Getting a Summer Internship Guide

Updated: September 9, 2020

If you’re reading this, chances are that summer internship season is ramping up. There’s a ton of advice out there on every aspect of applying, but it can be hard to know where to start. Well, good news: We’re here to help. Read on for your go-to guide to getting a summer internship, with easy-to-access links to all the details and resources.


1. Consider your options

While internships are all about discovering yourself and exploring your career options, you want to lay some groundwork to ensure you’re on the best track. As soon as possible, start doing some reflective brainstorming to figure out what type of internship will work best for you. Think about your hobbies and interests, major, and preferred work style. Then, set up a meeting with a counselor at your school’s Career Center to discuss next steps and practical concerns, such as budget and housing. In your free time, you can start looking at some company websites. Note any fields, projects, or ideas that spark your interest.

Peruse Chegg Internship’s “Find Your Fit” articles to learn about the top jobs based on your major, interests, and personality.


2. Consider your timeline

“When should I apply for summer internships?” is, quite possibly, our most-asked question here at Chegg Internships. Before you get your heart set on a particular summer internship, make sure the company is still hiring interns. While summer internships are a scant three months long, summer internship application season begins in fall of the previous year. It runs through late May, with employers receiving the heaviest volume of applications between late February and early April.

To maximize your options, start reviewing internship opportunities in late September, especially if you’re interested in interning in government, engineering, finance, or defense, as those fields tend to have early application deadlines. If you’re not pursuing those fields, you have a bit more leeway, but you’d still be wise to start your research before Thanksgiving. Peak internship application season runs from January to late April, but if you haven’t applied by then, all is not lost. There are no industry-specific, standard deadlines for internships, so you can always keep applying—even if you’re reading this article on June 1st.


3. Get things in order

Applying to internships means lots of things to keep track of, from contact names to moving deadlines. So, it’s crucial to get organized from the start. Fear not: Chegg Internships is here to lend a hand.

We’ve created a (free!) internship tracker just for you—and all you need is Google Sheets and a computer! Read about how to use it, and then download it here.

Use the tool above to get organized and prioritize tasks. At the same time that you’re cleaning up your internship-application act, you’ll want to clean up your virtual act. Scrub your social media profiles of any incriminating photos or controversial posts. Then, point would-be employers in the right online direction by creating a swoon-worthy LinkedIn profile. If you’re interested in a creative field, such as writing, visual art, or web design, you might want to make an online portfolio, too, to showcase your work. You can use LinkedIn for this, but there’s also a variety of free platforms available, listed below. Ensure that everything is up and running by the time you hit “submit” on your first application.


4. Polish your resume and cover letter

To submit a successful application, you need a perfect resume and cover letter for each and every role. Once you’ve edited, and re-edited, both documents, you’ll want to tailor them both to the specific role to which you’re applying. Resumes and cover letters are not one-size-fits-all!

And if you don’t have every qualification or experience listed in the internship position, worry not: We’ve got you covered with our guide to applying with no relevant experience.

In addition to applying to posted internships, remember the hidden internship market. You can create your own opportunity.


5. Connect with your network

Everyone talks about the importance of networking, and everyone’s right. To prepare for a summer internship, and to increase your odds of getting an offer, you need to reach out to everyone you know. Read up on the art of networking, and then connect with friends, family friends, former supervisors, professors, and your school’s alumni network. From informational interviews over a coffee to companies that are actively hiring summer interns, take advantage of every networking opportunity—you never know which connection will land you that dream internship.

By some estimates, a whopping 70–80 percent of job opportunities aren’t even posted publicly, so you need to know the right people to get hired. Some people you meet might have strong ties to companies that don’t have internship programs, but don’t let that deter you. If you see an opportunity, grab it: Suggest an internship. Do your research, put together a proposal, and pitch it to let your contact know what you could do if given the opportunity. This works especially well for unpaid internships at nonprofits.


