Applying for Summer Internships

The first two weeks of last summer were rough. I found myself sitting on my couch all day, binge-watching show after show. Although I had just finished a busy first year of college, I still felt like I needed something to do. After a short while, the monotony of staying at home became unbearable, and I decided to get a job. I reached out to a professor at a local university, and worked a summer internship for the next three months.

The internship was phenomenal. I learned a lot about a specific research field, developed several useful skills, and had something nice to put on my resume. I decided then that I wanted to have a similar experience this summer—what better way to spend a long three months?

I’ve spent the past semester and winter break gathering the necessary materials for an internship and filling out applications. Although the process of doing so was tiring, I feel like I’ve learned a lot and have a lot of useful tips to share. If you plan on interning somewhere in college, hopefully this post helps!

Take challenging and relevant courses.

College is time-consuming, but there may be semesters where you have a couple of credit hours to spare. Take full advantage of these opportunities and enroll in courses that will make you a more competitive applicant.

Doing this will help you in two ways. First, pushing yourself shows employers that you’re willing to go above the bare minimum. Excelling in difficult classes demonstrates that you have a great work ethic and are capable of handling challenging situations. Secondly, you might pick up a couple of useful skills. My freshman year, I took a programming course and ended up applying a lot of the things I learned in the classroom to my summer internship.

Get to know your professors!

Most internships will ask for letters of recommendation—get them from your professors! If you’re active and involved during class, your instructor is a great person to ask for a recommendation letter—they know you best and can account for your academic achievements.

However, don’t restrict yourself to asking your professors. There are plenty of other people who can write a strong letter in support of your applications. For example, I asked my research adviser from last summer—employers can make great references too, depending on the kind of internship you are applying for.

Have a clear vision of why you want to work.

Having the right motivation to work is extremely important. Filling up blank space on a resume is not a good reason to be an intern. When you’re completing your application forms, ask yourself the following questions: why do I want this internship in particular? What skills can I gain from this experience? How will this opportunity impact my future?

To me, internships are one of the most valuable learning experiences a student can get during their college career. They teach you skills that you might not learn in a classroom and force you to apply your knowledge to real-life scenarios. Even a negative experience is beneficial—internships are a great way to find out if a certain career path is really for you. I hope this post was helpful, and good luck on your future applications!



Class of 2022
I grew up in Hong Kong, China, and I’ve come across the world to Illinois to major in Astronomy in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. I’ve always thought outer space is super cool, and I love that I’m learning everything that I can about it at Illinois.

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