You show up to biology class, write essays for English, and do your math homework, but sometimes it’s difficult to see how all of that applies to the world outside of school. Fortunately, there’s a way to bring those subjects to life: internships.
Internships are usually part-time positions at an organization, either paid or unpaid, that are designed to give you a taste of what working life is like in a particular field.
“The biggest benefit of an internship is it exposes students to what that particular career will look like so they can determine if it’s right for them,” says Terri Tchorzynski, counselor at Calhoun Area Career Center, a school in Battle Creek, Michigan, and the 2017 National School Counselor of the Year.
You may have an idea of what career you’d like to pursue, but until you spend time in that field and understand what the profession entails, it’s hard to know if it’ll be the right fit.
“The more exposure students can have to a particular career field, the more informed they will be when deciding if they want to invest in their education for that career and pursue that path,” she says.
Most students agree. In fact, 83 percent of students surveyed by Student Health 101 said they’d be interested in having an internship during high school. Here’s what students said were important reasons for having an internship:
“[An internship] will help you decide what colleges to apply to because choosing your internship will help you choose your major,” says Kenializ, a junior in Tyngsborough, Massachusetts.
Carrie, a sophomore in Tyngsborough, adds that internships “prepare you for future jobs and help you find yourself. They require responsibility and give you new learning experiences, too.”
Still need reasons to seek out an internship? Consider this.
According to a 2014 report by the research and consulting company Millennial Branding, 70 percent of the 326 employers they surveyed said that high school students who complete internship programs are likely to land a college internship with their company later on. Additionally, 45 percent of employers said that high school internships could turn into a full-time job at their company.
Three ways to find internships that work for you
1. Search online
Some colleges and universities also offer opportunities for high school students to participate in research projects. Search college websites to find professors who have projects and areas of study that interest you. Email the professors to explain who you are, your merits and background, and why you’re interested in their area of research. Check out sample emails here.
You can also try searching for internships on these sites:
- Internships.com to search by field, date, and location
- Idealist to search for internships and part-time jobs at nonprofits and local organizations
Before you reach out to any source, have a parent or trusted adult check it out to make sure it’s safe and legit.
2. Talk to your school counselor/school staff
“Some schools have a counselor or other staff member who is responsible for connecting students with these types of opportunities,” says Tchorzynski. “For example, we have a work-based coordinator in our building who is responsible for setting up a variety of internships for our students, and if students do not ask, then they may not know about these resources that can help them.”
3. Get in the habit of networking
Talk to family members, your friends’ parents, or other adults who work in fields you’re interested in. Explain your interests, ask them how they got into the field, and also ask if they know of any opportunities for interns.
“Networking is very important for high school students,” says Korntheuer. “Whether [you want to be] a police officer or teacher or an account executive for a marketing firm, the first job that most people get is because they know someone.” In fact, 85 percent of jobs are filled through networking, according to a survey conducted by Lou Adler, author of The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired.
If you don’t know anyone personally in your field of interest, consider contacting organizations and companies via social media sites, such as LinkedIn or Twitter.
“I’ve had a number of students interested in sports medicine request to become part of my network on LinkedIn,” says Stacy Ciarleglio, head athletic director at the Westminster School in Simsbury, Connecticut. “I always accept because it shows that the students are taking initiative in their own careers.”
“A high school internship doesn’t just give you experience to put on an application or résumé,” says John Korntheuer, director of freshman admission at Concordia University in Illinois. “It lays the groundwork for your future professional network, if you choose to go into that field.”
Remember to maintain balance between your schoolwork, home life, and internship. If you’re too busy right now, don’t feel pressured to pile on another responsibility. Summer is a great time to make it happen. You can start looking now for summer internship opportunities.
“Internships can be powerful and enlightening when it comes to deciding your future, but it needs to be done in a way that doesn’t interfere with your daily schoolwork,” says Tchorzynski.
John Korntheuer, director of freshman admission at Concordia University, River Forest, Illinois.
Adams, C. (2013, August 15). Turning a high school internship into a college essay. Education Week [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/college_bound/2013/08/turning_high_school_internship_into_college_essay.html
Adler, L. (2016, February 29). New survey reveals 85 % of all jobs are filled via networking. LinkedIn. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/new-survey-reveals-85-all-jobs-filled-via-networking-lou-adler
Cirino, E. (2015, April 8). Finding a summer high school internship & using it on your college apps. Fastweb! Retrieved from https://www.fastweb.com/career-planning/articles/finding-a-summer-high-school-internship-and-using-it-on-your-college-apps
Microsoft. (n.d.). High school program. Microsoft Careers. Retrieved from https://careers.microsoft.com/students/highschool
National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (n.d.). NASA interns, fellows & scholars one stop shopping initiative: Internships for students. Retrieved from https://intern.nasa.gov/ossi/web/public/main/index.cfm?solarAction=view&subAction=content&contentCode=HOME_PAGE_INTERNSHIPS
Schawbel, D. (2014, February 3). Millennial branding and internships.com release first ever study on high school careers. Millennial Branding. Retrieved from https://millennialbranding.com/2014/high-school-careers-study/.
Witte, B. (2015, February 16). Take five steps to find an internship during high school. US News & World Report. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/college-admissions-playbook/2015/02/16/take-5-steps-to-find-an-internship-during-high-school