Like any intern worth her second-hand briefcase, I applied to several internships simultaneously for the upcoming semester. While most inquiries yielded no reply at all, two valuable opportunities arose. Grateful for something that work with my schedule and teach me things I didn't already know, I accepted the first position that came my way, completely forgetting that I had inquired elsewhere and hadn't heard back. Sure enough, a week or so after I had accepted the internship a literary agency in New Jersey had offered me, Princeton University Press got in touch to invite me for an interview. I knew that if I interviewed, I probably would have had the position. Although the word "Princeton" anywhere on my resume would have been a boost, I declined to interview with them.
Friends told me I was crazy, family told me I should dump that literary agency and hop on the ivy-league bus. But I have a conscience. And the literary agency that offered the internship seems like a great opportunity. Although they specialize mostly in romance, a genre I don't expect to work with in my career (I'm most knowledgable about literary and mainstream fiction) I have a feeling my time at the agency will be worth my while. I wanted to get a glimpse of the industry from an agent's point-of-view and that's exactly what I'll get.
If I had had the choice, I would have taken Princeton because of their "brand name". But things happen for a reason and I expect to learn something valuable about at the agency I might not have at Princeton University Press. Would the agency have collapsed without the help of this intern? Um, no. They would have found someone else, perhaps someone better, even. But when a person commits to something, they shouldn't go back on their word. It's unprofessional.
My advice to all of you? When you've applied for several opportunities, upon an offer, get in touch with the other companies (before you accept) to let them know you've gotten an offer and give it a week. If there's still no response, accept the offer. This way, you're allowing yourself the choice (if it's available) of more than one experience, while also being professional. And don't worry! The other company won't mind your taking the time to "think about it" for a week or so. Next time, I'll take my own advice!