What to Do if Your Internship Is Canceled Because of COVID-19

Dana Guterman
Updated: July 10, 2020

Coronavirus has already shuttered college campuses across the country, and now, it’s coming for some students’ internships. Some companies are closing down completely. Others are implementing hiring freezes in a changing economic landscape. And some just aren’t sure how to manage remote interns, so they’re canceling internship programs that typically require close supervision and mentorship.

If your internship has already been canceled because of COVID-19, we’re so sorry. If you’re worried about it being canceled and want to plan ahead, we get it.

For those of you still wondering what’s next, GitHub has a crowdsourced list of 2020 internship statuses that you can check out here.

We’re all in this together, so here’s some advice on what to do next.


Start by asking

Before you do anything else, ask your new supervisor or the hiring manager to convert your internship to a remote internship. If you haven’t heard anything about your internship yet, ask. If you received an email that they’re canceling your internship, ask.

To up your odds of success, do your research beforehand, so that you can be a productive remote intern. You need to be able to pitch your value to your employer. It’s possible that they hadn’t even considered a remote internship, but if you can sell it to them, you might change their mind. Go through the original internship posting sentence by sentence and consider whether you could do some of the internship remotely. Then, write up a proposal to show what you can accomplish. After all, you never know unless you try.


Suggest switching things up

Maybe your internship can’t be done remotely—but maybe the company can still provide you with a great summer experience. If they don’t have the resources for a virtual internship, perhaps they can commit to providing virtual training for a set number of hours per week. By offering webinars or mentorship, you’ll still get some professional experience. Then, you can hit the ground running when things calm down.

Alternately, maybe they can connect you to other opportunities. Is there another sector that could really use an extra set of hands right now? Especially if you’re interning at a bank or tech company, they might have the funds and network to connect you where you’re most needed. In fact, they could even fund your interning at a local nonprofit that’s struggling.


Push the start date

If a company cancels your internship and can’t provide you with any of the opportunities above, ask if they can commit to providing the internship at a later date. You could do it during the school year, over winter break, or even next summer. This way, you can rest assured that you’ll still have the experience in the future.


Apply for remote internships

If your internship absolutely can’t be done remotely, apply for one that can.

Keep in mind that you might need to be a little flexible if your internship is canceled. For example, you might not be able to get another event planning internship, since most events have been canceled. However, you may be able to intern in social media, which will let you flex your communication skills and practice event marketing. By focusing on your transferable skills, you can still have a great internship experience.


Take the initiative

Coronavirus is forcing all of us to be resourceful. If you find yourself facing a summer at home with no plans, start a project of your own. Especially in these trying times, everyone has an opportunity to do good or lend a hand. While you won’t get paid for your efforts, you’ll be rewarded in experience and good karma. Here are some ideas:

  • Do fundraising for a nonprofit.
  • Make a website for a local business.
  • Start a blog.
  • Conduct research for a family friend or professor.

Learn something new

Sometimes, things don’t work out the way you plan. And while it may be discouraging, you can still use your free time to learn and grow and get work experience. Get a certification online, study a new language, or learn to a new skill. It’s not ideal, but there’s always next summer.