As a college student, your goal is to land a full-time job right after graduation. Of course, the best way to do that is to have as much relevant work experience as possible before earning your degree. But what’s the best way to find internships for college students?
According to the National Institute of Colleges and Employers (NACE), more than half of employers hire their interns as full-time employees. But, as any student who has submitted 35 internship applications — and is rewarded with complete silence — knows, landing an internship is just as competitive as the rest of the job market.
To help you find the best internship opportunities for college students, let’s look to the very people who got the position you might be applying for right now.
Internships for College Students: The Best Advice From Your Peers
We believe the most qualified people to offer advice on landing internships for college students are former college interns. Keep reading for some helpful advice on how to land an internship, written by your peers.
1. Start Early
Meggie Qu, who ultimately landed a UX design internship in San Francisco, claims one of her biggest mistakes when applying for internships was not starting soon enough. Struggling to balance a full course load on top of applications, she didn’t finish her portfolio until January.
If she were to relive the experience, she asserts that she would use the summer break to start building her portfolio. Then she could “use the fall semester to make adjustments and polish up based on feedback.”
At Scholars, we help you get a headstart on your internship applications by allowing you to build a profile year-round. When a potential employer lands upon a profile that matches their search, you’ll get a text message informing you of their interest.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Sell Yourself
Companies get an unfathomable amount of applicants for paid summer internships. It’s your responsibility to sell yourself, zeroing in on your personal brand, and positioning yourself as the ideal candidate.
Take the extra time to craft an original cover letter, clean up your social media accounts, and ask for references on LinkedIn. You can also make an online portfolio or website, displaying the projects you’ve done for classes, freelance gigs, and previous internships.
Chester Leung, a Facebook intern who also interned with Google Microsoft, Dropbox, and Yelp, claims he saw a 50% increase in responses from recruiters after adding a personal website to his response. Plus, he remarks, it’s “another sign you’re genuinely interested in software development,” or other relevant areas of interest.
3. Remember the Ultimate Goal: Gain Relevant Work Experience
All internships carry the same purpose: to gain relevant work experience. And that experience may not come in the form of a traditional internship found in your job search.
If you’re struggling to secure an internship, know this: Virtually every person running a small business is overworked. Reach out to local businesses and offer your part-time help at a deeply discounted rate. Or, see if you can create an unpaid internship for college credit or a stipend.
Danny Sapio, a graphic designer in Colorado, landed his first internship after slowly building up his design portfolio. He gained his first major design project when a client was willing to pay him $800 for a website redesign — an amount he says was a decent amount of money for a 20-year-old college student.
An independent freelancer could charge between $5,000-$10,000 for a website redesign project. So, was Danny undercutting his value? Perhaps. But there’s a significant difference between someone building a portfolio or book of business and someone with years (or decades) of experience. Don’t be afraid to do discounted work now for a higher pay-off later.
4. Stay Open to New Opportunities
Yes, you could land your dream internship at Facebook or Google. But just as you didn’t limit your college search to one or two dream schools, you shouldn’t restrict your internship search to just a couple of dream companies.
We say this for two reasons: One, you are up against hundreds of other applicants for those coveted internships. Secondly, and more importantly, you could be writing off a little-known company that might end up being your dream job.
Sarah Horoiwa, who graduated with a major in game design, landed a summer internship at NASA. When asked about the advice she would give other undergraduate students seeking internships, she states, “Explore and learn as much as you can about available opportunities, even if you think a certain company might not have anything to offer in your field of interest.”
At surface level, you would never expect a game designer to wind up at NASA Glenn Research Center, but the experience she had in building 3D projects turned out to be invaluable to her career.
5. Familiarize Yourself With the Company Culture
Here’s something no one tells you before graduation: A dream title, at your dream company, won’t be your dream job if you don’t vibe with your coworkers. But here’s a little sweetener to balance out that one sour note: A dream team can make any job worth waking up for.
Mabel Liang learned this lesson through her sales internship at Cisco. Openly admitting she wasn’t the most knowledgeable candidate for the job, she decided to differentiate herself in another way. She went through the deep, dark depths of Google, which led to two significant discoveries: One, a strictly culture-focused “Life at Cisco” blog, and the company’s social channels, which shared stories from Cisco employees.
Familiarizing yourself with the company culture shows you did your research prior to any interview. Plus, it helps you determine whether a potential employer is fit for you, your personality, and your chosen career path.
Exciting Internships for College Students: Find One at Scholars
At Scholars, we’re continually adding new internship programs to our roster. We publish both paid internships and entry level, full-time positions from employers across the United States. We help fill positions that span industries and encompass a wide variety of job titles.
Some of the exciting internships we’ve recently filled include content writers for US Health Advisors, which provides affordable health insurance for individuals, families, and growing businesses, as well as content interns for Swag.com, a startup that creates promotional products for such renowned companies as Facebook, Google, and Bravo television network.
To land an internship, you’ll want to start early, piecing together a portfolio, personal website, or a profile on Scholars. Remember to keep yourself open to new opportunities, even those that aren’t explicitly related to your field of study. Finally, do you research on potential employers — down to the company culture — before your interview. With these useful tips and practical steps, it won’t be long before you find yourself in a job you once only dreamed about.