Southwestern Internship Q & A

This site was designed as an open forum discussion on the Southwestern Internship program.  Every year Southwestern as a company interviews over 40,000 students from over 450 universities around the world.  Last year Southwestern had the largest summer internship program in the country according to Forbes, and in 2006 won the Best in Business award in Nashville where their corporate headquarters is located.  Throughout the interview process students are able to learn a lot about Southwestern as a company and about their internship program, but this site has been set up to provide an opportunity for students who are thinking about a Southwestern Internship to connect with students who have already participated.

Students who have gone through a Southwestern Internship previously will be checking this site out from time to time and sharing their thoughts on any question you might have as you are thinking about what is best for your summer.  So whether you are a student, a parent, or just someone wanting to know a little more about what a Southwestern Internship all entails; ask away!

To ask your own question, respond to a question that has been asked, or just to read what everyone is talking about, click on the comments and you can view the entire string.  Along the right hand side of the page are additional links that you might find helpful.  These include the Better Business Bureau review of the Southwestern Internship, a Forbe’s article about Southwestern’s Internship program, and various other sites to help you get to know the whole Southwestern Internship a little better.

This is not a corporate site.  This is designed for real students with real questions to be able to get candid answer from people who have participated in Southwestern’s Internship previously.  We hope you find it helpful!


16 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Common Question on January 2, 2011 at 4:16 am

    Are there any up front costs for a student participating in a Southwestern Internship?


    • No, there are no upfront costs in a Southwestern Internship. All training is paid for by the company. All start up sample supplies are provided by and paid for by the company. Students are just responsible for typical living expenses throughout the summer, which would include food, gas (if you have a car), and rent to the host family that is set up by Southwestern.


  2. Posted by Common Question on January 1, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    Do students have to purchase products up front and then sell them? Can someone ever get stuck with books and software they don’t need?


    • No, students do not purchase products on the front end. Throughout the course of the summer students take orders and collect deposits from their customers. At the end of the summer students order all of the books and software from the company at one time, take one week to deliver to all of their customers, collect the remaining balance, and then come back to the company with the money at the end. No books are ever purchased by students in the Southwestern Internship from the company up front. If for some reason you have left over inventory at the end, Southwestern as a company takes them all back.


  3. Last year I was a corporate recruiter at Auburn University. I interviewed students and after they were selected I helped train and prepare them for their first summer. One of the most commonly asked questions I got was– Where am I going to live and is it expensive?

    — Returning managers are the ones in charge of setting up host families for our students. They are set up prior to the summer starting. Host families are typically alumni of our program, previous host families or the parent of student that is selling. Host families allow for students to get to know the area faster and it cuts down on expenses. Family environments can help with emotional support when students are away from home. Host families usually charge between 20-50 per week.


  4. In the event that last minute circumstances forced a previously lined up host family to back out, Southwestern would pay for a hotel for the student while another host family is being lined up.


  5. Posted by Brandan Tobin on January 8, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    My name is Brandan Tobin and I’ve sold/recruited for Southwestern at UC Berkeley for the last 3 years. It’s been awesome. When building a team, I’m often asked how I’m compensated for our team’s success, or how they would be if they recruited a team one day.

    -My answer to that is a manager only does as well as their team does. Friends of mine have attempted to recruit me to multi-level marketing companies where I pay a recruiter 500 bucks to join whether I do well or not. In SW, as an independent contractor, I actually receive a percentage discount on the wholesale price of merchandise I buy, based on how well a person does. My little sister sold about 2700 “units.” Which means I saved around 2700 dollars on buying product from my company. If she had quit and gone home, I would’ve made nothing. She also keeps all the money she makes. An important distinction.


    • Brandan brings up a great question that is commonly asked. What he described is the essential difference between a sales manager-sales representative compensation structure and a multi-level marketing company.

      In every company in America the people training sales reps are paid based on the production of the people they manage. That is how sales management compensation works. Companies that structure compensation this way are the legitimate companies.

      Where you run a risk of getting into trouble is when you are involved in “opportunities” with high up front costs, monthly dues, etc. These are funneled upwards to people above you. That is where the term “Pyramid Scheme” comes from. When you are on the bottom of the Pyramid you are paying the people above you money. These should be approached with a great degree of caution. They might not be a scam, but you definitely want to know exactly what you are getting into!


  6. Posted by Kyle Peters on January 8, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Like Christie, Last year I was also a corporate recruiter, but at University of Michigan. I interviewed students and after they were selected I helped train and prepare them for their first summer in the Southwestern internship. One of the most commonly asked questions I got was are students going to be safe selling door to door?

    -I have sold four summers, and I have never worked/assigned students to sell in an area where safety would be a concern. Only working class to upper income suburban or rural territories are assigned to students. Lower income level areas are not worked for obvious safety reasons, and also because you would frankly not find the income level needed to make sales. It’s the type of areas where stay-at-home moms would let their kids play outside while they are washing dishes at the sink, for example. Safety is a big priority for Southwestern, and we spend time on it during training, and extra time with women (teaching such things as “If the mom is not home yet and only dad is there, show the family the books on the porch instead of going into the house”). I think there are more risks of safety on a college campus during the school year than selling in neighborhoods over the summer. Does anybody want to add their thoughts to this?


    • My wife sold in the Southwestern summer program for 6 summers and never felt unsafe once. I would let either of my daughters take on a Southwestern internship if they felt up to it in a heartbeat.


  7. Posted by Greg on March 6, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Where do students stay while in Nashville for training? How much does it cost?


    • While in Nashville For the Southwestern internship sales training students stay in hotels and get a group discounted rate that has been negotiated by the company. Typically students will pay approximately $100 for the hotel while in Nashville instead of the $250-$300 that a person would typically pay. This may vary based n the group you are selling with and the best thing to do is to ask the recruiter you are meeting with about what the group you would be working with typically pays.


  8. Posted by Josh on March 6, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    Do people ever sell NOTHING in Southwestern’s sales internship? Seems like 1000 hours in a summer is a lot of time to invest to find out your not naturally good enough at sales to make it work out…


    • The only students who sell nothing in Southwestern’s internship are the students who leave in the first couple of weeks. Southwestern is no different than any other job, university, or sport. There are always going to be people that drop out. The best thing to do would be to ask your recruiter for a top to bottom list of every person they worked with last year. In the group I managed the lowest producer finishing a first summer made a little over $2,000 and 85% made over $4,000.


  9. Posted by Jen on March 12, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    What if someone doesn’t have any sales experience going into the summer?


    • The vast majority of students working in the Southwestern sales internship have had no prior sales experience. Southwestern trains students as if they have had no prior sales experience. The most important characteristic a student must possess if they are considering a Southwestern internship is work ethic. If a student is willing to work hard and be coachable, they will do well.


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