6. Get your references in order

Unfortunately, employers don’t just take your word for it when it comes to hiring. Once you’ve applied, passed a phone screen, and aced an interview or three, you’ll be asked for references: people who can attest to your skills, experience, and attitude, providing an outside perspective on your professional performance. Trust us: You don’t want to wait until a company asks for references to have everything lined up. By selecting, asking, and thanking your references before you apply to an internship, you’ll ensure you can respond to employers promptly and provide superlative recommendations. Create a reference list ASAP, with all necessary information for each of your references, including their full name, current title and company name, phone number, email address, and relationship with you.


7. Do your research

We get it: LinkedIn makes it really tempting to just send off any ol’ resume with their “Easy Apply” feature. But don’t even think of applying to an internship until you’ve thoroughly personalized your application. Otherwise, you’re wasting everyone’s time—at best. At worst, there will be other internship (or job!) opportunities at an organization, but they’ll never consider you after that initial app. Take the time to research the company, tailor your resume and cover letter to the job at hand, and ensure you’re putting your best self forward. You’ll be up against some stiff competition for a summer internship, and you only have one chance to make a first impression.


8. Apply, rinse, and repeat

It’s time to start applying! If you’ve followed our advice, you’ll move quickly through each application. Just remember to tailor each version of your resume and cover letter to the individual internship and double check everything for typos or mistakes. Once you’ve sent off an application, move on to the next one. Major companies can receive hundreds of applications for a single opening—so the more applications you submit, the better the odds of getting an interview. If you don’t hear back, don’t get discouraged. Just keep applying.


9. Do the interview (and say thank you)

Getting an interview is a huge step, so you want to be well prepared and make a great impression. Before your interview, review the most common interview questions and answers for your industry, as well as how to craft a stellar response to behavioral interview questions. Create unique responses for each question; do a practice round with a friend, family member, or career counselor; and ensure that you’ve researched the company prior to the interview.

On the big day, get a good night’s rest, dress for success, and follow our interview tips. Afterwards, don’t forget to say thank you!


10. If you get an offer, consider all the possibilities

Congratulations! All your time and energy paid off. Before you respond to an employer’s offer with a victorious, “Of course!” be sure to consider all aspects of the internship package. These include your summer internship budget, especially whether you can afford housing if you’re not living at home, as well as the timing of the internship and if you’ll receive academic credit. Be sure to ask your potential employer about the benefits you’ll receive, so that you have a full picture of what your summer internship experience will look like.


11. Make the most of the experience

Once your internship begins, the work certainly isn’t over. You’ll want to make a great first impression, be a proactive intern, network with your colleagues, and prepare for the future. Set goals for yourself both personally and professionally to ensure your summer internship is benefiting your future career. When the internship ends, be sure to stay connected, get some great references, and show your gratitude for the experience.


Application resources

Now that you know the ins and outs of applying for a summer internship, let’s look at some key tools to help you through the process.


Where to find summer internships:

  • Chegg Internships: Start with Chegg Internships, which offers expert advice and allows you to apply to thousands of great internship opportunities, sorted by industry, location, interest, and timing.
  • Linkedin: Once you’ve got your LinkedIn profile up and running, it’s easy to apply to internships through your connections or at companies that interest you.
  • Indeed is known for its job-search platform, but it also hosts summer internships.
  • Glassdoor: In addition to jobs and internships, Glassdoor provides insider information, such as employee reviews and average salaries, on many popular companies.
  • Handshake: This helpful platform works with specific universities to connect you with interested employers. Check to see if your school has its own Handshake page.


Perfecting your online presence:

  • Behance: Create a free online portfolio to showcase your work to potential employers—and apply to jobs through the site’s job board.
  • Crevado: Easy to use, free, and quick, Crevado allows you to upload images of your designs and easily share them with anyone.
  • Contently: For the aspiring writers out there, Contently allows you to share samples and calculate your hourly rate for freelance writing gigs.