Barrett, The Honors College internship coordinator offers tips for students applying for internships and other professional opportunities

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January 24, 2020

For a majority of university students, their post-graduation goal is to get a job. Preparation for employment should begin before students have a degree in hand. 

More so now than ever, companies heavily consider an applicant’s education along with previous experience. Students need formal education as well as professional experiences to gain the knowledge and skills to make them more competitive in the job market. 

Internships are a great way for students to not only increase their understanding of a particular career, but to gain experience that may give them a competitive edge in the candidate review process. It helps them check off a desired, not required, qualification of up to three years of experience for most entry level positions. 

So, how does a college student get an internship? Students may use the many online employment sites like Monster, LinkedIn, Indeed, Idealist, and Google, typing in specific phrases or combination of words to find internship positions and programs. 

Additionally, students should have access to campus resources and support such as career and professional development services. Most institutions have dedicated university staff members (like me) to assist students in finding, coordinating, and securing internships. The possibilities and options are endless! However, with so many opportunities to choose from, the internship search process can be overwhelming to students, especially if they feel the need to get it right the first time. 

The internship search process serves as a starting point for students to, first, narrow the number of positions and programs they apply to and, second, focus their efforts in creating targeted applications. 

With so many businesses and organizations offering internships, students should start by brainstorming and creating a list of who they have an interest in working for in the future. The list should be comprehensive, with at least 15 to 20 companies, and should be separated into groups based on level of interest. 

Students should have companies that they are really interested in labeled as Extremely Interested, followed by those that come in as a slight second with Very Interested. Companies that students have a slight interest in, with the idea that they are not going to exhaust their time and resources in submitting an application, should be labeled as Moderately Interested.

Additionally, when creating the lists, students should keep in mind their preferences for the type of internship. Are you looking for paid or unpaid internships? Would you like to receive academic credit for the experience? Are there professional development opportunities such as workshops or presentations available with the company? No internships are the same, and many employers offer various opportunities, support, and resources for their interns. Students should read and understand all the details for each position and program they are considering applying for. This leads to the next step: collecting information. 

Once a student has their lists of possible internship sites, they need to conduct research and gather all the relevant information in a database. What information should students be looking for and collecting on the internship? Program information, qualifications, requirements, learning objectives (especially if it is unpaid), application components, submission instructions, and, most importantly, the application deadline. Students should review all of this information to determine if it is something of interest to them, whether they are a good fit for the opportunity, and whether they should pursue it. 

There are many ways the information can be organized in a database or spreadsheet, such as alphabetical by company name or in sequential order by the application deadline. However, what I have found most effective is having everything organized in a spreadsheet with rows and columns that not only divide the information but categorize and separate it by the lists of Extremely, Very, and Moderately Interested.

Students can organize the following information in columns: company name, internship position/program, deadline, requirements (i.e., resume, cover letter, transcription, letter of recommendation, writing sample, etc.), and status or notes. The column for status/notes is where students can put information about where they are in the process of completing and submitting the application as well as if an interview was requested or if their application was denied. 

In utilizing a document or spreadsheet on a computer/laptop, students can copy and paste important links and have easy access to information. This is preferable to keeping all the information in their heads or on a sheet of notebook paper. I would even suggest having the information stored in a cloud platform such as Google Drive, One Drive, or Dropbox, so that it can be accessed at all times through a smartphone, laptop, or desktop. 

Students should aim to have all materials completed and ready to submit for each internship at least two to three days prior to the official deadline. If a letter of recommendation is required, students should ask their recommender to write one at least two weeks prior to the application deadline. 

After collecting all necessary materials, students should review each document to confirm everything is correct, including personal and employer information, punctuation, and grammar. I cannot stress enough how important this is, as sometimes students do not closely review their materials and realize mistakes too late. 

If applying online, after the double check and triple check of the application materials, students should click “submit” and verify that their application was received by the company. Usually the verification comes in the form of an email confirmation. The verification email should be saved for future reference. 

It is acceptable to send a follow-up email three to four weeks after the application deadline to check on the status of your application and when decisions on applicants are expected to be made. 

There are a few things that can happen as a result of an application. The applicant can get an interview, a “thank you, but no thank you”, or no response. An interview offer is a positive response and students can start preparing for it by practicing in mock interviews, choosing appropriate business attire to wear to the interview, and putting together a work portfolio to present at the interview. 

Students shouldn’t get discouraged if they receive a rejection or no response. Every application process is a chance to really hone their interests and goals and perfect their materials for the next possible employment opportunity. 

Cassandra Saenz is the internship and community engagement coordinator for Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University. She helps students find and apply for internships and other professional opportunities. She can be reached at or 480-727-5169.  

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