What's the deal with internships?

When it comes to finding things to do outside of school and academics, there is no shortage of options: you can work part-time, you can volunteer with any number of organizations, you can belong to a sports club, you can start your own business—or you can do an internship.

Ever year, thousands of students apply for and work at internships in companies all over the country. Internships are a great way for you to get meaningful work experience, learn skills, and beef up your résumé.

What’s an internship?

Let’s start with the basics—what exactly is an internship? The dictionary defines an internship as “any official or formal program to provide practical experience for beginners in an occupation or profession” and “any period of time during which a beginner acquires experience in an occupation, profession, or pursuit.” And that’s a pretty good description of what an internship is—on the surface. However, if you look past the standard definition of an internship, you’ll see that is really more of an exploratory experience that allows you to get new skills and learn new things.

You will likely hear the word “internship” a lot when you go to college, or you may have a family member in college who is currently doing an internship and has told you about it. Internships for college students are a bit different than those for high school students. College-level internships are typically more involved and are usually seen as a precursor to a job with the same company or in the same field. High school internships are more relaxed and laid back, and typically give students the opportunity “shadow” people within the organization and learn their skills.

What does an internship entail?

At internship typically requires you to work a few hours a week at a particular location, under the supervision of a manager. The kinds of tasks you do as an intern will vary—you may do a lot of clerical work (data entry, filing, organizing), you may be working with clients, you may be helping to plan campaigns or events, or you may be doing something as simple as answering phones. Many employers see interns as a way to increase their work force by paying little or no money (since many internships are unpaid), so you will likely be doing a variety of different tasks for many different people and departments within an organization.

Where can you find internships?

There are many different ways in which you can find internships but, in recent years, the internet has become one of the best ways to locate them. Sites like www.internships.com are a goldmine when looking for internships both for high school and college students. Internships.com even has specific searches and pages for positions such as summer internships for high school students.

Another great source for internship information is your high school guidance office and, if you have one, your student employment office. If you want to cut to the chase and seek out internships which are specifically looking for and tailored to high school students, your counseling office is a great starting point—employers listing their opportunities directly with your high school are explicitly stating their interest in hiring high school students (something which not all employers may want to do).

How do you look for an internship?

Just start looking! Get online and do a simple web search for internships in your area—you’ll be surprised at what you can find. Take the time, also, to contact any companies in your city for which you’d be interested in interning; often, these positions are not listed, but are very much available. Let your parents and your friends’ parents know what you’re looking for—motivated students are more likely to get leads on any available positions .

How can an internship help you with your college applications?

An internship looks great on a college application because it demonstrates initiative that goes beyond an after-school job. Interns are typically entrusted with complex and involved jobs and, because they have the ability shadow more senior members of a team, have a broader range of skills. Listing this experience and these newfound skills on your college application résumé can really underscore the fact that you are a dedicated, hardworking individual who is ready to take their education to the next level.

How can an internship help you with your career plans?

Not only will an internship help you gain new skills and beef up your college application, it can also help you determine whether a particular career path is right for you. You can try on many different “hats” as an intern, and really get the full range of experience for a particular job—and you’ll be able to determine whether that particular path is the right one for you. You get to test-drive a career without having to commit to it!


An internship can be a very rewarding experience in which you learn all about a company, a job, and a potential career path. Take some time to study your options and see if there are any internships in your area that you’d like to try. Research them thoroughly, submit an application, interview, and get ready to embark on a brand-new, exciting experience!