One of the most important ways to explore your career options and get hands-on job training while still in school is to engage in a summer internship. The key to landing the right internship is not only knowing what you’re interested in doing but also when you should apply. Since different industries have different timelines with structured career paths like finance, consulting and technology requiring internship applications to be submitted almost a year in advance, it’s important to know the timelines for different fields and what you should be doing each semester to ensure that you land the summer internship of your dreams.
Here is when you should begin applying for a summer internship.
What to do during the fall semester
As a general rule, if you’re looking for a summer internship you should start thinking about the process first semester of that year. It’s never too early to start the process, and the more time you give yourself, the less stressful the process will be. To begin, it’s important to reflect on the types of jobs you’re interested in. A great place to start this is to meet with people who are in the fields you’re interested in and ask them questions about what it’s really like to work in those fields.
Once you have a general sense of what jobs you’d like to focus on, research interesting companies online (via WayUp, social media, and the company’s own website) and attend networking events (i.e. corporate presentations, career fairs, networking nights) these companies are hosting. You should check-in with your career center for a calendar of all upcoming employer events. Many of these happen starting in September and October, so be sure to go to campus ready to start networking. You should also reach out to alumni or interesting employees at these companies – most are more than happy to answer any questions you have, and even set up informal coffee chats or informational interviews to help you prepare for the working world.
Most applications (ie when you actually submit your resume online) open anywhere from November-January. The company’s website and/or your career center portal will likely have those dates published months in advance, so you can schedule reminders and plan your time accordingly. This varies according to industry and company size. Large, well-established companies (Goldman Sachs, Google, PwC) will have very structured recruitment processes that will likely move very quickly (networking, applications and interviews will be wrapped up by January).
For less structured programs, or for small companies and startups, internship opportunities are likely to come up throughout the spring semester and even during the first few weeks of summer break.
What to do during the spring semester
Smaller, newer companies (startups, family-owned businesses) will likely have more lenient timelines and move a bit slower. Many of these companies do not have the resources to come to campuses for fairs or advertise their openings on the university portal, so you’ll need to do some extra legwork (research the company and their openings, reach out to a current employee to introduce yourself, etc) before applying. We recommend starting this during the first part of spring semester and planning for interviews running from March-May.
If you haven’t found anything by the middle of the spring semester, don’t worry. Instead, head to WayUp to look for internship opportunities in your chosen field. You can also book an appointment with your faculty advisor and/or campus career advisor to ask about existing college and university partnerships. There may be a small, local internship nobody has applied for yet.
To avoid stressing too much about early internship deadlines, think ahead. The most competitive internship programs may require you to prep a year in advance to give you ample time to comfortably complete your application. But even if spring semester is coming to a close, chances are that you’ll be able to find an internship that will meet your needs. And when you’re ready to apply, we’ve got lots of paid and unpaid internship opportunities that are just right for you.
Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as Should I Intern As a College Freshman? and find answers to common interview questions such as Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?