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Life > High School

How & Why to Intern the Summer Before College

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 YouternInternships.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!

Making the most of your internship

By interning the summer before college, you can gain real-world experience before your classmates and be on your way to deciding what you really want to study this upcoming year. Talk to your co-workers about their career paths, college experiences and what majors they pursued.

“[My summer internship] was my first experience in the newspaper world,” says Shira, “and it really showed me how much I enjoyed journalism. It was enough to help me get other internships down the line, and I came into college knowing exactly what I wanted to do with my career.”

Although spending your last summer before college in an internship may not sound ideal, the hard work will likely pay off once you’re on campus. “My internship ended up getting me letters of recommendation that I used to get half of my tuition paid for in scholarships,” says Dani. “It really becomes a fantastic networking tool for the rest of your life.” Who wouldn’t love that?

“This is the ideal time to try out different work experiences to identify strengths and interests,” says Cheston. “It’s too early to be 100 percent sure about [your] career choice. This is the time to experiment and see what works and what doesn’t.”

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and take a risk with a company or internship in a field that’s new to you. “Try branching out a bit further and consider doing something a bit unrelated [to your potential field],” says Cheston. “You never know what will spark a new career idea.”  

Although pursuing a summer internship while you’re still in high school may sound intimidating, it’s never too early to start the search. Make the most of the upcoming summer and you’ll be able to head off to college in the fall with experience, confidence, and (maybe) even a little extra cash. Best of luck, pre-collegiettes!  

Brianna Susnak is a sophomore at Indiana University Bloomington where she studies journalism and Spanish. Her passions include social media, music, traveling, culture and the arts. Outside of class, she hosts her own weekly radio show and writes for the campus newspaper. In her free time, you can find her running, eating Nutella out of the jar and annoying her neighbors with loud music. Follow her on Twitter @briannasus. 
Cassidy is a Digital Production intern at Her Campus. She's currently a junior studying journalism at Emerson College. Cassidy also is a freelance reporter at the Napa Valley Register and a staff writer at Her Campus Emerson. Previously she blogged for Seventeen Magazine at the London 2012 Olympics, wrote for Huffington Post as a teen blogger and was a Team Advisor at the National Student Leadership Conference on Journalism, Film, & Media Arts at University of California, Berkeley and American University in Washington, D.C.. When she's not uploading content to Her Campus or working on her next article, Cassidy can be found planning her next adventure or perfecting her next Instagram. Follow her on Twitter at @cassidyyjayne and @cassidyjhopkins.