Should Your High School Student Seek an Internship This Summer?

By Huntington Learning Center

When teens get to college, something they’ll hear often from professors and the team at the college career center is how important it is to get work experience. Enter internships, which offer many important benefits:

  • They give students practical experience in a field and an idea what a career in that field might be like.
  • They offer students the opportunity to experience a professional workplace setting firsthand.
  • They are the perfect “test run” for a career, giving students the chance to try out an industry or job type with minimal risk.
  • They establish students’ connections with real-world professionals who could serve as mentors as they navigate their professional journeys.
  • They help students build their resumés and their skills.

Getting an internship is a great idea…but are internships reserved for college students? Definitely not! There are many programs and options for motivated high school students. Internships are an ideal way for high school teens to get a head start on researching possible college majors and career paths—plus the experience looks awesome on a college application. 

Parents, here are some tips to offer your high schoolers as they engage in an internship search:

Visit the guidance counselor. The guidance counselor’s office might have lists of internship opportunities and local resources for internships. High schoolers should stop by regularly and make sure they’re registered on any internship websites or email lists that the guidance counselor recommends.

Check out nearby colleges. Colleges, universities and community colleges often have formal internship programs (many science related) for high school students. Colleges’ websites are a good place to start, and students can reach out to specific departments/programs as well. Some colleges and universities even invite students to live on campus for the summer. Two examples:

  • Stanford University’s Cardiothoracic Surgical Skills and Education Center Stanford Summer Internship exposes high school students to careers in science, medicine and public health.
  • Boston University’s Research in Science & Engineering (RISE) program invites high school juniors to conduct scientific lab research.

Make a list of companies. Because there are more internships available to college students, high school students need to be diligent…and creative. Parents should encourage their teens to look not just for formal internship programs but also companies and organizations in their local area that interest them. High school students can approach organizations directly with a resumé and a cover letter expressing their desire to gain professional experience (explaining their specific area of interest). Many companies might be willing to create an internship position for an ambitious teen.

Create a resumé. Speaking of resumés, teens who are serious about finding internships definitely need resumés along with cover letters that they can customize as they apply for (or inquire about) internships. The resumé must include sections for education, GPA (unless the GPA is low, then omit it), interests/objective, any work experience and any special qualifications (e.g. communication skills or particular subject strengths).

Look nationally. High school students looking for a transformative internship experience should consider big companies with reputable internship programs for high school students. Here are just a few examples:

  • Microsoft has several summer high school internships.
  • Bank of America offers a Student Leaders program that places students into internships.
  • The Smithsonian’s Youth Engagement through Science internship program has several options for rising high school students in the Washington, D.C. metro area.
  • NASA has several internship options for students in high school.

There are lots of summer jobs out there for teens, but an internship will benefit your high school student tremendously. With college on the horizon, it’s not too early for your teen to think about creating an impressive, well-rounded application package. Combine a strong GPA and an academic record of challenging classes with a quality internship experience and your teen will definitely set himself apart.

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