A student guide to applying for internships as a high schooler
It is officially internship season. High schoolers looking to participate in summer internships usually apply to potential internship sites between December and March.
Applying early is necessary since internships are in high demand as high schoolers look to gain experience in their field of interest and to build an impressive resume for their upcoming college careers.
Applying for internships also serves as practice for college applications and job applications in the future, as it requires a cover letter and a resume. Anne Keiser, a volunteer at the College Career Center at Blair who previously worked at American University, recommends that all students apply for internships, especially if they have not had a job before. “You would be able to get some work experience. You’re also gonna be able to get recommendations later on for other jobs and for colleges,” Keiser said.
As beneficial as they are, it can be difficult for many students to even start applying. So, what’s the first step?
1) Think about an Elevator Pitch
An elevator pitch is a quick speech about your achievements and goals; this is important to have in mind in case you come across a potential employer or someone you would like to network with. You never know who you will run into.
This pitch should be short and concise. The idea is that you should be able to sell yourself in the span of a single elevator ride. Creating an elevator pitch will force you to think about what qualities are the most important about yourself in regards to employment.
Think about the best aspects of yourself that will contribute to what you can see yourself doing in the future. An elevator pitch will also be a skeleton for your cover letter. Having a clear idea of who you are and what you want will not only impress those around you, but it will also boost your chances of making connections with potential employers.
A resume or curriculum vitae (CV) is a one-page briefing of your past experiences and skills as a candidate for employment. Resume writing can be difficult for many of us. As high schoolers, we may not have a lot to add to our resume that seems valuable, especially if this is your first internship.
However, if you adjust the way you view the activities you participate in and present them the right way, you can create a compelling resume. Even if you haven’t had experience working before, volunteer experience is highly appreciated. Including volunteer experiences conveys commitment and proof of diligent work towards a cause.
If you have a leadership position in any of the extra-curricular activities you participate in, point it out. If you can manage a Google or Excel sheet or speak a second language, include that as well. Many skills that seem trivial to us can actually be helpful in a work environment.
Resume templates can be found on Google docs, and the College and Career Center website has a resume template with tips on how to fill it out too.
A cover letter is a letter addressed to the hiring manager of your internship site. Cover letters do not simply state your achievements and skills like a resume. Instead, they provide you with an opportunity to reach out to your employers in a more personal way.
Carmen Salazar, Blair’s College and Career Information Coordinator, described what a good cover letter looks like. “You are summarizing some of your strong points, and why you are interested in pursuing that specific internship and that career. You are giving a short, sweet, brief paragraph. It’s not a book. You are not restating your entire resume,” Salazar said.
It is encouraged that you include why you are interested in the internship you are applying to in particular. Because of this, you should never send the same cover letter to multiple internship sites. Instead, you should tailor and specialize your cover letter each time you submit it to a potential internship site, so that the hiring staff know you have a reason for applying to their organization specifically.
A cover letter template is also available on Blair’s College and Career Center website.
4) Contact Sites with Internship Opportunities
There are many ways to finally submit all this information to potential internship sites. Blair’s Academies website has an entire page of links to organizations with internship opportunities. Links at the bottom of this article are also great places to apply to.
You can also reach out to individuals that work in your field of interest through email, and ask them personally if they can provide you with an internship opportunity. For example, if you are reading a scientific paper that interests you and the contact information of one of the researchers who authored it is available, you can directly contact them about opportunities in regards to the topic of their published work.
Even if you do not get an internship with the person you contact, they may be able to direct you to others who will give you an internship opportunity. If there is a group or program that interests you, reach out to the leaders of that group of program. Don’t be afraid to create positions for yourself.
Apply to many internships - internships are competitive, so it’s important to apply to as many as possible to have various options.
Many high schoolers make the mistake of applying to only a few because they are looking for something specific. This lowers students' chances of receiving a successful internship opportunity. “If you are having trouble finding a specific internship in a specific career field, that may be a little difficult. You may want to start a little bit more broad,” Salazar added.
5) Have Your Application Reviewed
After you have completed your resume, cover letter and application, have someone take a look at it. You can visit the College and Career Center at Room 121 or show any of your teachers. At this stage, you should also reach out for teacher recommendations if they are required on your application. Be sure to inform teachers about your recommendation request as soon as possible, so that they have time to write the best recommendation they can.
Good luck, Blazers. Resources and more information can be found on the Blair website, and the College and Career Center website.
Maya Britto. Hey, I'm Maya (she/her). I'm a staff writer here at SCO. I'm passionate about social justice, music, dance, food, quality time with my friends, ice cream (but strictly vanilla), and good bad jokes. Stay cool, y'all. :) More »