When Should I Apply for Summer Internships?
The first internship wave
While summer internships only last for one season, summer internship application season begins in autumn of the previous year. It runs through late May, with employers receiving the heaviest volume of applications between late February and early April. So while most would-be interns wait until spring to apply, employers begin the intern recruiting process eight months in advance of their internship program’s start date (according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ 2017 Internship & Co-op Survey Report).
Know the early deadlines
Government organizations, engineering firms, financial institutions, and defense contractors have some of the earliest deadlines. This is due to a combination of intense competition and lengthy background checks. For example, the Central Intelligence Agency’s internship programs stop accepting summer applications after Oct. 15th, while the State Department’s deadline is Nov. 1st. Some prominent journalism internships, including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, also have early application deadlines.
Summer internships that take place overseas or are facilitated by a third-party program also look to fill spots as soon as possible, given the sheer amount of paperwork required. Because internships abroad can be quite expensive, you should also consider any financial aid options early on. There are a number of scholarships available for internships abroad, especially if the program provides academic credit.
As we’ve discussed time and time again, summer internships are competitive, so the earlier you apply, the better. Even if you’re not looking for an internship in one of the fields above, it’s a good idea to start looking for opportunities before winter break. Making an appointment with your career counselor before Thanksgiving will give you plenty of time to weigh your options—and plenty of time to get ahead of the competition.
Peak application season
Most aspiring interns should do the heavy application lifting before spring break—and not just so you can enjoy your hard-earned time off. There tends to be a steep drop-off in considering applications between early April and early May as companies that include internship hiring in their first quarter fiscal plans fill those positions.
If you haven’t found the right internship by late April or even May, don’t give up. Keep in mind that employer needs can change quickly at any organization (and especially smaller ones). Consider adding smaller companies to your internship list or refocusing your search on roles in adjacent fields. Plenty of employers don’t start up their intern search until summer is practically here.