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When is the best time to start looking for summer internships in college?

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I am going to be a college freshman this fall. When is the right time to start researching and applying to summer internships? #college #internships

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19 answers

John’s Answer

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There are a couple of great places to start Allison.

First, don’t be afraid to head over to your college’s career center to see what resources they have both in-person and online. Many colleges have digital databases where students can check out internships. In addition, a lot of times these databases contain information on students or alumni who have worked at a particular company in the past, giving you the opportunity to network with these people and set up informational interviews to learn more about their experience at a company you’re considering.

SUMMER INTERNSHIP TIMELINE

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, it’s also 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.

DECEMBER/JANUARY – GET ORGANIZED
Decide which companies or types of companies you’d like to work for. 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, Amazon, Chase) will have very structured recruitment processes that will likely move very quickly (networking, applications and interviews will be wrapped up by January). Create a spreadsheet to keep track of every internship you’re interested in.

• Name of internship opportunity
• Whether the opportunity is paid or unpaid
• Materials and Deadlines for the application
• Name and contact information of the hiring manager (so you can follow up)

FEBRUARY/MARCH – START APPLYING YOURSELF
This is going to be your BIG application months, and while it’s going to be a lot of work, you have to do it to land your perfect internship! Late February and early March marks the time when companies start interviewing serious candidates for positions. If a company reaches out to you, make sure you respond quickly and politely to figure out when and where you’ll be interviewed. Additionally, a large portion of your internship decisions will start to come around mid-March, so be sure to communicate with employers in terms of when they need a decision from you.

APRIL – MAKE UP YOUR MIND ALREADY
If you haven’t committed anywhere yet, it’s time hunker down and make up your mind!

If you’ve already committed to an internship, make sure you’re talking to your employer about next steps, like putting you on payroll, submitting forms, and any other pre-internship onboarding processes. Definitely don’t slack off on filling out forms and going through these steps! Not only does it look bad if you’re not on top of it, but you could also potentially jeopardize your internship for not filling something out on time.

Remember Allison, It’ll all be worth it when you’re chilling at your dream internship next summer.
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Emily’s Answer

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Hi Allison,

Great question. I've found it's typical for businesses to be looking for students that are finishing out their junior year of college to fill their internship positions, though this can vary by company. There's never any harm in looking for an internship before you reach your junior year- the worst that can happen is you gain experience in enhancing your resume, writing cover letters, and learning how to make yourself stand out as a valuable candidate.

As for the timeline year by year goes, this can vary by industry/major, but it's common to see a lot of recruiting happening in the Fall for Summer internships. I would recommend starting to at least think about looking for open positions by September.

As a marketing major, here was my experience: I started doing research on some companies and updating my resume around August of my junior year. I attended my school's Fall career fair in September, and used the connections I had made to interview with three different companies in mid-October. Second round interviews happened in early-mid November, and I received my internship offer shortly after, around mid-November.

For other majors, though, it might be much more common for their main recruiting season to be in the Spring rather than the Fall. Good luck!
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Dexter’s Answer

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Hi Allison,

Just wanted to tell you that if you're interested in software engineering, the time to apply is right when school starts. From the business side, my company has just collected all the intern headcount requirements for Summer 2021. This mean that the recruiting team will be looking for intern candidates around the August/September timeframe. When I interview interns, it usually takes place around Oct/Nov. I've interviewed candidates in January before, but that's unusual.

I think it's really cool that you're asking this question, as if I could go back in time, one of the things I'd tell myself is to get a summer internship. I wish you the best of luck!

--
Dexter
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Riley’s Answer

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Most of the people I knew in college who did summer internships (myself included) chose to do these internships during the summer before senior year. We spent the first two summers completing summer courses at school, so our only free summer to work full time was junior year. This worked out to be great timing because you will have a good base of knowledge in your career, so you will be able to perform better at your job. Most schools will hold internship fairs during every spring semester which you should definitely attend, but if not I would say you should start applying places January of spring semester junior year.
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Juhi’s Answer

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Hi Allison,

If you are someone who knows which industry they want to work in and have a clear idea of the path you are going to take post college then I would start as soon as you start college. There are several organizations campuses have that could help you chances of landing a better internship and a better job later on. If you don't have a clear idea I would use at least half of your freshman year exploring different interests through those student orgs and keep the second half for applying to internships.

I know there are several career fairs that happen on campus so the earlier you have an idea as to what you are passionate about the better! I would also suggest talking to students/professors who are in the field you are interested in or joining student orgs that could help you with networking. I have found that networking plays a huge role in getting information about potential internships and referrals to land interviews.

Good luck!
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EmilyAnn’s Answer

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I would say start researching and applying as soon as possible. Don't feel bad if you can't get an internship for the summer after your first year, but don't be afraid to try! I was lucky enough to get an internship coming out of my freshman year, which put me in a great position for having an internship the following year. Now I'm going into my junior year with two internships under my belt, which have really helped me grow professionally and given me great opportunities. With that being said, don't blame yourself if you can't get one!! It is really tough to snag an internship especially as a freshman, and I know plenty of hard-working people who simply couldn't get anything.

So, I would say the earlier the better when researching and applying to internships. If it doesn't work out the first time, you'll have plenty of time to get an internship over your 4 years. Good luck! :)
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Claire’s Answer

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Hi Allison,

I don't think it is ever too early to start searching for the type of internship you would like to see yourself in! Researching internships may seem overwhelming, but they are great opportunities to open doors into your potential career field. If you are looking for summer internships, you will want to start researching at the end of the Fall Semester and apply early in the Spring Semester. Many larger organizations look for interns that are going into their Junior and Senior year of college, but you may be able to find some that will accept lower-level students. Networking with past interns will help give an idea as to what the organization is looking for and what skills you will want to work on to be prepared for the role.

