September. January. June.
Remember that. While summer is the most traditional time for students to start an internship, internships happen to be available year round! There’s no need to wait until the hottest season of the year to find an internship opportunity. In fact, we recommend browsing Handshake frequently and setting up a strong profile so you can be ready to discover your next internship at any time.
At most universities, September, January, and June mark the beginning of your fall, spring (winter for some), and summer semesters, respectively. Of course, there may be some variation (i.e., August for fall, and May for summer). The majority of internships start during these months and run parallel to your college semester. While exact dates may vary, employers typically try to onboard interns as soon as the semester begins.
So if you’re thinking about a fall, spring, or summer internship this year, stay on track with the following milestones to ensure a smooth and timely transition.
The search (indefinite)
You can start looking for internships on Handshake as soon as you start college. The same goes for applying. Internships are not reserved for juniors and seniors, so if you find the right one, apply!
Tread carefully, though. If you feel the 20+ hour commitment of an internship might get in the way of your academic performance or lead to sacrificing time for extracurricular activities, avoid it. Your first semester is a crucial time for transitioning, setting up the foundation of your GPA, and starting your career path. But if you’re accustomed to working and attending school simultaneously, a freshman internship can be a great opportunity to network and start your career early.
Prepping for your applications (at least four months prior)
Whether it’s your 1st or 50th time writing resumes and cover letters, you want to make sure that every document you write is tailored to the internship of choice. Creating a general template listing your best experiences, skills, and achievements will be much easier to fine-tune than writing each one from scratch.
Why do we recommend preparing these documents so early? Because you’re also going to want some feedback! If you can avoid it, never send your first draft in an application. If your university is a Handshake partner, simply upload your work to Handshake to have a career services center staff member review and return with feedback. Having your resumes and cover letters looked over by a professional can greatly increase your chances of landing an internship.
Applications (3 months prior)
The trend continues. Apply early! While deadlines vary across employers and companies, starting the application process 3 months prior ensures you’re not missing deadlines, thus maximizing your options. It also gives you the flexibility to choose from your favorite companies, locations, and roles while a multitude of opportunities are available.
Offers, practice, and... more applications (2 months prior)
You should expect to hear back from internships as early as 3 months prior if you applied early. However, most employers will reach out during this two-month period to request in-person or phone interviews.
When your first round of interviews is scheduled, contact your campus’s career services center to arrange mock interviews and/or RSVP for any available interview skills seminars available. While you can certainly prepare earlier (and you should definitely attend these seminars on an ongoing basis), running a mock interview or two before the real thing can help instill confidence.
Keep applying regardless of how many callbacks you’re getting. Not every company abides by standard deadlines, and new opportunities are added frequently on Handshake!
The final stretch (1 month prior)
By now, you might have a few offers pending. Take no more than a couple of days to evaluate which internship is best for you. Balance out the pros and cons of each and continue to do research so you can make an informed decision.
When you make your final decision, reply to your future employer to accept the offer. Kindly reply to any other offers in a timely manner, letting them know you have made the choice to accept another opportunity. You never know when you might find yourself applying again, so you don’t want to burn any bridges!
Getting started (the month of your internship)
Make sure all paperwork is in order and the on-boarding process is duly completed. If it’s a paid internship, there will be additional processes to undergo (such as payroll processing). Don’t forget to take care of any agreements made between your internship and your college, especially if you’re taking the internship for credit.
All that’s left is to hit the ground running when you start your new internship!