Interning can be a great way to explore your interests and learn more about a career path that you are considering. While most internships are unpaid or offer a small stipend, internships can provide you with the valuable opportunity to experience the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities in your profession of interest. Through an internship, you might confirm your interest in the medical field and decide to pursue a pre-med degree for undergrad. Or you might discover that the daily tasks of. a marine biologist do not consist of swimming with dolphins and decide that the field is not right for you. Either way, you will gain valuable knowledge about yourself and hone your skills and professional goals.
So how can you secure a stellar internship as a high school student? And how can you stand out once you’re on the job?
This guide provides everything you need to know to find the right internship for you and make a lasting impression on professionals in your field!
How to Find a Job or Internship as a High School Student
Gaining valuable experience in your field of interest first requires identifying the right internship for you. As a high school student, this may pose challenges, as many workplaces restrict the age of interns and generally do not take on pre-college interns.
For this reason, the best place to start seeking internship opportunities is within your own network. Tap into your community of friends, family, and acquaintances and ask if they have any leads or connections. These people will not only have a good sense of your interests and skills, but they will advocate on your behalf to potential employers. Networking can often open doors to opportunities that may not be widely advertised. In addition, you can enlist the help of your school guidance counselor, as they may have resources and connections to local businesses, organizations, and community partners that offer internships specifically for high school students.
If these personal connections do not yield the intended results, you can utilize online search engines and internship-specific websites. As you search, consider using platforms such as InternMatch and Chegg Internships, which are specifically designed to connect students with internship opportunities. They offer a wide range of internships across various industries and user-friendly interfaces, allowing students to search for internships based on their interests and location preferences. You can also check out broader job search sites such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor.
Finally, if your ideal internship doesn’t exist, create it! If there is a specific company or organization you are interested in interning with, don’t hesitate to reach out to them directly. Craft a professional and concise email or letter expressing why you are interested in interning with them and inquire whether they would consider taking you on as an intern. Personalized outreach shows motivation, initiative, and self-assuredness—all qualities that are highly valuable to potential employers.
How to Stand Out as a High School Intern: Seven Steps for Success
So you’ve used the above tools and landed your dream internship—how can you be a great intern and leave a lasting impression? Standing out as an intern has significant benefits for students in the long term—not only can you gain valuable work experience and establish a professional network, but your supervisor could provide a strong third letter of recommendation for your college applications.
As you strive to make the most of your internship, here are a few steps you can take to go the extra mile and make a stellar impression on your supervisor(s) and colleagues:
1. Be punctual and prepared.
One of the clearest ways to demonstrate responsibility and respect is to arrive on time. Plan ahead for your first day at the office; map your route in advance of your first day and make sure to budget time for any traffic or potential public transit hiccups. Striving to arrive about ten minutes early will generally ensure that if any issues arise, you will still be on time. Being on time and prepared is not just important for your first day of work, but for each day that you are on the job. It’s not enough to simply make a good first impression—you need to show consistency and reliability throughout your internship experience.
2. Pay attention to company culture.
Regardless of how much information you were given prior to beginning the internship, you won’t know much about the day-to-day of a job before you start. It’s important to be aware of office culture so that you can adjust your own expectations and behaviors accordingly. For example, do people dress very formally, or is the office attire more casual? Do coworkers generally eat with each other, or are lunch breaks taken independently? Paying attention to these details will help you get acclimated at your new internship more quickly. That being said, you should always try to be at least as formal as the most formal person, not as casual as the most casual!
This note does not necessarily need to be written with pen and paper. You may choose to mail your note to your recommender or send it as an email. Ultimately, you have the freedom to improvise the logistics—just make sure your note reaches your recommender.
This prompt is our personal recommendation! It’s the catch-all prompt. If you’re having trouble getting started, just approach the personal statement like a diary entry and simply start writing. If the story doesn’t end up fitting in with any of the prompts, you can submit it as a response to Common App essay prompt #7.
