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02/26/2015 11:36 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How And Why To Intern The Summer Before College

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By now, you probably understand just how important it is to take advantage of your summers while you’re still in high school. Whether you’re working a part-time job, babysitting every kid on your street or taking an online class, the summer is a great time to get ahead! While everyone else is shopping for their dorm room décor, stand out from the crowd by scoring an internship for the summer between your senior year of high school and freshman year of college!

Internships are a great way to start gaining real-world experience, determine a possible career path for the future and boost your resume. Not to mention, you may even have the opportunity to make some extra cash, if you find a paid internship! We’ve talked to collegiettes and experts alike to get the scoop on what it takes to get an internship early on (and why it’s a good idea).

Why it’s important

Although the word “resume” may be new to your vocabulary, it’s likely that you’ll start building yours as early as your freshman year of college. Being able to include a summer internship on your resume will help you stand out from the crowd and open doors for other job or internship opportunities early in your college career.

“This is your time to explore your interests without the pressure of having to be completely practical,” says Allison Cheston, an internship expert and founder of Career Connector. “It is also the first time that you will be categorized as an undergraduate, which is an important distinction for internships—there are many more opportunities now that you’re [about to become] a college student.” Luckily, you can take advantage of your collegiette status before you’ve even stepped foot on campus by snagging an internship!

Searching for an internship online

When searching for an internship, it’s important to consider what your passions are. While working in a traditional office setting may look good on your resume, the summer will drag on if you’re not enjoying what you’re doing. Instead, decide on a few causes or organizations that you’re eager to become involved with and then research what opportunities they offer.

The Internet can be a great starting place for researching internships. “All of the internship sites are organized by [geographic] location,” says Cheston, who recommends trying Youtern, Internships.com, FindSpark, and InternMatch.

If you’re passionate about animals, look for internship options at your local animal shelter or veterinary office. If you want to pursue a career in education or love working with kids, there are tons of options for working with elementary and middle school aged kids in the summer, so keep your eyes peeled for those, too!

Networking for an internship

Keep in mind that just because a company or organization doesn’t have a pre-existing internship program, it doesn’t mean that they won’t be willing to offer one. If you’re really eager to intern at a certain organization, start by emailing or visiting them on-site. If you explain your internship goals and availability, they may be able to customize a program to meet your needs.

“In between my senior year of high school and my freshman year of college,” says Dani Kluss, a senior at California Lutheran University, “I interned as an assistant stage manager at my local professional theatre. One of my friends was friends with the director at the theatre and got him to agree to let me job shadow him. After I job shadowed him I sent a follow-up email the next day thanking him for his time and asking him to keep in contact with me if there were any internships available in the summer. A few months later, his assistant contacted me and set me up for the internship!”

Having a connection with a local business or company can one of the best ways to score an internship before college, “I highly recommend students find their internships through teachers, friends, family and others who take a personal interest in the student,” says Cheston. “It’s ideal to create your own internship, but you have to take initiative.”

You can start taking initiative by reaching out to someone in your own school. “[In high school], I was assigned a mentor who was actually our principal,” says Shira Kipnees, a senior at Franklin and Marshall College. “She knew I liked to write, so she suggested I talk to another student’s mom who worked for a local newspaper company. I ended up calling the company directly to see if they had any internships available, and after being recommended by the person I spoke with on the phone, I was offered an interview.”

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to take advantage of the resources that your school and community offer. “Ask around your school to see who can help you,” says Shira. “A friend’s parent may be a good resource, or your school may be able to put you in touch with alumni or people involved in the school at a company you’d like to work at someday.” Look for help anywhere!

Click here to read the rest of the article on Her Campus.

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