High School Internships: How to Get One!

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As a high school student, you probably have a lot of questions about your future.

  • Where will I go to college?
  • What will I major in?
  • What career will I have?
  • How can I increase my chances of getting into a good school and having a good career?

There’s no magic answer to these questions, but completing a high school internship is an excellent starting point. You’ll gain deeper insight into your interests and future options, explore a career field, and even enhance your college resume.

Sounds great, right? But how do you go about getting a high school internship? In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to land an internship that’s a great fit for you.

What is a high school internship?

Internships are introductory work experiences, usually lasting for no more than a few months. They can be either paid or unpaid. Interns are typically assigned a mentor to answer questions and provide guidance.

Generally, interns do the tasks that an entry-level employee would be expected to perform at the company. For high school interns, the tasks you’re assigned may be limited by your age, qualifications, and experience.

High school internships offer benefits like “test driving” potential careers, networking, building new skills and knowledge, enhancing your college application, and potentially earning money or academic credit.

When should I do an internship in high school?

If you’re interested in reaping all the benefits of a high school internship—including boosting your college resume—you should do an internship during your junior year at the latest. Earlier is fine too, if you know what you’re passionate about and what careers you’d like to explore.

You may also want to consider doing a summer internship.

  • What’s your workload like?
  • Do you think an internship might interfere with your schedule and/or your performance in school?
  • Would you be able to fully focus on learning from your internship while also juggling school and extracurricular involvement?

If an internship might be difficult to balance with your schoolwork and extracurricular activities, intern during the summer instead.

When should I apply for internships?

Some internships have application deadlines, just like colleges, so pay attention to important dates as you begin your internship search. For highly competitive internships, you can expect to apply up to six months in advance.

Other internships may be more informal. Still, you should apply at least a month in advance for any internship you’re considering. It takes time to process applications, interview applicants, and onboard interns. So, if you’d like to intern over the summer, April or early May is the absolute latest you should begin looking for and applying to internships. As always, earlier is better.

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Are high school internships important for college admissions?

High school internships are not required for college admissions, but they can certainly help you stand out from the crowd. Here’s why:

  • Internships give you valuable skills and experience that many high school students don’t have.
  • If the internship is related to the major you’re interested in, this indicates to colleges that you’re passionate about your future career. Plus, you’ve tested the waters and decided that your chosen career is definitely right for you. For admissions officers, this is a positive sign that you’ll stick with your degree program, perform well, and actively participate on campus.
  • Choosing an internship, applying for it, and then completing the experience takes initiative and dedication. These are excellent qualities that admissions officers like to see.
  • Your internship experience may give you some interesting insights and background knowledge for your college admissions essay and, if required, your admissions interview.

Do I need a high school internship to attend an Ivy League school?

You don’t need a high school internship to attend an Ivy League school. Since high school internships can help you stand out, however, it’s definitely a plus to have on your resume when applying for a seat in the Ivy League. Remember: Ivy League applications are extremely competitive. At Harvard, for example, more than 40,000 students typically apply for less than 2,000 spots.

For the class of 2024, the most selective Ivy League institution (Harvard) accepted only 4.9% of applicants. The least selective (Dartmouth) still accepted only 8.8% of applicants. (Note: Cornell chose to withhold its overall acceptance rate for the class of 2024.) Most Ivy League applicants have exceptional grades and test scores, so you can’t neglect valuable extracurricular experiences.

Ivy League institutions want to know that you’re productive, driven, and passionate. Completing an internship can help you showcase these qualities. Ivy League schools also expect you to do something educational or meaningful with your summers, so a summer internship—especially a highly competitive one—looks good to admissions officers.

How do I create my own high school internship?

If you can’t find a high school internship that fits with your interests and goals, you can always create your own. Once you know what you’re looking for, reach out to parents, teachers, family friends, and your guidance counselor to see if they know of a local business or individual who might be able to help you.

You can also research companies online. If something sounds interesting to you, reach out! Stop by in person, call, or e-mail to ask if they offer internships to high school students. If not, offer to be their first intern. Talk about why you’re interested in interning with them and what skills you bring to the table.

Even if they say no, they may allow you to job shadow or meet with someone within the company to ask questions. You never know what opportunities might be available until you ask.

How can I ask for an internship?

You can ask for an internship in person, via phone, or through an email. If you get nervous and are worried about forgetting important points, go with the email. Asking for an internship may sound scary, so use these tips to help you feel confident and prepared.

