How to Get College Credit for an Internship

Everywhere you turn, someone somewhere is talking about internships. Whether it’s where to look for them, how to tailor resumes and cover letters for specific positions, or how to follow up on applications, they’re always a topic of conversation. It seems like there’s little time for anything else!

Not to stress you out, but there’s one other really important factor that should be on your radar: making sure you can get credit for your internship. It would be a shame for you to do all that work only to find out that credit didn’t transfer, or that all you needed for credit was a meeting and approval from your academic advisor!

To make certain that you’re getting the credit you deserve, we’ve outlined a few common scenarios that you may find yourself in and the proper steps to achieving college credit in each one.

If you have no idea where to start...

Set up a meeting with your academic advisor or someone in Career Services at your school. They are there to help you, and they will be an informed resource that understands your university’s policies concerning internships and how to receive credit. If there’s paperwork, a formal proposal that has to be written, or professor approval required, they’ll be the ones to know.

Elizabeth Bleed, a collegiette from Furman University, took this route when she wanted credit for an internship she had the summer after freshman year. Before applying for the position, she went to a professor in the Biology department to see if her internship doing hospital research was appropriate for university credit. 

“I just wanted my internship to show up my transcript,” Elizabeth said. “It’s different for every university, but for me, the credit ended up displaying as research credit achieved through an independent study. The credits didn’t display as an internship or help me toward graduation, but it was a step I took to make sure I got some kind of credit for my work.” 

Michelle Lewis, HC's Senior Editor and a recent UNC grad, learned her university’s policies and received credit in a different way. “For my internships, I had to enroll in a journalism class at UNC for summer school. It never met, but it did have some requirements,” Michelle said. “My supervisor had to fill out a form evaluating my work, and I had to write a paper analyzing the company and a paper evaluating my experience.” 

Michelle’s story drives home the importance of double-checking requirements. The company you intern for may have one set of assignments that they have interns complete for their internship program, while your university may have others. Verify the expectations on both sides so that everything goes your way in the end. 

Michelle also bumped into a different hurdle in her internship credits that every collegiette should be aware of before deciding to intern for credit. “Unfortunately, I did have to pay summer school tuition to receive credit for [my internships],” Michelle said. If your university requires an additional fee for counting an internship for credit, ask about it up front so that you can be prepared for the potential expenses.

As Elizabeth and Michelle demonstrated, there are definitely a few steps you need to take to see if an internship will qualify for credit, and setting up a preliminary meeting with your academic advisor is probably the best way to get started. If you need to talk to anyone else, such as a professor or the staff who work in registration and records, they will be able to help you come up with a solid game plan. Another resource could be counselors in your career center, depending on how internships are processed at your school.

If you want an internship to count as an elective in your major... 

This is another case where you’ll need to talk to an academic advisor. Depending on your school’s policy, there may be different requirements necessary in order to count internships for elective credit. Generally, students must work specified hours to receive the same credit that they would achieve for a one, two, or three-hour academic course. 

“I counted it as an elective for my minor in Communications,” Simmone Seymour, a collegiette at Tufts University said of her internship. “Since, [the time] when people find about if they received an internship or not varies, the internship supervisor was pretty flexible about receiving information about the position.”  

Once everything was settled for her internship, Simmone followed the requirements set by her course, which consisted of weekly follow-ups to report any problems, what she learned each week, and her total hours. She also wrote three papers on the experience. 

“My advice is to start early and secure an internship and registering for the class initially and eventually it should all fall into place,” Simmone added. “Don't put all of your eggs in one basket and expect to land the internship you want. If it’s an established internship program at your school, look into where students have interned in the past, because if the past interns did a good job, the establishment may be more receptive to an application from a student at your institution, giving you a better chance at securing an internship.” 

Discussing this option with your advisor is the perfect way to add something different to your college experience. Using an internship for elective credit is a good move professionally because it will give you work skills that will be useful both in class and in future work experiences. It’s a smart academic move, too, as it will free up your schedule during the year for your required courses. This leaves you with less stress about where to come up with those extra one or two elective credits and keeps you on the right track!

If you want to achieve your internship credit through a local community college...

Sometimes it makes sense to look for credit from a community college rather than your university, especially if you were already planning to take college courses there anyway. As a registered student at your community college, the opportunity to receive credit for your summer internship may be an inexpensive and simple option.

Sara Kirby, Assistant Manager of Career Services at College of DuPage (COD), says that students looking to receive credit for a summer internship need to stay on top of things to make sure the process runs smoothly. Some community colleges have summer internships for academic credit, each with their own set of qualifications, and it is important to check each college’s website more than once to ensure that you are meeting the requirements for their institution and program. 

To get started, students would register for an internship within the appropriate academic area. “It would be up to the student to contact their home institution to figure out if the class would transfer,” Kirby said. “Once the internship is approved, they will receive credit as long as they fulfill the internship requirements.” Kirby said that at COD, the paperwork to approve an internship usually takes about 2-4 weeks. Keep processing time in mind when figuring out your internship so that you don’t start the internship before credit has been approved. It could be messy to try and fix that later!

The most important thing about looking for credit from a community college is to have a solid backup plan. Since most community colleges will not be operating with full faculty during the summer months, internships may be harder to arrange. If credit is approved, however, here’s one final tip from Kirby: “Plan ahead,” she cautioned. “Double and triple check that credit will transfer back. Ultimately it is up to the host college whether or not the credit transfers.” This option does require some foresight, but planning in advance and checking over details carefully should eliminate any headaches concerning receipt of your college credit. 

If your internship provider says that they offer college credit...

You’ve probably seen the phrase “college credit available” on some of the internship listings you’ve been scouring. This does not mean that the internship will take care of processing credit for you, but it does mean that it will work with you and your university to achieve college credit if you take the necessary steps to do so!

“In my experience, it is the student’s responsibility to register for internship credit and write an internship proposal for the academic advisor in his/her specific program at the university,” said Tiffany Leason, Manager of Audience Research and Evaluation at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. 

As a past intern mentor herself, Leason has approved intern proposals for future interns and completed work evaluations for use by the university at the internship’s completion. Again, every institution is different, so be an absolute stickler for every piece of information that is necessary for you to get credit for your internship!

“The student would need to outline an internship proposal that is of interest to him/her in coordination with the mentor at the internship site and with the academic advisor to meet the requirements of the university program and to satisfy the needs of the institution for which he/she will be interning,” Leason said. 

When you start hammering out the details of your internship with your internship supervisor, don’t forget to ask if they need any proof that you’ll be receiving college credit, like a letter from your academic advisor. This goes back to what Leason mentioned about being a responsible student. Bring up all of your concerns before you’re asked--this will show how much you care about the internship experience and that you want to be successful! 

 

The most important thing is to do your research. Each university, academic department, and academic major will have their own requirements for internship credit, and their own specific way of doing things. Do your best Pink Panther and sleuth out answers early and from multiple sources to make sure that there are no surprises. That tenacious attitude will be rewarded when you successfully secure internship credit for all of your efforts!

Rachel is a recent graduate of Butler University where she received her B.S. in Arts Administration. She loves being part of the Her Campus team! During college she had a variety of internships working at organizations like the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the online fashion and beauty magazine College Fashion. Currently, she serves as a Campus Ambassador for Button Me Up, a handmade jewelry company operating out of San Diego. She also works as a contributing writer for Levo Leauge. Rachel is on an endless search for the next book to read, the next latte to drink, and the next cupcake to eat. Any suggestions, please send them along! Follow her on Twitter @rkwendte.

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