Unpaid (and required) College Internships

On a recent trip to Baltimore for my high school reunion, I met a young woman named Molly Rea. Molly was bartending at the hotel where I stayed. When I asked her if she was from Baltimore, I received an answer that I didn’t expect. As it turns out, Molly is completing a six- month unpaid internship for her Music Therapy major at Purdue University Fort Wayne. To make ends meet including continuing to pay her share of the rent for her apartment in Texas, she took a bartending job while completing the internship. Bartending helps pay the bills, but financially, it’s still a struggle.

It does not surprise me that many college students work while attending college. I am also aware of three-month practicums, particularly in nursing and teaching, that do not pay the student going through the practicum. I was surprised that Music Therapy would require a six-month practicum. I asked Molly if she could send me some information that I could use to write this blog article. She sent me the following post from her Facebook account.

My amazing tribe of loved ones,

*sigh* The time has come for me to swallow my pride and humbly ask for help during my [unpaid] internship. The financial strain is weighing on me more than I expected and while both of my parents and boyfriend have all done their part in assisting me along the way as much as possible, I am putting this information out there in case anyone is willing and able to help keep my boat above water.

I am managing paying rent in both Maryland on the room I am leasing, and half of our home’s rent in Texas to help Anthony, on top of my car payment, insurance, renter’s insurance (x2), cell service, and food and gas during my journey out here. I worked my TAIL off leading up to this experience, but with the initial delay and life piling on one thing after another, the amount I thought I needed to save up is proving to be not enough. I felt it was worth it to throw it out to the universe and give it up to God.

I began this undergraduate program fairly certain that I wanted to serve folks in psychiatric care… and after these first eight weeks at Springfield Hospital Center, this dream is finally being realized. Over 90% of our census are forensic patients suffering from severe schizophrenia / schizoaffective disorder / personality disorder / mood disorder / substance use disorder / and delusional disorder. I am finally able to put everything I’ve studied over these last six years into action and bring a caring heart and relentless passion through music to help these individuals reach a fuller state of health. My dream internship is becoming a dream come true and the path being laid in front of me is one I am so fortunate to be walking down. I love this work and I love feeling like I am making a difference in people’s lives, whether it’s having a dance party to “call me maybe” by Carly Rae Jepson at least five times a week because it is one of my patient’s favorites… or monthly birthday parties where we all do the cupid shuffle… or whether it’s validating a patient response during a song discussion while we touch on topics related to their treatment… or whether it’s simply having the chance to tell someone who feels isolated and depressed that “I see you. I hear you. I GET you.” and trusting that they know that I mean every word. It really is the perfect career for me, and I am learning so much during my time here.

In the midst of the financial burden, I have taken it upon myself to get a part time job bartending at a hotel restaurant near my apartment, hoping to work three nights a week. combined with my hospital hours, I’ll be pulling 65+ hour weeks and beginning to go down the road of burning the candle at both ends. If anyone so kindly decides to make a freewill donation to my cause, please know that every penny will be spent on rent, gas, and food.

I am a very self-sufficient woman, working multiple part time jobs the entire way through my associates and undergraduate degrees. It is not an easy thing for me to bow my head and recognize that if there ever was a time to ask for financial help from my support system, it is now. I wanted so badly to be able to do this on my own and it feels in many ways I’ve let myself and my loved ones down because this decision was mine, and I knew it was going to be a costly one choosing to take an internship placement out of state. But in my heart of hearts, I do know that this was the best decision I’ve ever made and the wealth of knowledge and level of care I will be encompassing in Maryland will serve me the many years I have yet to face in the field of music therapy. I have opted to include my Venmo and cashapp usernames in this post for reference if you are able to help in any way. I am trusting in the way and putting my pride aside, and for dozens of reasons… I am eternally grateful. Thank you everyone.

With Love,

Obviously, it was tough for Molly to publish a request for additional funds on her Facebook page. When I wrote her and asked for additional information about her education, she provided me with the following information.

During her junior and senior years at Purdue, Molly was awarded the Sally Brockmeyer Music Therapy Scholarship as well as a Choral Scholar position. During her senior year, she was noted as one of Purdue University Fort Wayne’s Top 50 students (out of 8,000). She also published an article about her music therapy work with women recovering from addiction in the Purdue Journal of Service-Learning and International Engagement. The article provides a lot of interesting information about her work with the women at a particular recovery center in Indiana.

Once she completes this 1,200 hour supervised practicum at Springhill State Hospital, Molly will be able to sit for the certification exam which is absolutely necessary for someone who wants to maintain a professional standing in the field.

I don’t know how many college students are in a situation like Molly. While her situation may not be unique, her passion for her future profession stood out. I appended her Venmo information to the end of this article. If you feel inspired to send her some money, I know that it will be applied to rent and other related expenses while she is completing her practicum. Thanks in advance, and I’m sure Molly will thank you as well.

Molly Rea Venmo

Subjects of Interest


Higher Education

Independent Schools


Student Persistence