Excerpts of this blog are featured in U.S. News & World Report’s “How to Find a High School Internship” written by Heidi Borst
High school internships are exactly as they sound, internships for high school students. Although mostly unpaid, these internships offer teenagers their first dip into the professional world, and in some cases, credit towards their transcript. No different than your classic internship, these positions are designed to teach students a myriad of workplace skills and provide them the experience they’ll need to land salaried positions down the road (though it is generally harder to find a high school internships.)
The world is becoming increasingly competitive, especially for our kids. Over the course of just a few decades, we’ve seen the number of high school students making college plans explode. With this ever-expanding pool of college applicants comes greater competition for the open seats at colleges across America. Acceptance rates at nearly every school continue to shrink, so high school students are looking for anything that’ll make their application stand out.
1. Brainstorm Your Interests
Somewhat counterintuitively, before you set out to find a high school internship, you’ll need to look within first. Whereas most adults have several resumés that illustrate the value they’d bring to a particular role, most teens haven’t crafted their own resumé yet.
While writing your resumé, you’ll compile a detailed list of your work and volunteer experience. Take time to reflect on each, what did you like? What didn’t you? Not only will you have written a much-needed resumé, but you’ll have a better sense of what you’re looking for on your journey to find a high school internship.
2. Reach Out to Your Network
As you get older, you’ll come to realize how much getting hired has to do with who you know. But you’re never too young to start using your network, so use it to find a high school internship! Let your parents and extended family know you’re looking for a position interning. You could also provide them with your resumé and a sense of the position you’re looking for. Believe it or not, most folks would love a chance to help a young ambitious student like yourself find work.
Don’t stop there though! Lots of high school guidance counselors can give fantastic internship advice. Sometimes, businesses will reach out to high school guidance offices directly to advertise internship opportunities. Moreover, your guidance counselor can connect you with former students who interned locally. Reach out and see what insights they can give you.
3. Search Online
Now for the hard part, finding places to apply. The difficulty here is trying to find a high school internship (but they’re out there!) Your best bet is identifying local businesses or institutions directly. Perhaps there’s a museum nearby, or an office for that tech corporation you’d like to work for. Tabulate their contact information, and prepare to reach out.
Oftentimes, this sort of direct contact is seen as ambitious and a testament to your work ethic, so don’t be shy. Anecdotally, high school students have reached out directly to our learning center, Tip-Top Brain, looking for internships– even though we hadn’t advertised any try your luck here! Given the amazing quality and tenacity of these students, we’ve been happy to welcome them for the summer or winter break, and provide all the mentorship we can (no less, they had the chance to network with our amazing staff.) All that said, there are a few notable sites that have been proven to help students find a high school internship:
Best Sites To Find a High School Internship
- Chegg Internships Chegg is renowned for connecting high school students with internship opportunities. Most other services don’t place as much emphasis on positions designed for high schoolers.
- Idealist Idealist is another great site students will use to find a high school internships specifically. Idealist also provides extensive filters from the location to the industry making searches easy.
- LinkedIn LinkedIn is one of the most famous professional networking sites on the internet. Did you know you can also use it to find a high school internship near you? Check it out.
4. Craft Your Elevator Pitch
Once you’ve locked your sights on an internship, you’ll have to have an elevator pitch ready. An elevator pitch is a brief, compelling description of your potential value in the workplace. Ideally, it’ll cover the basics (your grade level and school) as well as any notable achievements or qualifications. However, your pitch shouldn’t solely pertain to you– it’s about the employer too. Your pitch should quickly persuade them you’re the missing puzzle piece they need, so you’ll need to thoroughly research what your employer looks for in an internship candidate.
5. Evaluate Your Options
Alright, it’s been a few weeks since you sent out your applications, and now your inbox is being flooded with acceptance emails. You have a bunch of companies offering you an internship, but how do you choose the right one? Pivot back to step 1 and consider what interests you. It’s totally fine if the internship you’re leaning towards is nothing like what you were initially looking for. It’s also possible that you find a high school internship outside of your comfort zone and it’s a perfect fit!
Try to get a sense of what the day-to-day responsibilities will be at the internships you’re looking at. Although misleading, some organizations will take on interns without a clear plan. Unfortunately, these interns end up making photocopies and running errands, when they could’ve been learning on-the-job skills and furthering their professional development. The skinny of it: before accepting the internship offer, know what will be asked of you.
For those who like to plan ahead, ask yourself, “How would this position benefit me in years to come?” The answer to this question is deeply personal and very revealing. Every internship offers some sort of value, but you’ll want one that benefits you down the line too. Not long from now, you may need a letter of recommendation from this internship for school or another professional position. Given your personal goals, would that letter of recommendation be relevant and strong? If not, it may be a sign this internship won’t serve you in the long run.
6. Intern Early and Often
Finally, I’d remind you to begin your interning career early. Students often wait until their senior year to seek out internships, but this doesn’t leave them time for a do-over. As early as you can, start trying to find a high school internship that suits you better. If you took a position your freshman year of high school and hated it, you have three more years to try on other internships. Ultimately, this sort of learning about where you best fit in the professional world will serve you dividends down the line.
Check out 10 of our favorite internship opportunities designed specifically for high schoolers:
- NASA High School Internship
- Met High School Internship Program
- Microsoft High School Internship
- Smithsonian Internship
- Stanford Compression Forum Summer Internship
- New-York Historical Society’s Student Historian Program
- The Library of Congress Internship
- Carnegie Museums Internships
- Bank of America Student Leader Program