When to Apply for Internships

Internship coworkers
February 5, 2024
5 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 2/5/24

Need to know when to apply for internships? Keep reading for everything you need to know about applying to an internship.

Completing an internship while in college can give you a wide variety of beneficial experiences. In order to be successful, your first step is to know when to apply for internships. 

There can be a lot of competition for internships, so knowing when to apply will help you in your chances of getting the internship you want.

This article will cover the advantages of participating in an internship, when to start looking for internships, and how to apply. We also provide tips on how to get into your dream internship and gain meaningful experiences that set you up for success.

When to Apply for Internships

Figuring out when to apply for internships will depend on when the internship runs. Along with different types of internships, they also run at different times. The following is a general guideline for your internship application deadlines.

When to Apply for Spring Internships

Spring internships usually run from mid-January until May, often coinciding with the spring semester of colleges. You should start looking for spring internships in the late summer and early fall of the previous year.

When to Apply for Summer Internships

Summer internship programs are often between 10-12 weeks in length and will run alongside your break from school. Most internships will be advertised at the end of the year. Applying for these internships by January or February is best.

When to Apply for Fall Internships

Fall internships are usually in the fall and early winter, meaning you should start applying for them in the spring (April or May) of the same year.

When to Apply for Winter Internships

Some companies will have winter internships that run through the holidays and into the first few months of the year. Try to get your application in for these internships by August or September in order to be successful.

By following the above application deadlines, you should be successful in the internship application process.

Is It Okay to Apply for Multiple Internships Simultaneously?

It is perfectly acceptable to apply for multiple internships simultaneously. In fact, it's a common practice for students and young professionals. 

Applying to multiple internships increases your chances of securing one, especially when the competition is high. It also allows you to explore different opportunities and make a more informed choice when deciding which internship aligns best with your goals.

Should I Focus on Unpaid Internships for Gaining Experience?

While unpaid internships can offer valuable experience, it's essential to consider your financial situation and the fairness of unpaid work. 

If you can afford to take an unpaid internship and believe it will provide valuable skills and connections, it may be a viable option. However, prioritize paid internships when possible, as they offer financial compensation for your time and effort, which can be crucial for covering living expenses.

What Should I Do If I Don't Secure an Internship for the Upcoming Term?

If you don't secure an internship for the upcoming term, don't panic. Instead, consider alternative ways to gain experience. Look for part-time jobs, volunteer opportunities, or freelance work related to your field of interest. 

Networking events and online courses can also help you build skills and connections while you continue to search for future internship opportunities. Keep refining your resume and interviewing skills to increase your chances in the next application cycle. 

Remember that setbacks are a natural part of career development, and persistence is key.

interns working together on lapotp

Why Apply for Internships?

There are many reasons why you should consider doing an internship. Internships can help you explore different paths, gain experience, build your network, and more. In this section, we cover the various benefits of an internship for your academic, professional, and personal growth!

Exploring A Career Path

An internship is a great way to explore a future career path. By participating in an internship, you’ll gain firsthand experience of what it feels like to work within your field of interest. This can help you narrow down what you might like to do long-term and pursue in the future.

Gaining Work Experience

By completing an internship, you are gaining hands-on work experience in your field of interest. This is a great opportunity to enhance your resume and give you an advantage as you apply for jobs post-graduation. 

Having a bit of experience under your belt might make the job search a bit easier as you will be able to point to real-life experiences that will help you in your career. 

Developing Research Experience

This is especially important for anyone who is thinking of attending graduate school or who is pursuing a career in the sciences. 

A research lab internship, for example, will give you time to practice and build on your scientific research skills. Nurturing these experiences is essential and especially valuable if you plan on entering the workforce or gaining a graduate degree.

Refining Your Skill Set

Regardless of what your next steps are after college, you will need certain skills in order to get a job. Having an internship can teach you valuable skills that you can eventually take into your career. 

You will have the direct supervision of an experienced professional who can help you with learning new skills or refining certain skills you already have.

