Internship searching for college students

If you're enrolled in college, you already have a wealth of options at your disposal for finding internships. In this section, we'll show you how to take advantage of university connections and services.

Finding a fall internship

You have lots of resources on Chegg Internships to help you get started. Here are five tips to remember when you begin your search:

  • Visit your Career Center for advice. You may find that new internships have come in since school started. Companies usually offer internship opportunities year-round to a school. The virtual or remote internship often works well for a fall internship because you can work online at your own convenience and not miss any classes or activities.
  • How many hours can you work, and where? You may be limited by class hours and location. If you have transportation issues, you could consider taking an internship on campus.
  • Review your resume and cover letter. update your resume with any summer accomplishments, including jobs, volunteer work, sport achievements, travel, or new skills, such as foreign languages. Write a basic cover letter that you can customize for every application.
  • Network! Talk to other students, friends, and family members about your interest in a Fall internship. They may know of an opening in their companies. A potential intern may have had to step down from the internship, leaving it vacant. Then, send out your resume and customized cover letter, using your contact person as a reference.
  • Create your own internship. If nothing comes up that you want, design your own Fall internship in a company that appeals to you. Write up a proposed internship description and send it to the human resources department and follow up with a phone call to set up an appointment. Present your ideas and your available hours and you may soon find yourself in the perfect Fall internship.

Can I get an internship during the school year?

The answer is yes: lots of them in lots of different places. And since many students only take summer internships, you may have a better chance of getting an internship during the school year. The good news is that more and more companies want to keep interns coming all year-round. After the company educates an intern supervisor and sets up a working program, it makes good sense to maintain the routine—and capitalize on the extra help—365 days a year. Here are some of your options: 

  • Start with your own school, especially if you live on campus. Begin at the career center, asking the staff about on-campus internships. Or visit the different departments, such as your major department, in which you’d like to intern, present your resume, and ask about openings.
  • Next, scout out the surrounding companies that are geographically within reach by public transportation or car. Again, check in with your career center about local internships and make application. You may want to request an information interview with a company about internships in order to get your foot in the door.
  • Look into a virtual internship (Check out these great virtual opportunities!), which allows students to sample different fields or concentrate on a niche industry while still going to classes and working. The most common ones are in information technology, software development, research, sales, marketing, blogging, and social media. If you’re a self-reliant, self-starter who is comfortable with Web conferences, emails, and phone calls, a virtual internship during the school year might work well for you.
  • Create your own internship by networking with other students, faculty, and staff professionals at your school to discover any potential internship sites. Many companies that have never had professional internship programs are interested in setting them up. If you locate a local company in which you’d like to intern during the school year, but it has no established program, suggest that your school help the company initiate a good program. 
  • Explore the opportunity of an internship during the school year in a company in a different locale. If it’s a full-time internship with academic credit, you may want to talk with your academic advisors about rearranging your classes or going to school an extra semester in order to take advantage of a great internship. Keep an open mind, and the right internship during the school year will be yours.

Using professors to help your search

You may be in your freshman or sophomore year, but you already have a few favorite professors whom you admire. And you may also have a few classes that inspire you to find out more about a particular area of study. Create a list of your favorite professors and classes and make a game plan to talk to the teachers and teaching assistants, too, about potential internships. Professors have lots of contacts outside of the university with colleagues, professional associations, publishers, and specialists in related fields. Teaching assistants usually have had internships and also have professional connections.

First, set up an appointment with each person, requesting advice. Arrive with a list of questions and take notes. If the professor or teaching assistant mentions names of contacts, be sure to ask if you can use the professor or teaching assistant as a reference in making the contact. During your appointment, refrain from talking too much or staying too long. You’ll be more welcome the next time. Before you leave, give the person a copy of your resume and ask if he/she would give you some feedback on it. You may want to make a follow-up appointment to continue the discussion. And write or email a thank-you message immediately to show your appreciation. If the professor or teaching assistant has been extremely helpful, you could consider taking him/her to a casual lunch or giving an inexpensive gift.

Another approach to enlisting a professor’s help is to volunteer to assist him/her on a project. Most professors are engaged in projects based on grants and need help to finish the projects on time. You might be able to perform research or compile reports, facilitating the process and earning the professor’s goodwill in helping you find an internship. Such volunteer efforts might also be good additions to your resume when you’re going for an internship.

Internships during study-abroad programs

You’re excited about your study abroad program, which could include a great internship opportunity, too. As an upperclassman, you may have already experienced internships and are well prepared to take on another one. More and more students are combining internships with study abroad trips, blending academic learning with cultural immersion. It’s the perfect way to improve your foreign language skills and to meet people that you would not find on campus.

You may want to wait until you get to your location and settle in with your new courses before you explore your internship options. The staff on site will be able to direct you to available internships and advise you on the protocol in obtaining one.  If you want to create your own internship at a company that interests you, the career center on site can help you accomplish that more easily than your home university career center.

To save money on housing, some students want to do their internships while they are living at the university. Since study abroad academic programs are often structured differently, depending on the country, than American college programs, you might have to schedule an internship around other activities. Do make sure that you don’t miss out on any of the enrichment programs or travel opportunities offered at your overseas university.

If possible, many students in study abroad programs prefer to take an internship after their course of study is over. Then, their language skills have improved, and they are free to dedicate themselves full-time to their internship program, ensuring a more intensive experience. If your study abroad program is in the spring, you could spend your summer in an internship, living in the community and absorbing the native culture. An important part of an overseas internship is learning how other people live, the history of an area, and the political and social environment. And you can do lots of networking on a global scale for future internships.

