How to maximize your first summer internship search

Don’t let peer pressure or heightened expectations make you stress about finding a great summer experience. Here are some answers to your frequently asked questions. If you need additional support, schedule an appointment with CAPD today!

How important is it for me to have an internship my first summer?

An internship is one of many options that first years consider for their first summer, but it is not the only option out there. Students have spent their summer traveling, working a summer job, volunteering, taking classes, or just even just relaxing. Give some thought to what you would like to get out of your summer experience to help guide your decision making. Feel free to set up an appointment with CAPD to discuss your options and to set up a plan.

If I am not hearing anything back from current applications—how many internships should I expect to apply to?

There is no specific number of applications you should submit. However, regardless of the number of applications you submit, make certain you balance quality against quantity. If you are submitting a lot of low-quality and non-targeted applications, your success in appealing to a targeted organization may be low. Take time to make certain that your application (resume, cover letter, etc.) addresses the needs outlined in the job description to the best of your ability. Feel free to set up an appointment with CAPD to go over your materials and help you produce a high-quality application.

It seems like many internships have qualifications that first-years may not have—how can I find opportunities that are open to freshman?

Handshake allows you to filter jobs/internships where the organization has listed “Freshman” as an eligible class year to apply to the opportunity. You can filter opportunities in Handshake using “Employer Preferences” to find those open to freshmen. Click on “All Filters” and expand the caret (^) options to allow you to filter by School Year.

Please note that this filter is not fully accurate, so you will still want to review the job description before submitting your application.

When is the recruiting season for internships generally?

This varies across industry, organizations, and other factors. For summer internships, recruiting can begin as early as the fall for some highly competitive internships. Many internships for the summer have application deadlines in the winter months (January/February), although some industries and organizations (including certain government and non-profits) may still have opportunities up to late spring as well.  It is important to keep aware of these fluctuations in timelines since if you are applying to some industries, you may receive offers that you need to respond to prior to starting the interview process with others.

It’s good to stay aware of on-campus recruiting opportunities. CAPD puts together this list of upcoming career fairs, and companies also list events on Handshake.

When should I start applying? And when should I have most of my applications in by?

If you see an opportunity that you are interested in, you should not hesitate to put your materials together and apply as soon as possible. Even though some organizations may have an application deadline that is months away, they might close the posting early due to a high volume of applicants. Remember to find a balance between quality and quantity of applications, erring on the side of quality.

Besides Handshake, on what other platforms do you suggest looking for internships?

In this article we list a variety of different platforms available to find internships and related opportunities. You may also find great opportunities by joining mailing lists for academic departments or industry clubs on campus (e.g. SWE, WIEECS, AI@MIT, Energy Club, etc.)

I hadn’t heard of informational interviews before. What should our goal be going into those?

The goal of your conversation is to ask for AIR: Advice, Information, and Referrals.

  • Advice on ways to enter the job market and how to market your skills
  • Information such as in-demand skills, places to learn about jobs, relevant industry trends
  • Referrals to or recommendations of other people, companies and/or professional associations to outreach

For additional information about networking and conducting informational interviews, visit our website.

I heard about on-campus recruiting for some organizations. With campus restrictions on visitors this year, what should I look out for instead?

Since the start of the pandemic, many organizations have had to adjust their on-campus recruitment strategy. In some cases, they have been participating in virtual career fairs and presentations. In addition to these, it is always a great time to connect with alumni (through sites like Advisors Hub or LinkedIn) who are connected to the programs you are interested in finding an opportunity. An informational interview might be a great way to learn about their time-lines, needs, and plans for recruiting.

How long after we apply and haven’t heard back should we stop thinking about an internship?

Timelines for getting back to candidates vary by organization and department. Use tools like the internship search log to keep track of what existing applications you have out there. If you have a means to follow-up with a recruiter, you may want to wait two weeks or after the deadline has passed to inquire about a timeline. However, make certain you continue your search. An application is not a guarantee for an internship so continue your search until you have an offer in hand.

By Erik Pavesic
Erik Pavesic Assistant Director, First Year Engagement Erik Pavesic