When Should I Apply for Summer Internships?
The first wave
Summer internship application season actually begins in autumn of the year prior, around the time universities hold their fall career fairs. It runs all the way up to late May, with the heaviest volume of applications generally received between late February and early April.
Government organizations, engineering firms, financial institutions and defense contractors typically have some of the earliest deadlines, partly because of intense competition and partly because due to lengthy background checks. For example, the Central Intelligence Agency’s internship programs stop accepting next summer’s applications after Oct. 15 and the State Department’s deadline is Nov. 1. Some of the more prominent journalism internships — i.e. the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Dallas Morning News — have fall application dates as well.
Summer internships that take place overseas and are facilitated by a third party program also look to fill spots as early as possible, typically by fall or winter. A lot of paperwork goes into arranging these experiences on the student side, so it’s probably just as well. Because internships abroad can be really expensive, be sure to ask your host program about financial aid options. There are a number of scholarships available for internships abroad, especially ones that qualify for academic credit.
Given the crowded market for summer internships — especially over the last two summers — it’s probably a good idea to start looking for opportunities before winter break, even if you don’t want to work one of the internship types mentioned above. Try to make an appointment with your career counselor or a Live Coach by Thanksgiving, so you have lots of time to consider options.
For most people, the heaviest work should be done before spring break — and not just so you can enjoy your time off. There tends to be a large drop-off in applications considered between early April and the beginning of May, as companies who place summer intern hiring in their plans for the first fiscal quarter fill many of those positions.
If you haven’t found the right internship by late April or even May, don’t give up. Because needs can change quickly at any organization (especially a small one), plenty of employers won’t start up an intern search until the summer is practically in gear.
Remember: Unlike college programs, there are no industry-specific, standard deadlines for getting an internship. If summer arrives and you’ve still had no luck, you can still pursue internships with less traditional dates and hours.