Introduction

Many factors can make the number of internships a college student should apply to different.

We all know that internships are a great way to get your foot in the door, but how do you decide which ones are worth applying for? 

Applying for internships is a lot of work. You have to spend time crafting your cover letter, resume, and LinkedIn profile just to apply for the internship. And then you have to wait weeks or months before hearing back from the employer if they even want to interview you!

 

If you’re applying for multiple internships at once, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all this work. It can be hard not knowing how many applications are too many or if your application materials are good enough. 

 

How many internships a college student should apply to will depend on the competition and field.

What is an internship?

Internships are hands-on work experiences that are either paid or unpaid in your field of study. As a result, you stand out from other applicants, establish connections with industry professionals, and gain professional experience to strengthen your resume.

As a full-time student, it may seem like internships are for another type of person – someone who’s not in school and, therefore, has time to apply for as many internships as possible.

The competition for internships is high, with many people applying for the same position.  Having an internship on your resume shows that you can handle responsibility, work independently, and be productive in various situations – all qualities employers look for in potential employees.

How Many Internships Should I Apply to

Why are internships important?

An internship is essential for these five reasons: 

Reason # 1 A successful internship can lead to a full-time job offer. A successful internship is an excellent life-changing opportunity for a college student, especially in their field of study. 

 

Reason #2 Internships can provide exposure to new ideas and opportunities. One of the most valuable aspects of an internship might be the chance to talk with professionals in your industry or learn more about career paths you didn’t know existed.

Reason #3 Internships can help you develop essential work skills. These include communication, time management, teamwork, and problem-solving. 

 

Reason #4 Internships can help build your professional network and increase your visibility. In addition to learning from the professionals you’re working with on a day-to-day basis, it’s also an excellent opportunity to meet other professionals in your field. 

 

Reason #5 An internship can help you build a stronger resume and increase your job options.   Compared with coursework and summer programs, an internship will make a significant difference in terms of your chances of getting hired. 

College students often wonder, “how many internships should I do?” That answer varies in your field; if you are a college student wanting to get into veterinary school, then a

pre-veterinary internship will strengthen your vet school application.

Is an internship paid?

There are paid internships and unpaid internships. College students who do not receive scholarships or grants may have to find paid internships. Depending on how much money you spend on school, you may find it harder to get an internship that pays well enough to afford your school costs as well as live in your internship city.

A student with a full-time job could only work up to 20 hours per week while completing their coursework, so the number of internships should reflect this and how much time they have available outside of class and work. On the other hand, a college student with no paying job will have more time to focus on internships and applying to as many as possible.

Whether you find a paid internship or an unpaid internship, the choice is up to you. Sometimes an unpaid internship will turn into a paid internship.

Consider this when figuring out how many internships you should apply for.

3 factors that will determine how many internships you should apply for

One factor is time. Applying for internships takes time. There is time for research, writing a cover letter and CV, applying online, and following up on applications. You can even spend several hours researching companies before applying for an internship to have a higher chance of getting the training. It’s tough for college students to find free time outside of class and work, but your hard work will pay off in the end.

A second factor is competition. Is this a competitive field? How many other students want to work for this company? If it’s a highly competitive field, then you may need to apply to more internships just to give yourself an advantage.

A third factor is a payment.  Do you have the money and time (and maybe even transportation in some cases) that it takes to search for and travel to an internship that may not pay any money? You may need to consider this before applying for a paid internship in an expensive city.  If you’re strapped for cash and just starting in college, then maybe begin with unpaid internships.

You should aim to collect at least 10-20 internship applications.

So many companies hire interns; it can be hard to know where to start looking. Some students feel overwhelmed by the number of options available and don’t apply for any internships because they think their chances will be slim. Some students will only apply to the 3 or 4 companies they know of, but that severely limits their chances of getting an internship. Carrying out research and having a more extensive list of potential employers may seem like extra work, but it can pay off in the long run.

Read how this student got a veterinary internship which helped her get into a vet school.

Why Internships Are Important for Students

In addition to gaining entry-level skills, internships allow you to make contacts and develop relationships with people you may work with later on in your career.    The average internship lasts around ten weeks, so you can do it during one semester without interfering with your classes.

 

Internships can lead to full-time employment, a valuable reference, or even a full scholarship for graduate school. Companies are often impressed by someone who takes on more than the required amount of internships that they usually offer. As long as you apply yourself, then you should have a positive experience in training.

Students can reflect on their internship experiences and add them to their resumes as relevant work experience. Adding this to a resume will help you stand out from other students when applying for jobs or graduate school. You can even meet with your professors to see if you could write a professional paper about the internships you have completed, showing your professors that you are a hard worker.