Building A Network

Working as an intern allows you to meet many like-minded people and build a great professional network. Networking and building strong professional relationships is one of the most effective ways to progress in your career.

When you complete an internship, you will gain contacts in your field of interest. This can open up potential opportunities for career development and growth as you move forward in your career.

Securing Strong Recommendations And References

Having strong recommendations and references can be helpful in your budding career or if you are hoping to get into graduate school. 

Whatever your future brings you, it is always good to have a few people who can vouch for you. Strong recommendations and references can be the key piece to landing your dream job or getting into the graduate program you’ve wished to pursue.

Develop Confidence

As an intern, you have the opportunity to apply and develop new skills before beginning work at a permanent job. An internship is a place to learn and grow, meaning it can be the perfect place to gain confidence in skills you will need later in your career. Staying open-minded, asking questions and remaining positive is key.

Securing A Permanent Position

Like co-ops, internships have the potential to lead to a permanent position once you are ready for a career. If you are taking on this internship at the end of your college career, you might be able to gain a permanent position at the company simply by performing well. 

Also, if you had a positive experience during your internship with the company, you might be able to apply for a job opportunity later as you already have the knowledge and understanding of the company’s culture and work environment.

With the above benefits of completing an internship, it is easy to see why this could be a very good opportunity for you and your future.

female intern working late in office

Applying Late for an Internship: What to Expect

Though some internships will come with a specific deadline, it is always good to apply, even if that date has passed. Your application for an internship may not work for a specific position or time period, but a lot of companies will allow applicants to send in their information for upcoming positions, even if it doesn’t start for months.

For example, you might be able to apply for a winter internship if you have missed the fall deadline. Though you’ll have to wait longer to hear back, it could still be worth the application!

Tips for Applying for an Internship

Here are some tips for applying for an internship:

  • Be organized. Make sure you know the different deadlines so that you get your application off on time.
  • Apply to many internships. Try not to bank on one role, as you may not get into your first choice of internship. Applying to multiple internships will give you more opportunities and a higher likelihood of getting in.
  • Pay attention to practical details. Ensure that you consider the logistics of the internship, such as location, costs and fees associated with the internship, or time commitment and schedule. These details can determine whether or not a particular internship is best for you. 
  • Prepare a professional resume and cover letter. Make sure to have a resume and cover letter ready for each application. It will be in your best interest to tailor your resume for the specific role you’re applying to. This shows the recruitment team that you’ve taken the time to do your research. 
  • Follow application instructions. You might need to share references and submit supplementary materials as a part of your application. Make sure you look into the requirements of the internships that interest you to ensure you’re prepared!

By following these tips, your application should go smoothly!

interns working on computers in office

FAQs: When to Apply for Internships

Here are our most frequently asked questions when it comes to when to apply for internships.

1. How Early Is Too Early To Apply For An Internship?

It is never too early to apply for an internship. Unless the program specifically states dates on which they will accept applications, you can always apply for an internship as soon as you find one that suits you.

2. What Year Is Best To Apply For An Internship?

Though you can do your internship at any point in your college career, most will try to do an internship within their third year of college or in the summer between their third and fourth year.

By this time in your schooling, you might have more time in your schedule to fit in an internship. Also, you will have a better idea of what you might want to do after college by this time, which makes it the perfect time to do an internship.

3. Is October Too Late To Apply For Internships?

October is the perfect time to apply for internships that start in the Spring. If you were hoping to start an internship in the Winter, you could still apply, but you’ll likely be in competition with more applicants.

4. Do You Do An Internship Before Or After College?

Most people do an internship while they are still in college or after they’ve graduated. That being said, some find it advantageous to do a summer internship between high school and college. Either way, you will find many benefits of doing an internship.

Final Thoughts

Participating in an internship can be a very valuable experience. It is important to know when to apply for internships in order to get the type of experience you want. By providing you with this information, we hope your hunt for the perfect internship is successful.

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