If you’ve ever applied for an internship, you know how long and frustrating the application process can be. After countless resume workshops, networking sessions, and practice interviews, getting rejected from an internship you spent months preparing for can be quite devastating.
If you’re applying for internships for the first time, you should know what you’re getting yourself into in order to prepare yourself emotionally. To give you a much-needed reality check, Spectrum has asked Columbia students what they think everyone should know about the internship application process. Here is a summary of what they thought were the most important points.
It’s going to be a long and slow process, so build connections with your professors and plan out the steps you’re going to take accordingly.
The internship process starts, indirectly, as soon as you start your first semester at Columbia. Take the right classes to build the necessary skill set to prepare for the field you’re interested in. Join clubs and go to as many panels and networking sessions as you can in order to get references. Building connections with professors is also important, so make sure to go to office hours and actively participate in class if you want a strong letter of recommendation.
Companies might not put up internship opportunities on Handshake or LionSHARE.
Some companies will only put up internships on their websites, so don’t rely exclusively on Handshake or LionSHARE. If you’re interested in one company specifically, make sure to check their website. You can also find a list of other platforms that post job listings here.
Make sure to check deadlines for every position you’re interested in, or it’ll be too late.
Unfortunately, for some summer internships, the deadline to apply might already have passed. This is why it is crucial for you to start early and stay on top of your deadlines.
Some companies have specific policies about applying for different positions, so make sure to double-check.
For example, if you get an offer from Google, you cannot look for more projects or positions with Google. Finding the right fit, whether it has to do with team or location, even within a company, is important.
Some people will face more obstacles than others...
International students who are here on a student visa have to get their Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorized and approved before starting an internship. Low-income students may also have to worry more about travel and food costs. The internship process isn’t easy for everyone, and there may be details to take into consideration you might not know about.
...while others won’t.
Some people have many advantages like family connections or wealth in general, and there is nothing you can do about it.
You’ll get rejected many, many times…
Internships, especially in New York, can be very competitive. You might apply for 20 internship positions and not get any offers. The number of rejections you’ll get is arbitrary; you might apply to one internship and get the position or apply to 40 and get none. Many factors come into play: whether it’s a rolling application, whether you have a reference, your interview, etc.
...but it’s okay and you should remember that.
Getting rejected from an internship doesn’t mean you weren’t experienced enough or that you messed up your interview. Rejection doesn’t say anything about your capabilities and skills; sometimes rejection can be better than accepting an offer where you’ll be forcing yourself to fit in at the wrong place.
Your interview is an essential part of the process.
Don’t lie or exaggerate about your skill set or experience, but make sure to highlight the skills you do have and avoid underselling yourself. Do your research and show you’re interested in the vision and future of the company or employer. When they ask if you have questions, make sure you have some ready to cement your interest in the company.
If you do eventually get an internship, make sure you ask and check if they can offer stipends to cover any costs you’ll have to pay throughout the internship.
If you’re in need of a travel or lunch stipend, especially for an unpaid internship, don’t be afraid to negotiate and ask for it.