College Tips

10 tips for applying to an internship

You’ve learned about common ways to find out about internships. Now we’ll talk about what to do when applying.

Follow these tips and you’ll better your chances of getting great internships!

Note: As an international student in the USA looking for an internship, you’ll need to make sure you’re eligible for CPT, or Curricular Practical Training. Speak with your international students coordinator before applying. In general, CPT criteria are:

  •        You’ve completed your freshman year
  •        Your internship is required for your degree, or you’ll receive academic credit

1.     Start your search early.

There could be hundreds of students applying for the same internships as you. Typically, your best bet is to start looking at least 5 months in advance. So if you want to find a summer internship, start looking in January – or even December. Of course, late is still better than never!


2.     Put together a résumé or CV.

In the USA, your summary of your education and skills is called your résumé (reh-zuh-may). You might know this as your curriculum vitae or CV. If you don’t have one yet, you can find plenty of templates online. Or talk with the career services department for résumé assistance.

3.       Personalize parts of your résumé.

Want to stand out and show that you’re interested in a particular internship? Customize parts of your standard résumé. For instance, each time you apply to an internship adjust your professional summary or objective section to highlight any experience, classwork or skills that directly apply to that internship.


4.     Write a cover letter.

Think of this like a brief introduction to who you are and why you should get hired for the internship. In the first paragraph, say a little about yourself and why you’re interested. In the second paragraph, cover a few key skills or past experiences that make you a great fit. Then finish up by thanking them.

5.     Ask native speakers to proofread.

Have other people check your résumé and cover letter for typos or grammar mistakes – especially if English isn’t your first language. Your American friends might catch something you missed, which will help you look as professional as possible.

6.     Research the company.

Before the interview, read the internship description again and go through the company’s website. Then think up a few questions to show you’re prepared and interested. For instance, if you find an interesting project on their website, you could ask how your duties can contribute to the project’s success.

7.     Dress appropriately.

Many workplaces are different, including dress code and the culture or atmosphere. With interviews, it’s better to be a little more dressed up than not enough. At an interview in an office it’s a good idea to wear a suit or blouse and pants/skirt. You want to look respectful and professional.


8.     Show up five minutes early.

That gives you time to calm down a bit and use the bathroom. You don’t want to show up too early – it can inconvenience whoever is interviewing you. And you definitely don’t want to show up late because that will make you seem unprepared or rude.

9.     Think before you speak.

Before you go, practice answering common interview questions so you feel more comfortable, especially if you’re shy about speaking English. And remember, it’s okay to take a little time before answering questions. It’s better to take a little longer to figure out what you want to say and how to say it.

10.  Send a thank you email.

This shows you’re courteous, and lets you include a quick reminder about why you’re a good fit for the internship. It also lets you bring up any questions you forgot to ask before. Keep your thank you email short – five or six sentences at the most.



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