The challenge of getting accepted to the best colleges is always a tricky one, and an increasing number of students are finding that the bar seems to be getting higher and higher every year.
With a growing number of obstacles and boundaries getting in the way of achieving their dreams.
Even with perfect grades, plenty of extracurricular activities, and top-quality references, you may find that you are still struggling – and this is where having something extra on your resume can really help you to stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons.
Internships are a chance to show that you have experienced the reality of the role you are interested in, and also demonstrate that you have the skills and maturity that the college is looking for.
They can also be valuable from your perspective, offering a real insight that may or may not be what you had imagined.
If you are wondering how to go about getting an internship, or whether the time and effort of securing a place are worth it, read on for everything you need to know.
Table of Contents
- What Is An Internship?
- Why Do You Need An Internship?
- How Can I Get An Internship?
- Final Thoughts
What Is An Internship?
In the simplest terms, an internship refers to a specific period of work experience that is offered by a business or organization. This allows students to experience the reality of the industry, gain real-life, practical experience, and work to increase their skills in their preferred area.
Why Do You Need An Internship?
As we have mentioned, securing a lucrative internship can be tricky – there are typically a limited number to go around. You may be wondering, therefore, if it is really worth the effort – and the response to this is, without question, a resounding yes.
Internships offer a huge number of advantages to high school students, and some of these include:
Experiencing The Professional World
Without an internship, some students may not have a chance to get a real taste of professional, working life until well into their college years.
Having this experience early is a real boost to admissions essays and resumes, and allows candidates to stand out in front of the crowd for all the right reasons.
The skills required in a professional, corporate environment are very different from those demanded from high school students, and having a chance to practice, build and develop these early on, in an authentic workplace environment, offers nothing but benefits for students.
Explore A Career Path
One of the most important benefits of an internship is that it offers the chance to explore a career path in the flesh – and this can be a real eye-opener.
You may find that you have your heart set on a particular career path, such as law, politics, teaching, or medicine, but discover that the reality is very different from anything you had imagined.
Your dream role may seem boring and mundane when you see it actually being practiced in the real world, and you may realize that glamor is not all it appears to be.
Conversely, you may discover that the career path you had been toying with is the perfect fit, or discover another role within the same industry or organization – often, this is something that you may have had no idea even existed.
Whether the internship secures your love for a subject or turns you into another path, is irrelevant – both are positive steps. This can help to stop you from making a mistake when picking your major in college, and ensure that you are not pursuing a path you are destined to dislike.
Build A Network
Building your professional network can never start too early, and an internship is a great way to make contacts in your chosen field. This is a great chance to find a mentor – someone who you respect and admire, and who has enjoyed a career trajectory that you desire to emulate.
If all goes well, this mentor can also write you a letter of college recommendation – this is a great way to stand out from the crowd.
Gaining the respect of your mentor can also help to unlock the door to a number of helpful connections, including those stationed in the college of your choice, or working in organizations you wish to apply for after college.
High school internships can also form the basis for college internships down the line – you never know where your network will lead.
How Can I Get An Internship?
Now that we have seen the importance of getting an internship, you may be wondering how you go about landing yourself one of those coveted spots. There are a few options to try here:
The answer to your internship problem may be much closer than you think – in some cases, a member of your family may be in an ideal position to help you out.
Too many students overlook their closest connections, but this can be a fast and easy way to get your foot in the door and kick start your internship journey.
Family members will already have a personal connection to you, and a personal reason for wanting you to succeed. As a bonus, you already know them, and this removes the issues that can come with connecting and building a relationship with a complete stranger.
The trick is to always remain professional, and never expect an internship – a family connection does not automatically entitle you to a spot.
You need to be driven, passionate show a genuine interest in the field – and always be polite and gracious when raising the prospect of an opportunity.
If your relative cannot help on this occasion, don’t burn your bridges – they may have access to the ideal opportunity in a few months.
The next stage is to expand your search outwards slightly, and consider any suitable family friends – this includes friends of your parents or guardians.
