understand that UofD is expensive and strongly want to believe with both sides. I am interested in the program and am trying to believe that it will benefit me. However, I don’t want to think that I am “paying” for an internship. My question is, even though I am guaranteed and internship, will I be “guaranteed” a job afterwards. I don’t want to have to get in the habit of only doing 6 week internships and pay 6-9k every year just to satisfy my hunger of having that same and exact internship. What if I want a job with the company afterwards? Will UofD provide that with the expenses? What if I want to continue having that exact job with the company? Will UofD strip it away because it needs to be open for the next UofD student? Is UofD beneficial for me when I leave its illusion and drop back into the world of reality?

  23. Bill Sledzik says:

    Hi, Tina. Thanks for your comments. I continue to be astounded at the interest this post draws some 10 months after its publication. I feel your angst, but to be fair, NO internship employer and no internship broker can guarantee you a job once you graduate. That’s on you, and much of it depends on the experience you take away from the internship(s) you sign on for. So whether you work through UofD, through your school’s Career Services” office, or on your own, ask employers a LOT of questions about the type of work you’ll be doing on the internship. Then ask yourself and others how those skills will translate to the job market.

    You should be interviewing professionals in the field you hope to work in and asking them about the skills needed to succeed. Then ask yourself if you have those skills and, if not, how you might acquire them.

    I feel fortunate that my students at Kent State (PR majors) do paid internships almost exclusively, earning on average $10-$12 and hour. But we have a significant skills component in our program here, so the interns are able to contribute to their employers from day one. This isn’t always the case for students coming from more traditional academic programs that have little or no skills emphasis. I’m not saying our approach is superior, it’s just different, and for us, it’s effective.

    As I’ve learned more about UofD, my criticism of them has softened. UofD is particularly effective for students who want those long-distance internships and are unable to make a trip to search on their own. UofD connects you to both jobs and housing. I wouldn’t know where to begin, for instance, trying to place an intern in Barcelona. UofD has an established network there. Same time, I remain convinced that many students select UofD because it’s convenient and because it requires little effort on their parts. After graduation, you’ll find that no such “easy ways” exist.

    Good luck, and contact me directly if you think I can help.

  24. Sariah says:

    Hi,

    I’m researching U of Dreams for the first time and I would like to comment on the criticism that these internships are not the ‘get your hands dirty’ kind of internships we all think qualify as ‘real’ internships. I’ve never been an intern, however, I have been a contributing member of the workforce all during college and for 2 and a half years after. I have to say that this ‘real world’ you speak of, work… well, it is a balancing act. It’s not all about how many hours you put in the office nor is it how many boxes you move from the stock room to the kitchen every day. It’s about how you stay focused on your goals, your dreams, in spite of the desire (and need) for a life outside the office. The fact that U of Dreams offers a night out to unwind, a few trips around the city of your choice to enjoy the culture tells me that this company understands that reality…that really what we all want is a healthy balance of a career, family, friends, and culture.

    If I’d have heard of this program while I was in college, I certainly would have found a way to fund the experience (even if I was already working multiple jobs to pay for school).

  25. Elizabeth says:

    Hi Bill –

    I am currently a student at your home University – Kent State – the very college you touted for having students who financially cannot afford this program. I am an out of state student who pays for my own tuition (twice that of in-state), my housing, food, and everything else required to live. I’ve done so since I was 17 years old. Additionally, I’ve received an extremely minute amount of assistance through scholarships, a few thousand dollars at the most. I’m the first one to consider the financial viability of investing that much money into anything, and I made a very wise decision in doing so.

    Although I took out a loan out for my tuition in the program, I learned more in those 8 weeks with UofDreams than I have in some semesters here at Kent State – it is a decision that I will NEVER regret. In fact, it was the best investment I’ve made at this point in my life because I’m still in contact with my boss and other high-profile professionals I met through the program…and they’re all more than willing to help me with my job search! It’s rare to hear of students getting that out of an internship.

    While I honestly praise you and your department for having so many exclusive, paid internships available for your students, this is not at all common across campus. In fact, to be bluntly honest, the reason you may not be able to fill some of your offered internships is because they probably aren’t what students are interested in. UofDreams gives students the experience they desire, and yes it comes at a financial cost. Although your internships are paid, the cost of foregoing:
    1.) the high-profile networking opportunities
    2.) the friendships developed while livng in a new city
    3.) having a professional, dedicated mentor for each intern
    4.) experiencing a new city in a safe, entertaining and guided manner
    5.) challenging each person to explore his/her career, and giving each the tools and motivation needed to do so
    6.) the alumni resources upon graduating the program
    couldn’t make up for the amount of money to be made in one summer ($3-$4K at the most?)

