5 min read

alt="high school student on a summer internship sits in on a meeting with his mentor in a larger corner office with city views"
Photographer: Austin Distel | Source: Unsplash

In the following article, CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Expert Kim Phan (Harvard ‘21) shares tips on how to find and take advantage of a summer internship. For more guidance on the college applications process in general, sign up for a monthly plan to work with an admissions coach 1-on-1.

Summer is the perfect time to get some work experience as a high school student, and an internship can be just the way to do it.

Pursuing a summer internship in high school allows you to explore a career or field that interests you. By interning, you’ll be able to gauge your own interests while also learning what it takes to succeed in a given area.

How to find a summer internship in high school

To begin, seek out the resources available to you through your school and local communities.

School-supported counseling

Schools often have college and/or career counselors who have lists of summer job or internship opportunities for high school students! Reach out to your teachers and counselors for more information. They can also point you to additional resources.

Neighborhood summer internship listings

Check your local library or community center for bulletins or other information hubs about summer internship opportunities for high school students. These are often small and local, which means you can spend time really getting to know a given field and working alongside the members of your community.

City-wide opportunities

In many cities, the city council administration compiles summer internship listings for high school students, often on an online searchable database or on other print publications such as newspapers or magazines. Today, you can likely find all such listings online. Check out your local government council for more information.

Ask friends and family

Many adults in your community likely work for organizations that have summer internship openings available to high school students. Make it known that you’re looking for one! At a family gathering or over a phone call, ask your relatives and family friends if they know of any opportunities that might be a good fit for you.

Search away on the interwebs

Take advantage of the information available at your fingertips! Vary your search terms in order to make sure you find more relevant opportunities, but also be specific enough not to limit your search. For instance, “summer internship” may be too broad and give you results that may not be relevant. Instead, try “summer internship Boston 2021 arts” for a narrower search.

How to make the most of your summer internship experience

First, set your intentions.

Think about the following questions:

  • What do you hope to gain from your summer internship?
  • Is it to learn more about the industry?
  • Are you starting to explore career options and want to learn about professionalism in a 9-5 job?
  • Alternately, do you know that you want to apply to a certain professional school in a few years and want to get some exposure to the field?
  • Or maybe you want to build a particular skill, such as how to communicate with customers or how to use Excel?

If your supervisor asks you what you want to gain, let them know so they can better tailor your internship experience!

Take notes of what you do and learn every day.

Taking notes will help you succeed in your summer internship. The act of writing down information and observations will help you perform your tasks better. It can also help you pay closer attention to the work happening around you.

Notes are meant to be looked back upon! Keeping a record of your day-to-day tasks, actions, and accomplishments will allow you to document your work for future use, whether it be in meetings with your manager or when you add this experience to your resume. If you intend to discuss your summer internship in interviews in the future, keeping notes will also allow you to better reflect on how you grew throughout the program.

Speak to the workers who surround you.

Are they in a role in which you’d like to try someday? This is a great opportunity to learn more about what their work entails and see if you’d be interested in pursuing a career in their field. Some questions you may want to ask include:

  • What does your daily schedule look like?
  • What is your favorite and least favorite part of your job?
  • Which skills are necessary for someone who is entering your role?
  • What was your path in getting to this job?
  • What advice would you give to someone seeking to enter this field of work?
  • Why did you decide to take this role?
  • What is the work culture like in your field?

Stay in touch with your coworkers, managers, and other mentors/acquaintances in the company after your summer internship ends!

The individuals that you meet throughout your high school summer internship will likely have useful knowledge of the professional landscape. Keep in touch with them so that when you have additional questions or would like them to connect you to new opportunities, you can reach out!

To make sure you can still keep in contact, it is a good practice to send a thank you email to your coworkers at the end of your high school summer internship. You may want to share how your experiences have shaped or inspired you. Don’t forget to provide them with your contact information, including your non-school email address and phone number.

How to highlight your summer internship experience in college applications

Include your summer internship experience in your extracurricular activities section of your college application and resume.

Admissions Officers or alumni may reference these documents during your interview. You can discuss your high school summer internship experiences in your college essays and supplements as well!

When describing your internship in your college applications, use powerful action verbs that detail how you contributed to the internship organization. Include quantitative figures in your description in order to make your impact more grounded and explicit. For instance: instead of writing “As a member of the administrative team, I helped plan art displays,” you can write “Coordinated 4 walls of art displays in 2 different New York galleries that attracted 130% visitors compared to previous summer”

Ultimately, don’t overthink the process. Instead, focus on learning as much as you can. At the end of the day, high school summer internships should be a learning experience. Have fun, and good luck!

This article was written by Kim Phan, Harvard University ‘21. If you want to get help with your college applications from Kim or other CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Expertsregister with CollegeAdvisor.com today.