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Applying for Internships

Now that you know what to do when finding an internship, there are some things you should consider when applying for those internships you’re interested in. The process is comparable to that of the job search: You’ll still need to provide your potential internship provider with a resume, and many will also ask you for cover letters, recommendation letters, and applications specific to the internship. Before you do any of that, though, make sure you qualify for each internship you’re interested in. Some will ask that you have specific skills, or have completed a certain amount of schooling and coursework. The first thing you should do is get your internship opportunities organized. Make a checklist of what you need to do for each internship you’re applying to, and pay particular attention to deadlines and contact information.

Below, we have some more information on what to expect once you actually start applying for internships and what to expect once you’re invited to meet with internship providers. Competition for internships is fierce, even for unpaid opportunities, so it’s best to be as prepared for the process as you can be. For even more information, check out our Internships section.

What You’ll Need to Apply

Most internships will have an application process specific to that internship. This may include an online or paper application and short essay, with further requests for an updated resume and cover letter, letters of recommendation, a list of references, and transcripts. Depending on the internship, you may also need to provide other materials in support of your application. If you’re a candidate for an internship at a design firm, for example, you may be asked for a portfolio of your work. If you’re going for a journalism internship at the local newspaper, clips of articles you’ve done for the student paper would be appropriate. Once you’ve decided on which internship you’ll be applying for, make sure to keep the requirements for each opportunity straight, as each position may have different expectations from you as an applicant as differing requirements. Pay close attention to any preferences the internship provider may have as well. If you’re asked to e-mail your materials, for example, don’t send them via snail mail; those requests are given for a reason, and you won’t be impressing anyone if you can’t follow the application directions. Make sure to follow up a few days after you’ve submitted your materials; it’ll not only show your interest in the position, but give you the peace of mind that your internship application got to where it was meant to go.

Meeting with Internship Providers

As we said, the internship application process will resemble the job search. Your internship interview will then resemble an interview for a job post-graduation. How you prepare for meeting with internship providers should be taken as seriously as interviews during the job search. You should read up on each provider, and have a list of questions handy about the experience. Show you're prepared by having copies of any and all materials you sent to the internship provider with you at the interview, dressing professionally (even if you know the internship would be in a more casual setting) and arriving on time or a little early. You may be nervous so work on appearing calm and confident prior to interview day.

Internship candidates typically don’t have the experience job candidates do, so the internship interview may be more about what you’ve done academically and on campus than any work-related experience. Consider the traits that make a good employee — communication and organizational skills, good time management and the ability to both work in a team and take initiative, as some examples — and how you’ve applied those characteristics in your life as student. You won’t be expected to boast years of experience in your chosen field of study. An internship is supposed to be a taste, if not your first taste, of that experience in your intended career. But you will need to show that you’re interested in that internship in other ways, whether that’s through your courses, volunteer work, or other experiences that may be beneficial to mention during your interview.

After you’ve met with the internship provider, make sure to follow up with a thank you note or e-mail. If you forgot to ask any questions during the interview, now would be the time to ask. If you haven’t heard back from the internship provider by the time they said they may get back to you, it’s fine to check in on the status of your application. Internships are competitive, and providers know you’re probably applying for more than one experience to improve your chances of landing one.

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