    It’s truly a disadvantage to get paid financially if students aren’t getting where they want to go. Money isn’t the answer OR the purpose of internships (that’s what a job is for) – it’s about the experience (don’t get me wrong, getting paid for an amazing internship is, well…amazing!) The future value of the networking and experiences far surpasses the current financial cost of the program. UofDreams challenges each Dreamer in his/her experiences in the internship, career outlook, and even life.

    In regards to your challenge of the “real world” experience – I’ll be the first one to tell you that Eric Lochtefeld does not surpass this fact of real life. He shares his story of his *numerous* failures and grueling battles to get to where he is today. His story is a reality check and an inspiration to anyone who wants to get where they are going today. Many other speakers are brought in to keep the real life perspective, and the mentors help guide each Dreamer too. Not having to deal with the extra stresses allows each student to focus on the most important thing – networking, growing in their internship, and developing career skills. Most college students already understand and have experienced applying for something and getting rejections – isn’t that the entire process of getting into college? UofDreams doesn’t exist to teach basic life lessons, it achieves a goal of challenging and growing individuals (instead of encouraging status quo in a career).

    Lastly, did you dream of becoming a professor for your career? I hope you did because you would be another inspiration that it is possible to obtain a career that you highly enjoy; and I hope you share your story with your students. If not, I sincerely wish you could have had the UofDreams experience like I did.

    Respectfully,
    Elizabeth
    UoD Chicago ’05

    p.s. I believe the majority of the programs are filled to capacity, which speaks volumes in itself.

  26. Allison says:

    Bill,

    To go against the grain, I’d like to thank you for posting this. I’ve been researching the program, and as I discovered it on the internet, there’s always the potential for a scam. It would be heartbreaking to give all of my information, let alone all that money only to arrive in New York to find anything less than the “University of Dreams”.

    Before stumbling across your post I was actually becoming quite disheartened, because everything google turned up just seemed…well…too nice! I was sure that UoD was behind all of it, but seeing mild criticisms makes me feel much better about the program. After all, nothing is perfect, right?

    I also really benefited from seeing comments outside of the glowing ones posted on their website. I know that for a student like myself, spending this much money is a monumental decision, and it’s comforting to get a balanced argument.

    I’m interested in the program because I want to go into film or television production, and believe me, there’s not many opportunities for internships out here in the middle of Missouri. I’ve already exhausted my internship options in local news, and that’s not the job I want anyway. I’m pursuing this because it would give me the opportunity to go straight into a more creative role, in a job I would be passionate about. At least that’s the dream.

  27. Ben Linus says:

    You can get a placement in New York / LA – if you looked at the website you would see placements at places like Google / 20th Century fox etc. If you do well and land a job at a company like that – which is the intent of a person willing to part with $5000 for the opportunity, do you seriously not think that your career prospects in the future won’t improve to the extent of earning you that money back?

  28. Bill Sledzik says:

    Thanks for dropping by, Ben. This 2.5-year-old post could use a little action to boost SEO! So in the interest of disclosure, which UofD internship did you do? And how’d you get away with only $5K? Smokin’ deal!

  29. Caity says:

    I’ve been doing research over University of Dreams myself, as I have applied, enrolled, and submitted my resume. I read your article and all the comments, and I agree that finding some amount of pessimism about the program is relieving.

    I personally will be paying for the entire program, minus the initial deposit and the application fee, myself. This is certainly not just a program for those with money, as I have none and in fact find myself having to pay bills with minimal help from family members. My father refuses to give up on paying for my college education, and he gives me some money each month to help with bills, but I have a job and take a full and often time-consuming and heavy class schedule each month. I joined a service sorority, which I pay for myself, and a performance group nobody outside of my university could really understand – I will be paying for the next year myself, as well. So, to say that students who get internships through companies such as University of Dreams are undeserving is certainly to misspeak for some who are simply more determined to break down the brick walls blocking them from their goals, even if they have to pay money to do so.

  30. Kimberly says:

    Hello,

    I plan on enrolling in the University of Dreams London program, and I do not understand why this is so hard for everyone to comprehend! SEVERAL universities all across the united states offer ‘intern abroad’ programs through their study abroad offices through which students get unpaid internships and have to pay a sum (generally from $6500-$10,000) for two months over summer depending on the location.
    This is no different from the University of Dreams!

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