Internships 101

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Summer is only a few short weeks away. While most may be thinking about days in the sun and a break from school, there is something else that every high-achieving student should think about as well: internships. Whether you want to be a doctor, interior designer, or anything else in between; an internship gives first-hand experience you can’t get in the classroom. Colleges have a multitude of resources dedicated to help students get internships, but what if you’re a high school student just starting out and don’t know where to begin? Then this is the article for you.

Before we begin, it is important to recognize that you do need an internship in high school to achieve your academic and career goals. If your summer plans are to volunteer at your library, help support your family by working at a job, or attend a summer program/camp, those are all totally valid and respectable options. Internships are not the end-all be-all to summer plans, they are just one option out of dozens. Also, with 2020’s dumpster fire of a year, I just want to recognize that it is entirely valid to spend this summer enjoying time with your family/friends and rejuvenating before the upcoming school year.

Now, here are answers to some of the most common questions I hear about internships:

What Even is an Internship?

An internship is (usually) a multi-week experience where a student works at a company, organization or the like in a variety of different positions. An internship position could range from working at your local paper to researching at a lab. There is really no limit as to what an internship could be, it's really what you want to make of it!

Isn’t an Internship Basically Just a Job?

Internships are similar to jobs in the way that you have certain goals (like if you work at the newspaper, the number of articles you need to write a week) to achieve, but they allow high school students to enter spaces usually only for adults already established in the workplace. While most companies won't hire high school students, you can intern at the company, learn about the different skills the job requires, and already have your foot in the door. It also important to note here that some internships are paid whereas many are not. This is something you need to take into consideration when you apply.

Do I Have to Be Committed to an Internship for a Whole Summer?

The great thing about internships is the flexibility when it comes to the amount of time you need to commit. Some internships are strict 8 week, 40 hours a week programs, but many, especially during COVID times, are virtual and you work at the times best suited for you. It is common for internships to be 8-12 weeks, but I know it is also not uncommon for them to be 2-4 weeks. During the summer between sophomore and junior year of high school I had a one week internship, so just do what is best for you!

How Do I Even Get an Internship?

There are multiple ways you can apply for internships. One option is to search the web or help wanted ads in the newspaper. Personally, I think the easiest way to get an internship in high school is to either email the company you are interested in working with or utilize the network you already have. Most internships aren’t posted but simply come from asking if there are any openings. Every single internship I have gotten thus far hasn’t come from applying online, but from either emailing the company to see if they have an internship available or simply talking with the business owner. It’s scary and rejection is terrible, but this gives you good practice for when you enter the job market, where networking is even more important.

Why Should I Care?

Because internships are a great way to get out of your comfort zone! My internships taught me how to communicate, handle problems on my own, think creatively, and so much more. I also learned more about my career goals overall. Your internship experience might show you how much you love something, or that you’d hate doing it day in, day out. Besides, internships are a great way for colleges to see you used your summer in a productive way and challenged yourself outside of your school work.

That’s all the advice I have for now, but I’ll be here again next month discussing what I learned from my first year in college. Until then, best of luck with the second half of the spring semester!

Autumn Shelton is currently a freshman at Princeton University and plans to attend law school after her undergraduate career. Her favorite things include home baked chocolate chip cookies, Robert Pattinson’s Oscar-deserving performance in Twilight, books on the history of Alaska, and her rather large collection of decks of cards from various places around the country.