3. Keep your phone out of sight.
In our culture, people are constantly distracted by their mobile devices and the texts, calls, and other notifications that constantly come their way. Unless your phone is needed during the day for your job-related responsibilities, commit to keeping your phone in your bag or pocket until lunch or break time so that you can focus all of your energy on the task at hand and fully immerse yourself in your internship experience. If you have time to check your Instagram, then you have time to get your work done faster and ask your supervisor what more you could be helping with.
4. Master the art of networking.
For many high school students, networking can be intimidating and uncomfortable. However, it is critical to learn to forge professional connections and glean valuable insights from more seasoned professionals. As you seek to get comfortable with networking, find someone you find interesting and want to know more about (it could even be a fellow intern!) and tell them that you admire the work they do and would love to learn how they got started, then ask if they have time for a brief coffee meeting or if you could drop by their office.
When meeting with a colleague or networking during a work event, lead with curiosity and ask questions that could provide relevant insights for the next steps in your career path. Consider questions such as: How did you discover your interest in your career field? What was the most valuable thing you did as you established yourself in this profession? Looking back, is there any advice you would give your younger self? What was the most important thing you did in high school or college that contributed to your success?
5. Make your voice heard.
In a professional setting, high school students possess the potential to bring a fresh and unique outlook to the table. While it may be intimidating, it is important to share your unique perspective with your team to show your collaborative spirit and distinct outlook. Take stock of your passions, strengths, interests, experiences, knowledge, and personality traits, and explore how you can leverage these assets to your advantage. Actively engage in discussions, offer innovative solutions, and make meaningful contributions to projects that showcase your distinctive strengths. However, exercise caution and considerate judgment when sharing your ideas and opinions with colleagues and supervisors, ensuring that you contribute meaningfully and do not share your thoughts out of turn.
6. Keep a journal.
Whether you are an avid journal-writer or not, it is important to have a written record of your achievements, projects, and newly acquired skills to refer back to during and after your internship. You can use your journal to chronicle your contributions in your role and make notes about how the internship is shaping your future goals and college aspirations. Take the time to reflect on your experiences and the areas where you have grown and improved. Cultivating self-awareness and curiosity will prove invaluable as you navigate the process of researching colleges and contemplating the specific school, program and/or major you wish to pursue. You may intern the summer before you write and submit your college applications, in which case the bustling activity of the fall semester will make it challenging to recall all the details of your summer activities, or you may intern the summer before your junior year of high school, in which case a full year will pass before you work on your college applications, and you will certainly be grateful to have a written record to look back on as you prepare your essays. When the time comes to write these essays and compile your other application materials, you can refer back to this journal to jog your memory and write about specific anecdotes from your internship experience that impacted you.
7. Write thank you notes and follow up with your supervisor.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to make a good impression and secure a standout third letter of recommendation is to write a thank-you note and keep in touch with your supervisor after the conclusion of your internship. Thank-you notes should be short but specific and can be handwritten or sent via email — the most important thing is to send them quickly, within a day of the end of the internship. Thank your supervisor for the specific ways that their leadership helped you grow in the role—they likely spent a lot of time and effort mentoring you, and a sincere note can leave an even more lasting impression than any of the work you actually completed during the internship. Finally, check in with your supervisor after the internship to provide periodical updates on your activities and how the internship impacted your endeavors since leaving. If you choose to ask them for a letter of recommendation, this will help them speak more specifically and comprehensively about your goals, interests, and skills. If you’re thinking about asking your current or former internship supervisor to write a letter of recommendation on your behalf but you’re not sure how or when to ask, check out our complete guide to letters of recommendation, here!
If you are invested and motivated to succeed, a high school internship can kickstart your professional journey and build your college admissions profile in the process. For more information about how you can find the right internship for your interests, reach out to us!
Be Our Next
Current and former clients have conducted lab research at Ivy League schools, published papers in national and international scientific journals, obtained highly competitive opportunities at Fortune 500 companies and programs, presented at companies such as Facebook, interned at Congress in Washington D.C., spoke at the United Nations General Assembly, won competitive awards and honors, and more.
*Please note that while we worked with students in preparing for these opportunities, these opportunities were obtained solely on the student’s own merit. Results may vary.