All I hear the students talking about at the office lately is internship season! If you’re planning on snagging a top internship for the summer, many of those due dates are coming up right now. I wanted to share a few internship application tips, both for the actual application and for making sure you get all of your applications submitted on time.
I’ve gathered these internship application tips from a few years of experience, both as an applicant and as a friend helping my friends apply! This was one of the most stressful experiences for me as a junior and a senior in college. So many of the top internships for college students have October deadlines, so it felt like everything was happening at once.
Note: I applied for more than 10 internships during this busy season both my junior and senior year. I did not get any of the ones I applied for my junior year – not even an interview! My senior year, I did get an offer from one of the internships I applied for, although I didn’t end up taking it. My internships both years came from other avenues. So, don’t get discouraged!
Let’s get started – here are my internship application tips!
1. Gather all of your internship application information in one place.
I recommend making a spreadsheet or Google Sheet right now. (That’s always my suggestion, isn’t it?)
My system looked something like this…
- Name of the publication
- Internship position(s)
- Deadline (color coded)
- Alumni at publication
From there, I broke down what each internship required for the application. Some applications only require the basics – a resume, a cover letter and X work samples. Others are more in depth and require a personal statement, an online application or an editing test.
And then, for some reason in 2014, all of my internship applications had to be mailed. So, I wrote down the requirements for each internship down on a sticky note and attacked that sticky note to a manilla folder.
2. Have various versions of your resume ready for different types of positions.
This is so huge! In this day and age, so many young people have so many experiences! I had very little experience, to be honest, when I was applying for those first few internships, so customization wasn’t as big of a deal. But as you get older or if you’re involved in a lot of things, you have the luxury of choosing what to include on your resume and in what order.
All of your skills and experiences are valuable, but I recommend splitting your experiences up into “Related Experience” and “Other Leadership Experience.” This was advice from my college newspaper adviser (who is now my boss) that I still carry with me!
What is related experience to one internship is not related experience to another. Make sure to switch things around as needed.
3. Don’t use the same copy-and-paste cover letter for each role.
We can tell. We can all tell. And it’s the worst.
I don’t recommend spending hours and hours of your life on every single cover letter. I definitely have a few specific topics I fall back on every time I have to write a cover letter. (Hopefully, those days are behind me for a while.) But take the time to really think about why this specific organization should hire you, and go from there.
4. Ask a mentor for help identifying your best work samples.
This one is simple: Don’t pick your work samples out yourself.
Ask an adviser, a professor, an upperclassmen student you look up to, a mentor in your field – anyone except yourself – to help you pick out your best work.
I recommend having a file of 10 to 12 samples of your work that spans your entire time in the field, from your first student newspaper article to your last internship byline. (Or whatever work samples look like, if you aren’t in journalism.)
Don’t have a mentor that can help you? I’ll help! Seriously. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be happy to help you get your internship application into top shape.
5. Find an internship application buddy.
You aren’t alone! Find a friend who is also applying for the same or similar internships. This doesn’t have to be a competitive thing, so avoid asking any friends or acquaintances who you think might look at it this way.
Patrick and I worked together on copy editing each other’s resumes and cover letters, picking out work samples and reminding each other of the deadlines. We applied to many of the same publications, although our specializations couldn’t have been more different.
It made things easier and there was always someone to commiserate with!