While internships have traditionally been part of the college experience, high school students are increasingly looking to complete internships to enhance their resumes and college applications while trying out a career.
High school internships are growing in popularity, says Benjamin Caldarelli, co-founder of Princeton College Consulting, a New Jersey-based education consulting firm.
“High school students want to work in a place that interests them and potentially make what they think is a more meaningful contribution,” says Caldarelli. “They see internships as an enrichment activity and an opportunity to make an impact rather than just trading time for a little money.”
Traditional part-time and summer jobs can provide teens with customer service experience and other job-ready skills. Internships, on the other hand, focus on longer-term career exploration, says Tandy Caraway, college educator and strategist and founder of CollegeMode Academy. Students gain real-world experience by spending time shadowing professionals and being mentored.
5 tips for finding an internship
Although it can be difficult to find an internship in high school, there are steps teens can take to find the right opportunity.
Here are five tips for landing a solid high school internship:
Identify your interests.
Finding the right internship starts with a list of your interests, talents and passions, says Pierre Huguet, chief executive and co-founder of H&C Education, an education consultancy focused on college admissions. “Play to your strengths,” he says. “What academic subjects and extracurricular activities come naturally to you? What qualities or abilities do your classmates, coaches, teachers, mentors, friends and family value most in you? »
Don’t be afraid to explore interests outside of school like video games, street art or building robots, says Huguet. “Often the things we love to do are the things we’re naturally good at,” he says. “In high school, however, your passion for baking or skateboarding may not be fully appreciated by your teachers. Your internship should be an opportunity to explore things that you are truly passionate about and cannot learn to school. With a little creativity, you can always find a way to pursue awesome projects at the intersection of your talents and passions.
Achieve personal relationships.
Getting hired has a lot to do with who you know, and you’re never too young to start using a personal network, says Jordan Matuszewski, instructor at Tip-Top Brain, a learning center in New York City. Networking is a great way to find your first high school internship, so reach out to parents, teachers, and coaches and take advantage of social media. “Let your parents and extended family know you’re looking for a job,” he says. “You can also provide them with your CV and an idea of the position you are looking for.”
Matuszewski also suggests reaching out to high school guidance counselors, who can sometimes offer helpful advice and contacts. Companies often contact high school guidance offices directly to advertise internship opportunities, and your counselor can connect you with alumni who have completed a local internship.
Take advantage of online resources.
Googling “how to find a high school internship” will generate thousands of paid ads and vague job opportunities that might not provide what you’re looking for, says Alix Coupet, senior counselor at Empowerly, a college admissions service . “There is a difference between ‘computer science internships’ and ‘actuary internships,’ and public health opportunities are not the same as biology research opportunities,” he says. “It’s best to use the internet not as a starting point for finding an internship, but as a way to maximize what you already know about what you’re looking for.”
Students can use sites like Google or Yelp to learn more about local businesses they know, their local workforce program, and government agencies in their county, Caraway says. “LinkedIn is also a great place for students to network and connect with potential intern sites,” she says.
Create an elevator pitch.
Write a brief introductory message, or elevator pitch, before contacting companies. An elevator pitch allows students to quickly convey relevant information to people they hire for opportunities, says Caraway. People will be able to quickly determine how best to help the student and identify where they should be placed.
Practice your elevator pitch with friends and family until it feels more natural, and don’t be discouraged if you don’t land an internship the first time. “Internships can be competitive and space is limited,” says Toby Walker, vice president of BASIS Independent Schools. “Be prepared to pitch multiple times and reflect on your delivery and refine the pitch over time.”
Caldarelli suggests being what he calls a “go-donor.” “Instead of just asking for an opportunity, which creates work because someone will have to train you and follow you, try to anticipate a need and come up with a complete solution,” he says.
Carefully evaluate internship opportunities.
When evaluating potential internships, students should make a list of things they would like to learn, Caraway says. Include the elements necessary to make decisions about your career path, as well as the types of professionals you want to access. “Avoid one-sided internships, which only benefit the company,” she says. “A great opportunity will include several things on your list. Students should also make sure they know the employer’s expectations and can meet them, as they will likely want a letter of recommendation later. Even though the student will perform entry-level tasks, it is important that he is exposed to the full career path so that he can see what the duration of a career in his industry of choice looks like in real life.”
High School Internship Opportunities
It’s important to start intern work early, says Ourania Liandrakis, founder of Tip-Top Brain. Students often wait until their senior year to look for internships, but that doesn’t give them time to explore different options.
“If you took a job during your freshman year of high school and hated it, you have three more years to try other internships,” she says. “Ultimately, learning where you fit best in the professional world will pay dividends down the line.”
Here is a sampling of internship programs, both virtual and in-person, and resources available for high school students:
- Chegg Internships lists internship opportunities in several major cities, including Atlanta, Austin, Boston, and Chicago.
- BRAINYAC connects high school students from Upper Manhattan and the Bronx with neuroscientists from Columbia University for research-based summer internships in work labs.
- The Met High School Internship Program offers museum internships for students who live or attend high school in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut.
- The Microsoft Discovery Program is a paid opportunity for high school seniors who live within 50 miles of the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, to get a taste of technology careers.
- Smithsonian Internships, operated by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, offers a variety of programs for high school students at various Smithsonian museums.
- The Stanford Compression Forum Summer Internship offers high school and community college students the opportunity to complete multidisciplinary research projects over the summer.
- The New York Historical Society’s Student Historian Internship Program enables students entering 10th, 11th, or 12th grade to conduct research and tell stories using the society’s vast resources.
- The Library of Congress offers a wide variety of internships in and around Washington, some of which are open to high school students, as well as a paid work-study program.
- The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh has a limited number of unpaid internships open to high school students at its four museums.
- The Bank of America Student Leader Program connects approximately 300 juniors and seniors with nonprofit organizations in more than 100 communities. Paid internships are combined with a national leadership summit.
- NASA High School Internships offer research and experiential learning at NASA facilities in Maryland, New York, Virginia, and West Virginia.