Best of luck!
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Tudor’s Answer

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Hi Allison,

Great question! A lot of internships have a different timelines for recruiting. For instance, a lot of opportunities in the Technology industry are posted as early as Fall ( September / October). Another example, a lot of consulting internships start the recruiting process very early on during the previous summer.

My recommendation would be to obtain information on the different opportunities from your College Career Center, as they are usually very diligent on posting these opportunities as soon as they come up. Career Fairs are also a great place to connect with some of the organizations that are present, to find out more about them and potentially start your application process. One final great place where you can discover internship offerings is during conferences, where you can learn more about a specific company and get your foot in the door.

I hope this helps. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any more questions.
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Edward Obasi’s Answer

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Hi Allison,

It very much depends on the field and type of companies you are looking to pursue. A lot of big companies like to start recruiting in the fall for their internship programs. Some companies have shorter introductory internship programs for freshman to participate in for a few days (sometimes called externships). Keep an eye out for those because they can be feeder programs for longer prestigious internship programs in future summers.
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Graziela’s Answer

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Hi Allison,

Usually the airline and airport industry start the summer internship selection around March on the yearly basis.

I recommend that you go directly to the company of your choice and research for internship opportunities. Make your application directly on their website.

For the airlines and airport job opportunities check out the links below.

http://www.nctaviationcareers.com/content/internships
https://www.united.com/ual/en/us/fly/company/career/student-opportunities.html

Good luck!

Graziela
Thank you so much, this is really helpful! Allison S. Translate
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Kimberly’s Answer

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Hi Allison,

Congrats on starting college in the fall! The fact that you are already asking and thinking about applying to internships puts you ahead of the game. I would start reaching out and networking over the summer and by early fall start planning on which internships you want to apply for next year. The sooner the better to start looking because different fields have different deadlines (i.e. some are year round and start in the fall, while others might not start until the summer). It also does not hurt to apply to multiple ones and give yourself some options.

Good luck!
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Cristin’s Answer

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I've run internship programs for years and I think one of the biggest mistakes is that students wait too long and think the summer is so far away that they don't have to start looking until March or April. Really most companies are recruiting in the fall with the intention to fill positions by the holiday season. Start applying in September/October and if you don't get anything don't be discouraged people are still looking to fill some roles in spring, but fall is going to be your sweet spot.
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Blake’s Answer

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Hey Allison,

I don't think it can ever be too early since each internship will only further your work experience. However, many internships are ways for employers to hire individuals. So, they might only be looking for Juniors or Seniors. Way to be ahead of the game!!

Thanks,
Blake
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Abbey’s Answer

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We look to fill our intern spots in the fall for the upcoming summer. We look to offer internships to Juniors/ Seniors. The benefit to the company comes from being able to try a potential employee out before hiring them full time. Offering a freshman or Sophomore an internship often does not have a positive return on investment for the employer, since there is less likelihood that the student would convert to a full time employee.

Of course, industry can change this significantly. Look into Co-Op opportunities if you want to start early into your college career.
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Katie’s Answer

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Hi Allison,
It is great that you are already thinking about summer internships. Many companies recruit sophomores and juniors for internships starting in the fall. Some companies will hire freshman. I would reach out to the career service center at your college to learn when companies start recruiting interns in your field in your area.

Katie recommends the following next steps:

  • Schedule a meeting with career services
  • Search for internships on LinkedIn and job websites
  • Reach out to people in your network for potential internship opportunities
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Mandi’s Answer

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Hi Allison,
It is never to early to start thinking about your career interests and potential internships to consider. As a freshman and sophomore in college, try to focus on gaining any type of job experience that will help your resume and build experience. It does not have to be a job related to your future career goals - it can be any type of job where you will learn valuable skills that can apply in any career. For example, customer facing jobs, sales, on-campus jobs, etc. By your sophomore and junior year, you will have these great experiences to list on your resume and to discuss in interviews when applying for internships. Your sophomore and junior year will be when most employers are taking a serious look at students as potential future employees.

Best of luck!
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Rachael’s Answer

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It is wonderful that you are thinking about internships early. Internships are a great way to gain experience, explore career fields, and make professional connections. Some organizations start posting internship positions and applications in the Fall - so you will want to start looking during your first semester in college.
Thank you so much, this is very helpful! Allison S. Translate
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Yana’s Answer

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I'd suggest starting in the spring on your Junior year. Companies are looking for interns in their junior and senior . If you are successful your first year, they can invite you again for the following summer :)
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Duyen’s Answer

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Hey Allison,

Congrats on starting college this upcoming fall! These are some unprecedented times and the fall university recruiting will look very different from years past. As a University Recruiter, I'm in the process of strategizing with our partner universities/colleges on how to best engage with eager students like yourself.

Depending on the industries/careers you're interested in, the first place to to start would be with the internship career fairs your college has to offer, especially if you're unsure of what's out there. Research the companies attending, the opportunities they're offering, and determine if those align with your goals. Keep in mind though, many internships are typically reserved for rising juniors or seniors (aka those graduating 1 or 2 years after their internship). However, this shouldn't stop you from building your network and connections. We love having consistency with who goes on campus to represent our business so make the connections soon, even as a freshman because come your sophomore and junior years, they may be the same people who will be interviewing you for those internship opportunities!

As for your question on "when", simply put the fall semester is the best time to apply or at least make that connection. Some companies may tell you to wait until the spring until formal applications open up, but don't wait to make the connection until then, especially if they'll be on campus prior to that!

Hope this helps and best of luck, Allison!
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