How to Prepare for Internship Applications

Published: Sep 27, 2022

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The new school year is now in full swing, and whether you’re a freshman or a senior, your future is constantly on your mind. When are midterms? What classes will I take next semester? Where will I live next year? Where will I work next year?

While the future looks different for everyone, it’s likely that most students are trying to answer that last question. And if you’re a freshman, sophomore, or junior, an internship is likely on your mind. An internship lets you dip your toes into your field of study and offers you real-life experience—which is now required if you want to get a full-time position upon graduation.

To make sure you don’t miss out on an internship opportunity, here are four key things you need to know in order to kick off your internship hunt. 

1. Research

Internship programs take place all year, but most take place in the summer. A summer internship allows for you to work full time instead of balancing course work with your work schedule. There are also internships that take place during the school year, allowing you to gain work experience while you study. No matter what type is the right fit for you, it’s important to research the industries you’re interested in and what you’re looking for in a company.

Note that applications can vary depending on the industry and company you’re interested in. For example, large companies tend to have more competitive programs and more applications coming in, and their application deadlines are often much earlier than smaller companies. So, if you have your eyes set on a Big 4 firm, top consulting firm, or well-known financial services firm, the application process for you will likely take place in the fall prior to the summer you want to be in the program (hint: that means you could be applying right now!). 

2. Build your resume in the classroom 

Not everyone will intern after their first year of school, as some internships require certain courses and experience. It’s common for companies to want their interns to have some knowledge of their industries and how they function. Also, many internship programs are best suited for students in their sophomore or junior years of college. While you may not be able to participate in an internship program until your junior year, there are things you can be doing now to make you best prepared when the time comes. 

One thing you can do is ensure you’re taking the proper courses for your industry prior to your internship. Not only will these courses provide you with the knowledge you need to succeed as an intern but they will also allow you to list your coursework on your resume. While your relevant classes shouldn’t be the main focus of your resume, it does provide supplemental information regarding your knowledge and skills if you have no work experience in the industry. 

When adding courses to your resume, the key word is relevant coursework. It’s perfectly understandable to be proud of how successful you were in your one-credit tree climbing class, but a hiring manager in finance isn’t exactly going to be offering you a spot in their program because you could be a great help saving a cat from a tree. Instead, you could list the international finance class you were enrolled in your freshman year. Being intentional about every item on your resume, especially the courses you choose to showcase, could be the determining factor in your internship search success. 

3. Build your resume outside the classroom 

You can also use the first couple years of college to gain experience outside of the classroom as well. Not all experiences you include on your resume have to be employment related–other activities allow you to highlight your character more than work can. For example, it would be smart to mention your volunteer experience in Haiti because it can show your interest in helping others.

Hobbies and interests also have a home on your resume. Your success as a college tennis player can highlight your ability to work with a team and accomplish a common goal. Even hobbies such as playing the piano can show hiring managers that you are a person with great attention to detail and focus. Once again, however, when including this information about life outside of the classroom, you have to be intentional about what you choose to list. The simple fact that you have a hobby won’t win you the position, but the transferable skills you’ve gained from the experience might. 

4. Network 

It’s no secret that, in the professional world, connections to credible people within your industry can help you get the foot in the door and help your chances of landing an internship. Here at Firsthand, we can even help you make those connections through virtual career fairs. Our second annual Diversity & Inclusion in Internships Virtual Career Fair will take place this year on November 3rd and allow you to have one-on-one conversations with industry professionals who could very easily be your future boss if everything goes well. Attending fairs like these will allow you to get to know people in your field and give you a close look into your industries of interest. Most campuses have their own career fairs as well, so check out what your university has to offer that will help you gain connections–and be confident enough to attend.