  • Do your research. Learn about the company, the person you’re contacting, and their job description. You want to sound informed. And of course, it doesn’t hurt to mention an inspiring accomplishment or two—the person you’d like to intern with will appreciate it.
  • Communicate enthusiasm. Make it clear that you’re passionate about the career field you want to intern in, and explain why you’d love the opportunity.
  • Explain what skills you offer. It’s great that you’re interested in the company/career, but remember to talk about what you have to offer as well. Some companies view high school students as a risk (due to legal requirements when working with minors and your lack of experience), so try to ease these concerns. If possible, mention a specific task you think you could help with at the company.
  • Keep it short. If you’re writing an email, make it scannable and easy to read. If you’re calling, practice a brief pitch that highlights the important points mentioned above. The person you’re reaching out to is likely busy and will be more receptive to a short, simple message.
  • Follow up. Don’t be afraid to follow up if you don’t hear back in a couple of weeks. Send one more polite email inquiry, then let it drop if you still don’t hear a response. That doesn’t mean not to contact other companies and individuals—keep trying! Some companies simply aren’t prepared to take on a high school intern.

How do I send a cold email for a high school internship?

Here’s an example of a cold email asking for a high school internship:

Dear [Contact Person],

I’m a student at [high school], and I’m extremely interested in a career in marketing. I’ve followed your company on social media for years, subscribe to your email newsletter, and regularly see your print and TV advertisements as well. I’m always impressed with your marketing campaigns, particularly the way you integrate multiple marketing channels.

I’m writing to inquire about interning with your organization this summer. There are no marketing classes available at my high school, and I’ve had no luck finding an existing marketing internship locally. I would love the opportunity to gain real world marketing experience, especially at an organization that I admire.

As your intern, I could assist with answering the phone, organizing physical or digital files, and social media. I’m attaching a few screenshots from the Facebook account for my photography business. I’ve tried some creative marketing ideas with success and have over 5,000 followers.

If you don’t have space for an intern, would you be willing to share some of your favorite resources on marketing?

Let me know if you have any questions or additional information that I can provide.

Thank you for your time,

[Name]

Of course, you’ll personalize this template according to your own interests, skills, and experiences, as well as the type of internship you’re asking about.

Are high school internships paid?

Most high school internships are not paid. Many companies try to save money by not paying interns in general. High school students are especially likely to be unpaid due to limitations on the amount and type of work that they can do.

Still, there are exceptions to the rule. Some of the more competitive or well-established high school internships do offer pay.

Should I work an unpaid high school internship?

Absolutely! Although compensation is always a plus, high school internships offer plenty of benefits beyond payment. Remember, you’re gaining valuable work experience, learning new skills and knowledge, boosting your college resume, and making connections in a career field you’d like to pursue.

Even if you don’t enjoy your internship, you’re gaining important insight into what you’d like (or not like) to do in the future. Deciding now that a career isn’t for you will save you a lot of time and money in college. It’ll also give you more time to explore other options before your college journey begins.

What if I don’t know what career field I’m interested in?

If you’re not sure what career field you’re interested in, internships are a wonderful tool to help you get some answers.

Think about your talents and interests, then research relevant careers. You can also complete a Skills Assessment to help you determine a few careers that might be a good fit for you. After narrowing down your options a bit, choose one to try. Whether you love it or hate it, you’ll be one step closer to finding a career that’s right for you.

If you truly can’t narrow it down, apply for some internships that sound interesting and see which opportunities you get. At the very least, you’ll gain some experience and insight into the working world and what you like/dislike in a work environment.

What sites are best to find a high school internship?

In addition to relying on your personal network, you can find high school internships online. Helpful sites include Internship Programs and Internships. Many of the internships listed on these sites are for college students, so be sure to search specifically for programs that accept high school interns.

You can also browse job sites like GlassDoor, Indeed, and LinkedIn for high school internship opportunities.

What materials do I need to apply for a high school internship?

The materials you’ll need to apply for a high school internship vary by program and selectivity. Materials you may need include:

What are examples of high school internships?

High school students intern in a wide range of industries. You may want to intern with a tech company, medical program, zoo or aquarium, marketing/advertising agency, or even in film and television.

Here are a few prestigious internship programs for high school students:

  • Microsoft High School Internship
  • Kaiser Permanente LAUNCH Program
  • Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Summer Internship
  • NASA High School Internship
  • The Smithsonian Summer Internship
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art Summer High School Internship
  • Student Research Internship Program at the Scripps Translational Science Institute

Final Thoughts: High School Internships

If a high school internship sounds interesting to you, start by listing your interests and talents. Then, begin searching for an internship in a related career. And if you can’t find an internship that’s right for you, don’t hesitate to create exciting opportunities of your own.

You’ll show colleges that you have the initiative, work ethic, knowledge, and passion to be an excellent asset on campus.

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