The Why & How Of College Internships — A Beginner’s Guide To Internships

The Why & How Of College Internships — A Beginner’s Guide To Internships

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of college internships. While schoolwork is crucial to a successful college career, internships help put all of that coursework and homework to work in the real world.

While college internships are rewarding, the application process can be incredibly stressful. Some college students may put off applying for internships because they’re intimidated by the countless requirements. However, not taking advantage of internships could put students at a significant disadvantage post-graduation.

Why Should College Students Bother With Internships?

Before we talk about getting a college internship, students may be curious about what they’ll achieve from this experience. Do internships have any intrinsic value beyond being a resume booster?

Every student’s campus time is valuable, but it’s worth noting that internships are a significant investment in a student’s future happiness. Believe it or not, there’s solid evidence that college students who intern have a far greater likelihood of psychological health and financial success versus those who don’t. Researchers now believe internships increase the likelihood students will experience “well-being” as an adult by 1.5-times versus their peers.

Recent statistics also suggest internships are far more significant than a school’s reputation when competing for jobs. Even if students went to an Ivy League university, they would have a massive disadvantage against someone who did a few internships.

The reason employers value internships so much is because they demonstrate a student’s work ethic and practical experience. High test results from college may prove an impressive theoretical knowledge, but they won’t give employers a clue into how a student will perform outside the classroom.

Internships are also fantastic for networking. There’s truth to the saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Gaining connections early on is invaluable in a student’s future professional life.

Paid vs. Unpaid Internships — Why Unpaid Isn’t Such A Bad Deal

Before researching college internships in their target field, students should recognize there are paid and unpaid options. Unsurprisingly, many students are tempted to only look for paid opportunities. However, it’s important to mention that unpaid internships can also save students money, albeit indirectly.

Often, unpaid internships offer college credits, which could save students the most valuable resource on earth: time! Many states have laws that require public universities to provide credits for college students who agree to internships. Also, the fewer courses students need to take to graduate could save them a significant amount of cash.

In most cases, college students will be competing with other students for unpaid internships in their chosen fields. On a positive note, however, not only are the applications for these positions less competitive — they are far more common. Plus, since unpaid internships have to abide by strict labor laws, they usually aren’t as demanding as paid positions.

Students who land an unpaid internship can pursue research or try on-the-job training without the full responsibilities of a paid employee. True, this means students won’t enjoy job benefits or wages, but they get access to networking and work experience without the stress of a full-time job.

As an aside: If students feel that internships during their semester are too demanding, there are many summer internship opportunities. Students should consider asking their guidance counselor about summer internship opportunities early in the year to prepare their applications.

Acing The Interview Process — How To Land a College Internship

Scoring high marks on an internship application isn’t the same as acing a midterm. Sure, students need to show their smarts, but they also have to know how to market themselves.

Unquestionably, a student’s resume plays a crucial role in self-advertising for internships. Students may want to consider writing a few different resumes that highlight the skills and activities that best suit each intern position.

Even if students feel their resume is up to date, it’s worthwhile attending a resume building seminar or running their resume by their school’s career services department. Students should see if there are any workshops available on campus to give their resume and cover letter a quick scan before sending them off.

If students are lucky enough to land an interview, they should spend a few hours each day rehearsing different scenarios. Again, it helps to speak with a professional career counselor on campus. However, students could also work with trusted friends, professors, or family members to perform a few “mock interviews.”

There’s no knowing what an employer will ask, but most recruiters have questions about a student’s long-term goals. Companies often want to see if students have a long-term vision. Students should have a clear sense of where they see themselves in five years’ time and how their major will get them there.

Lastly, groups like the NSLS always recommend students have a few specific examples “up their sleeves” that highlight their work ethic or relevant skills. If students only focus on general themes, it’s more likely they won’t make a memorable impression. It’s easier to remember unique stories, so a few specific examples could help a student stand out.

So, Where Should Students Start Searching For College Internships

The Internet may be the easiest place to find college internships, but students should remember everyone has access to Google. Internships you can find on major search engines are likely to be the most competitive.

Before searching for internships online, students should meet with a campus career counselor and talk about internships. Expert counselors can offer personalized guidance and suggest less competitive (but equally rewarding) opportunities students may have never heard of. Often, a college’s career services department has connections with various local internships, which can make the application process smoother.

College students should consider local government-sponsored internships opportunities. It’s also great to check out job fairs or career-related events to apply for internships in person.

Lastly, if students can’t seem to find anything with these in-person strategies, searching online is a viable option. Students should stick with trusted websites like LinkedIn, GlassDoor, and Indeed, all of which have an excellent reputation for internship opportunities.