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Five reasons your summer internship search should already be rolling

January 31, 2011

When I was your age (anywhere from 18-50 months ago), I wasn’t particularly fond of worrying about summer internships until parents started asking. When you’re shuffling to morning classes in five layers, barely leaving a footprint in snowdrifts that have frozen solid, summer seems like a far-off prospect — like flying cars or AARP registration.

Let me assure you, it’s not.

Especially not this year, when we’ve seen an astonishing number of students already agonizing over their interview performances on Twitter. Summer internship search season hasn’t just begun: If it were Benjamin Button, it would almost be getting down with Gwyneth Paltrow by now.

Spring break is more fun when your summer internship is already locked up.

If you’re part of the camp that likes to “wait till spring break,' you might find your options to be pretty limited by then, especially if you’re looking for paid work. At the very least, you need to make sure you’re prepared to submit strong applications ASAP. Why? Because we made a list for you, and that should be enough.

  1. Paid internships go fast. On average, around one-third of our listed internships are considered “paid.' But that ratio can fluctuate,and it tends to decrease when demand is the highest. If you want your summer gig to include instant financial gratification,it helps a lot to be the early bird.
  2. You’ll have time to weigh other options. A lot more listings will appear here between now and June, some of which might interest you more than your current choices. But having multiple options decreases your chances of being stuck in an internship that doesn’t suit or develop your talents. You might even be able to work out slightly higher compensation if you’re in demand. But don’t get greedy: Companies will walk away from the table quicker on an intern hire than they would on a full-time hire.
  3. … And butter them up. Starting the hunt early gives you more time to make yourself familiar to your target employer. You can find out if any of your Facebook friends or family have contacts in the organization, and request informational interviews with employers who aren’t listing summer internships yet.
  4. Early applicants tend to get better roles. Think from the employer’s point of view. Their most clearly defined needs will be the ones that generate postings first. There’s sometimes a small “second wave' of hirings in the late spring/early summer, but those are more likely to be “filler' internships to plug unforeseen gaps in an employer’s daily workload. If you don’t have all of Starbucks’ roasts memorized and would like it to stay that way, make sure you apply early.
  5. Don’t you want to do something COOL over break? Let’s be honest. Nobody wants to spend spring break at home under a pile of applications, especially if yours happens right after midterms. If you get this under control early, you won’t spend your break worrying about everything that you have to get done, and the bulk of your summer internship search will be over before end-of-semester coursework ratchets up. And you can do all the fun stuff that college students love to do on break, like cramming 10 people into a four-person hotel room.

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