While it is ok to let your parents raise the initial idea, it should be you who does the hard work in making contact and building the connection – this will earn you more respect, and help you to come across as more professional.
As an example, while it is ok for your parents to raise the idea to the contact, and ask if it is suitable for you to get in touch, you should be the one who takes it from here.
In addition to helping you look more professional and serious, this also helps you to build and develop valuable networking skills, and communicate with others.
High School Contacts
In many cases, high school teachers are overlooked when it comes to searching for internships – unless, of course, you want to be a teacher. Remember, however, that your teachers are people too, and may have a number of useful connections who can help you out.
As an example, your Chemistry teacher may be friendly with medics or professional chemists, your Art teacher may hang out with fashion designers or those in the industry, or your English teacher might be able to hook you up with an opportunity at a newspaper.
The trick here is to ask your teacher if they know anyone who may be suitable, and then ask if they can introduce you. As with family friends, you should take over from this point.
Your guidance counselor will be a key figure in helping you to prepare and send your college application, but they may also be a useful resource in helping to connect you with potential internship opportunities in a particular field.
When you are discussing college with your school guidance counselor, make it clear that you are very interested in pursuing an internship – they should be able to connect you with relevant organizations or individuals who may be able to help you.
Remember, it is the job of your guidance counselor to help and support you, so don’t be afraid to ask for the resources you need!
High School Staff
Your connection to the perfect internship may lay in another area of your high school staff – there are a lot of people who make up the faculty of your school.
Coaches and club leaders are in an ideal position to help you gain experience in their chosen fields, and are also likely to have professional connections and contacts to whom they may be able to introduce you.
The same goes for less obvious members of the school faculty, including librarians and admin staff. Get talking to as many people as you can, and explore anyone who may be able to connect you to the people who can help.
Always remember to be polite, courteous, and gracious, as you never know who may be watching and observing you.
In some cases, you may have to expand your search beyond those who are in your immediate vicinity, and this can mean connecting and communicating with people you may not know, or be less familiar with.
Local universities can be very useful resources, and it is advised to go straight to the potential source. If there is a class on the topic or career that you are interested in.
Contact the relevant professor or the head of the department – going through the more general college email, or the admissions office tends to be a long, tedious process that is unlikely to get you the results that you need.
Instead, send a polite, gracious email to the member of staff in question, outlining your request, and asking if there is anything that they can do to help.
Avoid contacting undergraduates, as they have no real power to help – unless they are actively involved in an internship, or working a part-time job, which offers a potential opportunity.
Heading directly to local businesses can also be a good call, and shows plenty of initiative that is likely to impress the organization – despite the advice, many high school students neglect local businesses when it comes to sourcing an internship.
This can be some really valuable experience, as you are communicating directly with the business, and can be a great way to build your network, as well as develop your confidence and communication skills.
Start by doing some research – which field are you interested in interning in, and which local businesses operate in this industry? Once you have narrowed this down to a shortlist, get bust emailing – but make it specific.
Just as is the case when applying to a real job, a generic inquiry or application is unlikely to make a good impression; it suggests that you are not that motivated, and not interested in that particular company.
Instead, make an effort to research the company, and contact the most relevant party – usually the head of department or, in the case of smaller businesses, the head of the organization.
Explain that you are looking for an internship, and outline why you have chosen this particular business.
Local Charities Or Religious Organizations
One path that often gets overlooked is that of local religious groups or nonprofit organizations. While this is excellent experience for those who want to work in the charity or nonprofit sector, students with interests in other areas can also hugely benefit from these types of internships.
They can broaden your worldview give you valuable insight into other areas of life and society, and equip you with a huge number of skills.
Many of the internship opportunities in these types of organizations involve hands-on help, and this can be very useful if you are thinking about a career in a healthcare or caring position, and even for positions in law or public-facing roles.
You will also gain valuable insight into how these organizations operate and the part that they play in wider society.
Getting an internship in high school is not a walk in the park – but it is also something that is not totally out of reach.
By making the most of your contacts, thinking outside the box, and being professional, persistent, and polite, you could land an internship that sets your college application on fire, and unlocks the door to your future.