7 Reasons to Get a College Internship
Ask any student who has looked for a college internship, and they’ll tell you one thing: finding the right one can be difficult, but it was worth it.
Before we dig into how to look for a college internship, let’s look at the importance of college internships. There’s no denying the financial benefits that an internship can offer – it can provide invaluable experience that builds a strong professional foundation as you embark on your career journey. This can mean better opportunities after your graduate, a higher earning potential, and a network of connections that can be beneficial for years to come.
- A college internship can lead to a job. According to the 2019 Internship & Co-op Survey Report from The National Association of College and Employers (NACE), 70.4% of students get job offers after their internship.
- An internship in college can help kick start your professional resume. NACE also reports that completing an internship within their industry is one of the top attributes employers look for when hiring. It’s even more important to them than your major.
- Internships can be a test run for your career. You may be surprised at how different working in a field is compared to learning about it in a classroom. Use your college internship to get a real-world take on the career you’re studying for. Consider your own experience, but also take the opportunity to get advice from current employees.
- You can learn new skills as an intern. There will likely be professional systems and procedures for your industry that you can only learn on the job. Plus, you’ll also gain insight into your strengths and weaknesses as they pertain to professional rather than academic situations.
- Internships can grow your professional network. Interning is as much about learning new skills as it is about networking. Whether it’s with the professionals you’re meeting or other interns your working with, establishing these relationships can pay off down the line as you progress in your industry.
- You can get a professional reference. When looking for a job down the line, you can ask your supervisor for a professional recommendation.
- And, some college internships pay. According to NACE, the average hourly rate for a paid internship in 2019 is $19.05.
Finding College Internships: Where to Search
Now that you recognize the importance and benefits of an internship, you might be wondering how and where can you find one? Improving your chances at landing a college internship often starts with finding (and applying) for as many as possible – so long as they align, with your career goals. The more options you have, the better your chances. There is no shortage of places to look for college internships.
- Start by asking your school about internships for college students. Your school should always be the first place to check for internships. Speak with your advisor who can help guide you in the right direction about upcoming internships for college students and inform you which internship will satisfy certain required credits for your degree. Your school might also have a career services department with more information about upcoming student internships. Sign up for their email list or newsletters and monitor often for internship openings.
- Look for college internships on company websites. Is there a specific company that you’ve always wanted to work for? Look at national and local companies of interest. Make a list of the companies where you’d like to intern, and then visit each company website. Look for a careers page on the company’s website and see if there’s a separate section for internships. Bookmark these pages and set a calendar reminder to check these pages once a week, this way you’ll know as soon as they’re announced, and you can get started on the application process as quickly as possible.
- Search online job boards for internships for college students. There are tons of online job boards out there – Monster, Glassdoor, Indeed, and CareerBuilder, among dozens of others. But these aren’t just websites for jobs, they’re also a great resource for college internships. Narrow down the search criteria to only include internships or add the word “internship” to any job search phrase that matches what you’re looking for.
- Search internship-specific job boards. There are several online job boards out there that are exclusively for finding internships and entry-level listings:
- Use Google to find your college internship. Googling “internships near me” may turn up quite a few options.
- Social media can be a good source for student internships. LinkedIn is the top social media platform for professionals, ranging from college students to experienced executives. Plus, many companies use LinkedIn exclusively for job listings, and this also includes internships for students. Other social networks, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, are also good sources. Many businesses will use social media to announce job openings and information about upcoming internships.
- Ask your family and friends about internships for college students. Networking doesn’t just include connecting with professionals on and offline – it also means reaching out to your other close network: friends and family. Once you know you want to take on an internship in college, tell everyone you know. If a friend, parent, or other family member hears about an upcoming internship at the company they work for, they can keep you in the loop. If you apply, you’ll likely have someone at the company willing to offer you a glowing recommendation. When it comes to jobs and internships, recommendations can go a long way, so don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth.
- You could find a college internship at a career fair. Many hiring managers will be impressed that you left campus (and the virtual world) to find a college internship. Come prepared with your resume and to spend the day networking. You may want to practice talking to businesses you’re less interested in first so you can feel confident before hitting up your dream companies.
Looking for a College Internship: Don’t Make These 7 Mistakes.
- Contacting the wrong person. Job and internship listings usually make it clear who to reach out to, but if you’re contacting a company directly, make sure to email or call the hiring manager.
- Not researching first. Not all college internships are created equal. Doing some research can help you find relevant internships for your industry. Make a list of all the companies you want to intern at, narrow them down to most relevant to your career interests, and then apply to as many as you can. You might be surprised at how far in advance some companies accept applications.
- Not sending out personalized resumes and cover letters. Your college internship resume will be competing with a lot of students, so make sure yours speaks to the company and the role they are looking for. According to CareerBuilder.com, 54% of job seekers do not customize their resume and 45% don’t include a cover letter. Take the time to read the job ad and highlight your most relevant skills. In your cover letter, explain why your skills are a match for the specific role.
- Not thinking about the pros and cons of doing your college internship at big vs. small companies. There are pros and cons to doing your college internship at both large and small companies. At a large company, you’ll get to put a well-known name on your resume that will stand out on your resume. But you may get lost in the mix when it comes to adding tangible achievements to your portfolio, so be proactive about making the most of your time there. Small companies, on the other hand, may not be household names but are known to offer interns more hands-on experience. If you can, try both so you know what it’s like to work at a large vs. a small company.
- Just walking away after hearing “no”. If a company you’re interested in doesn’t have internships for college students, or you didn’t get the role, ask for an informational interview, which is a meeting set up for job seekers to ask advice about their industry. Not only could you learn something about the company or the job, but you’re building a relationship that could benefit you in the future, for example, if you apply for the internship for the following semester.
- Not being prepared for the interview. You’ll be asked a lot of open-ended questions about your background, but they will likely ask why you want to work for their company. Prepare yourself by reading their website, social media and current news stories. This will show your genuine interest in working for the company.
- Not following up. According to research from staffing agency Robert Half, 80% of hiring managers say it’s helpful to the job seeker to send a thank you message after an interview. They also reported that only 24% of candidates do it. Typically, follow up on your resume about one or two weeks after sending (unless the job listing specifically asks that you don’t follow up) and send thank you emails and cards shortly after your interview.
For more tips on how to land an internship on college, check out “8 Tips to Land an Internship in College”
When should you look for your college internship?
Most students start their internships in their junior or senior year. This way, they can improve their chances of finding a job once they graduate. So, what is the ideal timeframe to start looking for college internships? Generally, it’s 3-4 months before you want the internship to start. But, keep these points in mind.
- If school credit is involved, check with your school. Many schools have deadlines and forms to fill out if they are counting your internship experience as credit. Make sure you know those dates so you don’t run into any problems.
- Start early for highly competitive college internships. When doing your initial research, pay attention to application deadlines. Some companies begin recruiting college interns almost a full year before the actual internship starts.
- For fall internships, look in spring. If you’re leaving town for the summer, it’s a good idea to get the ball rolling on your internship while you are still nearby.
- For spring, look at the start of the school year. Use your summer months to research which companies you think will give you the best college internship experience.
- For summer internships, it’s a big window: September through May. But the majority will apply between February and March. With no classes, summer is a great time to put your focus on a college internship. But it’s also a competitive time, so make sure you apply early for the most sought-after roles.
For more information about summer internships for college students, check out “6 Reasons to Get a Summer Internship During College.”