Internships on campus

Your junior and senior years are very busy ones. You’re spending a lot of time studying for your major courses, and you probably have a leadership role in organizations. You realize that you should fit in an internship, but how and where? Around the campus is the answer.

The campus community, understanding that you have many priorities, is a flexible environment for an internship. The career center is the place to start looking for an internship that fits your schedule rather than an internship where you have to fit into company hours. Take a list of your available hours, the kinds of internships that interest you, and an updated resume. Discuss with a counselor what is the best “fit” for you, and then go to on-campus interviews.

If you already know what departments and offices of the campus appeal to you, you could approach them yourself, even if they don’t offer internships or have an opening. Before you make an appointment with the appropriate person in the desired area, develop an internship proposal with your available hours, suggested duties, and various talents, such as computer skills. You might volunteer to do an experimental internship for them, facilitating future internships that could be helpful to the department or office as well as other students.

Consider doing an internship on campus over the weekend, which may be less busy for you than doing the week. Internships in these areas may revolve around sports or special events sponsored by different offices. For example, the admissions office often brings in prospective students, the alumni office hosts alumni, or an academic department holds a campus conference.

One other choice for a campus internship is to go virtual.  Many departments or professors work on research projects and would value your input as a researcher, which you can do on your computer at your convenience. Other departments could use your help with online projects or Web sites, ensuring you can do a remote internship—no matter how busy you are.

Using your career center

When you look at the map of your new campus, be sure to circle the career center; it’s going to be one of your most important destinations during your four years at college. Consider the career center an adjunct classroom, where you’ll learn important lessons about the professional world. The career center is your bridge to internships, where you’ll get hands-on experience to add value to your academic learning.

After you settle into your new life at college, make an appointment at the career center to learn more about its many offerings. When you go, dress appropriately as if you were going to an interview rather than a campus party. Even if you're only a freshman or sophomore, you want the staff to see you as a pre-professional, who will represent the school with dignity in a future internship.

You may want to take your resume with you and show it to a career counselor for feedback. (Get hints on writing your resume). Your resume is an evolving document, but the counselor can advise you about the accepted format. The career center offers assessments and tests to help you determine your career goals. During your academic years, your career goals may change, so it’s good to get an early reading and then retake the tests later to help chart your direction.

Take advantage of the brochures and materials on hand for helpful hints on careers. Study a list of the current internships to learn what’s available. Ask to be on the career center’s email list for upcoming events, such as internship fairs or workshops. After you’ve introduced yourself at the career center, be sure to follow up with emails or occasional visits. When you’re ready for an internship, the career center will be more than ready to help you because they know you’ll be a credit to the school.

During your junior and senior years, take time to check in at the career center as if it were your favorite class, social club, or home away from home. The staff has probably already met you during your freshman or sophomore years, and you may have already experienced several internships. Here are other key tips to most wisely use the career center to help you plan for internships.

  1. Get to know everyone’s name, the center hours, policies, and procedures. You want them to remember you as well, so when a good internship comes up in your field, you’re the first student they call.
  2. Stop in and visit the particular counselor(s) you know when the semester starts to say hello, ask about his/her summer vacation, and inquire about any new internship postings. Make your visits short to ensure that you’ll always be welcome.
  3. Thank the career counselor who helped you get any summer internships. And be sure to give an honest appraisal of your experience to help the career center evaluate each internship.
  4. You could also write a formal letter of appreciation to the head of the career center, praising the counselor or staffer who helped you. Such a letter to a person’s boss always means even more than a thank-you letter to the person.
  5. Attend as many career center functions as possible, such as workshops or speaker series. The staff will remember that you took the time to come to its special events when it’s time to assign internships.
  6. You could also volunteer to help out at these special events or to talk to freshman or sophomore students about your internship experiences. Many career centers are matching upperclassmen with younger students as internship mentors. If you’ve discovered any potential new internships through friends or family, do let the career center know about these possibilities because career centers always need more internships.

How to network on campus for internships

You know how to network at the freshman picnic to make new friends. But what about networking at school for future internship opportunities? Your target audience includes professors, the campus career center, alumni, and campus visitors as well as other students.

Most professors respond positively to students who express interest in their fields. Select a few professors who teach courses that you’d like to explore for career options and ask for some suggestions on possible internships in that area. Since many professors act as consultants with outside companies, they are a great source of contacts for you.

Next, visit your campus career center on a regular basis, getting to know the staff and letting the staff get to know your interests. If possible, let the career counselors know well in advance when you’d like to do an internship, so you can have early pick of the prime internships. Sign up for the center’s online newsletter or to receive mailings about special events.

More and more alumni are getting involved in their alma mater’s search for the best internships for undergraduates.  The alumni office is a good place to check in to find out your options. Some schools pair undergraduates with alumni, ensuring that the students get first-hand help in obtaining an internship.  Volunteer to help out with an alumni event, which will guarantee that you’ll be able to network with people who can help you find a future internship.

When visiting speakers come to campus, make sure that you attend their talks and introduce yourself afterwards. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for their business cards and write a follow-up letter, requesting an informational interview about internship possibilities. Lastly, take advantage of all the opportunities you have on campus to interact with other students, learning about potential internships based on their experiences and contacts.  Join as many organizations as possible to enlarge your networking opportunities and obtain referrals for internships.