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When to Start Looking for Summer Internships?

A lot of students want to know when to know the “right” time to start finding a summer internship.

The answer varies, depending on what kind of internship you want.

Is your goal a well-paid job with a large or mid-size company after graduation? Are you willing to commit your entire summer to an internship that may require relocating (with housing provided)? Does an area like marketing, sales, recruiting, project management, or operations appeal to you? Then July and August before you return to school is not too early to start looking. Many companies hire their summer interns at the fall Gies Business Career Fair or the LAS & ACES Career Fair, which take place shortly after your return to campus. Some well-known companies will start posting their summer 2020 internship opportunities at the end of summer 2019.

If your goal is a prestigious internships with a nationally recognized museum, publishing house, news outlet, or cultural organizations, positions usually aren’t posted until winter break, at the earliest. These kinds of internships have a lot of name recognition, but they are often unpaid and you have to arrange your own housing.

If you want an internship on campus, or with a nonprofit or small company, preferably one that will allow you to stay at home or in your campus apartment, then spring semester will be the time to start looking. Smaller more local organizations often don’t know until then how many interns they can effectively supervise, or what they need interns to do.

If you’re not sure, then post a weekly reminder to yourself to see what’s available. Make a list of your dream employers and start checking the “Careers” section of their websites. You’re more likely to find the right internship if you’re looking consistently and steadily throughout the year.

  • Check Bookjobs.com and Publisher’s Marketplace for internships in the publishing industry.
  • Check Idealist.org for summer internships at nonprofits.
  • Illinois in Washington connects U of Illinois students with internships in Washington and supplies housing and course credit. For students unable to relocate to DC for a semester or the summer (but interested in working for the federal government), there are virtual internships.
  • Is there an organization you’d like to work for that doesn’t have an internship program? Some places may be open to working with you to create an opportunity.
  • If any internship looks appealing to you, and you’re pretty sure you could do it if it were offered, go ahead and apply. The employer will decide if you’re a suitable applicant, and there’s no merit in ruling yourself out before the employer has a chance to.

Internships are not the only path to professional experience. They can be a great way to explore your options and start networking, but other summer activities may better equip you for your particular goals: a part-time or summer job that builds your skills, volunteer work with an organization that interests you, intensive involvement in your RSO, or time devoted to a project of your own.