College Internship 101

It’s become increasingly difficult to secure college internships. More colleges are requiring internships to fulfill graduation requirements, and there are simply more students than there are internships available.

Even though it’s harder to secure internships, the value of getting one hasn’t changed. In today’s job market, it pays to be an intern. The work experience you gain puts you ahead of other college students who may be working less challenging part-time jobs, or didn’t work at all while in college. Potential employers have less time these days to train new graduates, so if you’ve already got training, your value increases.

It’s typical for a company to look to hire their interns before interviewing other new graduates for an entry-level position. After all, they already invested many hours in your training and development, and technically you’ve already passed their initial interview process.

So make sure you show up in appropriate work attire, learn as much as you can, develop strong positive relationships with your co-workers and your boss, offer to do more tasks and work extra hours when you can.

If you work out for the company, you might just get your first job, contacts for life, and a great recommendation.

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Paid Internships

Paid internships aren’t as common as some might think.

Most interns may think they deserve to be paid for the work they do. But some employers feel that if you don’t want to learn from the experience, there are plenty of other college students who do.

Companies that hire interns do take a lot of time training interns that only work with the company for a short time, like during the summer break. As such, they are participating in the student’s learning experience and feel that value in itself is fair compensation for the student’s efforts.

In exchange for your service, you get to learn on the job, put the internship on your resume, and get a letter of recommendation to help you get a job in the future.

For some students, that’s enough. But if you are financially strapped, or you are entering a highly intense internship program, you probably need to get paid.

There are paid internships available, but they are generally more competitive and require a large commitment on your part.

Talk to your school’s career counselor and your professors if you need to find a paid internship. You should also look at the website career section of large companies in your field to see if they list internship programs and requirements to apply on their site.

Summer Internships

If you are looking to complete your internship requirements, but you simply can’t manage during the school year, try looking for summer internships.

Companies generally start taking applications for summer internships months in advance, so you’ll have to start the process early.

In addition, summer internships might be harder to find. You’ll want to talk to your school’s career center and your professors to find out about summer internships connected with your school. You should also look at the website career section of large companies in your field to see if they list internship programs and requirements to apply on their site.

How to Get Selected for Internships

As we’ve already discussed, getting selected for college internships has become highly competitive.

No matter what internship program you apply for, your potential employer is going to be comparing your application against other students. That means that your class schedule, grades, community service, organizational involvement, and work experience will all be evaluated by your potential employer.

If you know that you want to apply for a competitive internship program, start building your resume now. You may need to take more challenging classes and invest more time in campus activities to make yourself more competitive.

How to Find Internships

The best place to find college internships is through your school’s career or student activities office. Many schools have built connections with local companies who are looking to hire interns, and they may already have an application and interview process set up with your school.

If your major requires the completion of an internship, your department (i.e. Business, English, Economics) may have specific internship programs available to you. Your professors, your dean and your advisor are also good sources of information.

If you are not satisfied with the programs available at school, or you need to find a program in a different location (ie. your permanent home during the summer), you are going to have to start an internship search on the web. Job search sites like Monster have a specific section dedicated to college internships. You can also review the sites of your favorite companies to see if they offer internship programs.

If you are going to apply for internships over the internet, you might want to read our section on resumes and cover letters. Without a school connectionf or referral, your internship search is similar to a job search. Keep in mind that when there are lots of applicants, you may have to do a lot of follow-up in order to get a response from a potential employer.