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The Ultimate Guide: Supporting Your Students To Find An Internship In College

By: Lucie-Kay Desthuis-Francis on Feb 22, 2024 5:28:17 AM
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How to find an internship in college? It's a question many students ask. For many college students, summer is not just synonymous with fun, rest, and relaxation. It includes working a summer job or internship.

Whether paid or unpaid, internships enable students to grow outside of the classroom, campus, and gain professional experience.

Students with internship experience are found to be more career-ready than others. They are also more likely to have a job lined up post-graduation and a positive employment outcome.

The Benefits of Internships for Students

Internships offer students many benefits, including:

  • Experience in an area of interest.

  • Exposure to the working world.

  • The opportunity to expand their network.

The Benefits of Internships for Companies

In addition to enhancing career readiness among students, internship programs provide positive outcomes for companies. These include:

  • Mentoring and leadership opportunities for staff.

  • Access to a pool of talented young professionals.

  • The ability to vet interns as potential full-time hires.


When to Start Thinking about an Internship in College

Most students start thinking about internships in their sophomore or junior year of college.  This is generally when their career path becomes clearer, and they prepare to declare their major.

While summer internships are most common, year-round internships are increasing in popularity. They enable students to prolong their professional experience beyond the traditional summer internship.

In general, year-round internships require students to dedicate 5-10 hours a week during the school year. This results in deeper professional development.

Year-round internships also enable students to become more integrated into the team. This increases the possibility of the position turning into a full-time role. It also reduces the need for the company to train new talent each season.

5 Tips for Landing an Awesome Internship in college


    Summer internships provide the opportunity to build skills outside of the classroom, student clubs and organizations. They also provide a window into the working world, helping shift mindsets and routines.

    Prior to starting the application process, it is important for students to reflect on the field they are interested in and their post-graduation goals. It is also recommended to think about the skills they can build on and those they are looking to acquire.

    It is also good to consider the different types of internships available (paid vs. unpaid; summer vs. year-round). Once these considerations have been made, the search can be focused accordingly.

    International students should verify the terms stipulated on their student visa. This will help ensure that they do not violate any conditions that could jeopardize their status.



    Career centers on campus provide many valuable resources. Strategic services include career assessments that help determine which fields best align with a students’ specific strengths and professional development goals.

    High impact practices such as career readiness programs and co-curricular transcripts are great tools for defining career pathways. They also help students measure and articulate their core competencies and any gaps to fill.

    More tactical services include resume and cover letter workshops. Mock interview sessions also help candidates enhance their communication and storytelling skills.

    Further, many career centers have internship listings and databases that students can search. They also often have relationships with certain companies and can provide details on well-defined internship programs. Career counselors can sometimes also connect students with a specific contact within a target organization.



    Once a list of companies or areas of interest has been identified, there are multiple ways to get informed and establish contact. The easiest way is to first tap into an existing network.

    People such as professors, mentors, peers, relatives, and family friends can offer useful insights into a particular industry or company of interest. They may also be able to provide a point of contact to reach out to or offer tips or other opportunities to consider.

    The college or university alumni network is also an amazing resource. Alumni who have transitioned into a career of interest or that have worked with a company of interest can offer excellent advice.

    Other ways of expanding one’s connections include cold emails, attending career fairs, networking events, talks and conferences, as well as scheduling informational interviews.

    LinkedIn as well as specialized job sites are also great resources and help cast a wide net. Some of these include Idealist, Glassdoor, Chegg Internships and Way Up.



    While previous work experience is not mandatory, employers value some experience. This is why part-time jobs and co-curricular activities demonstrating work ethic, leadership, teamwork and other skills are important.

    College student resumes typically include educational experience, co-curricular activities, and any work experience. Employers are looking for transferable skills and core competencies that demonstrate career readiness.

    These can include experience gained from volunteering, roles in student clubs or organizations as well as part-time jobs such as waitering. While the experience can be varied and diverse, the associated skills or competencies should clearly be articulated.

    Further, resumes and cover letters should be tailored to each position, with specific examples of relevant skills or training. It is also recommended to use the language that appears in the job description. This demonstrates a clear understanding of the role and responsibilities.

    Lastly, internships often require writing samples, portfolios, or reference letters. Again, it is important that these are relevant and carefully aligned with the job description.



    Even with all the preparation in the world, the internship process is extremely competitive. Therefore, it is important for students to cast a wide net and be open to positions that don’t exactly match their goals.

    The application process is a learning experience in and of itself. In addition, any work experience will provide some opportunity for growth. Being pushed outside of one’s comfort zone is often when a different kind of learning happens, bringing unexpected benefits.

    It is also important to consider that not all organizations have formal internship programs. Smaller companies, nonprofits and startups may not list internships on their websites. This doesn’t mean that they would not consider having a student contributor. You never know until you ask!

The internship application process takes time and effort. However, the payoff is immense. By enhancing the professional development and network of students, they contribute to student success and career readiness, which are key to post-graduate success.

In addition to the five tips listed above, some further advice to help students secure that dream position include:

  • Keeping a running list of organizations of interest, including whether they have a formal internship program, deadlines, and key contact people.

  • Staying on top of internship deadlines, and setting mini deadlines for updating resumes, cover letters and getting references.

  • Building on core competencies, by identifying knowledge gaps and bridging them through tutoring, research or taking on additional courses.

  • Doing mock interviews, to build the confidence you need to tell your story in a way that speaks to the interviewer.

  • Arrive for interviews ahead of time and dress appropriately for the industry and position.

  • Follow up on applications and after an interview, to demonstrate genuine interest. Remember the squeaky wheel gets the oil!