Searching for An Internship is Similar to a Job Search

A job search is similar to finding an internship.  In both cases, you must conduct research and apply online. Keep track of where you apply for internships so you can follow up later, whether by phone call, email, or even attending informational interviews if you are able. If someone has gone out of their way to provide helpful information in an informational interview, then it’s essential to follow up with a thank you letter.

If you live near the internship location, attending networking events and informational interviews in your area can be very helpful for getting internships because people are more likely to help someone they know by providing them with valuable networking contacts.

Finding internships is now easier than ever, thanks to the abundance of online information.  The purpose of search engines like Google and Bing is to help us locate what we’re looking for on the Internet quickly. Many people search “job site” and “city” to find employment opportunities posted by employers in their area. It is essential to read the job postings as they may include internship opportunities.

There’s even a website specifically for posting internships called Internships.com.

How many internships out of the applications should I apply to? 

Apply for at least 8 internships, but a maximum of 10 is recommended.

The number of internships you should apply to varies depending on your situation.  Students who have taken the initiative during their senior year or beforehand and have researched companies may already know which companies they want to work for. However, students who are new to applying for internships should apply to at least 8 companies.

When you receive a rejection, don’t lose hope! Maybe the position had been filled, or there just wasn’t a fit, and they weren’t able to offer an internship. Next year’s class of interns may be different if the employer has updated their internships for next summer.   It’s essential to market yourself as much as possible to employers to set yourself apart from the competition.

Key takeaway: the more internships you apply to, the better.

A student sitting at a desk applying for internships.

Next Steps After You Apply for an Internship

  • What should I do after I send my 10 internship applications? Now that you’ve sent your internship applications, it’s crucial to maintain contact with the employer. It’s always a good idea to send a thank you letter after an informational interview. You can even follow up if they say they’ll get in touch with you.  
  • Do not be afraid to follow up. It will show you’re genuinely interested and may lead to earning an internship position.
  • Because you’ve taken the time to submit applications, the next step is preparing for interviews.  A great way to prepare for an interview is by practicing with friends and family members. Ask them mock questions which may take place in a natural interview setting.  

Focus on 3-8 companies when choosing internships to apply to.

An excellent way to narrow down your search: focus on what kind of company or organization you’d like to work for first. Then consider geographic location (e.g., local vs. international) and industry type (e.g., tech vs. non-profit).

Internships based on your location

Should I only apply to internships that are near me? Should I be willing to move for an internship? The answer depends on your situation and availability.

New York City and San Francisco are great places to intern. You’ll be able to network with professionals in the industry. Still, they may not be realistic options for students who do not have local connections there. I suggest applying to local companies you know will be willing to offer an internship. Examples are your school or a company you interviewed with and had a positive experience with during the interview.  

If moving is not an option, there’s nothing wrong with applying to internships that are located far away from your area.  You should still apply because it never hurts to see what opportunities are available for you, and even if you’re just visiting for the summer, it can still lead to a paid position or full-time job after college.  

Learn how to answer “Why do you want to work at our company?” The goal is for employers to see that you’ve done your research and are genuinely interested in the company! When asked this question, it’s always good to have your elevator pitch and why you’re interested in the company.

How many summer internships should I apply to?

Summer is a great time to do an internship. The number of summer internships you should apply to depends on your situation. Students who don’t know their preferences yet and have no idea what they want to do should apply for at least 10 internship positions.

Students who know what they want or already have connections at companies can narrow down the list. They can look for specific types of companies such as tech, nonprofit, etc.

Can I apply to multiple internships at the same company?

Yes, you can apply to multiple internships within the same company. You can always email employers and ask them about their company’s internship program or application process to see if it is okay to apply more than one time.   It also never hurts to reach out beforehand, talking about interests and what you bring to the table.  

When is the best time to apply for an internship?

The best time to apply is at the beginning of your senior year or during spring break because employers are checking out candidates toward the end of their school schedule and while they’re still looking for summer interns right before graduation season. This way, you already have a leg up on other applicants who are applying after graduation.  

If you applied for an internship at the beginning of your senior year, it’s okay to check in periodically until school ends or until internships are no longer available.  

If you are not in your senior year and still want an internship, just apply. There is no wrong time to apply.

What kinds of internships are available?

Here are just a few ideas for various internships.

  • Internships for biology majors that are unpaid
  • Biology Lab Assistant at your local college
  • University Environment and Natural Resources Department
  • Undergraduate Biology Internship Program
  • Animal Care Intern at a local zoo
  • Internship in Animal Science or Zoology
  • Web Design Intern
  • Marketing Intern
  • Data Entry Intern
  • Technology Lab Assistant
  • Wildlife internship

Can I do an internship abroad?  

Internship abroad is a great way to experience the culture of another country. Another benefit of a study abroad internship is that you apply while in your home country. The company will often pick up the cost of travel, including airfare, accommodations, and insurance.

If you’re interested in an internship abroad, look for programs sponsored by your school or the company to save money.   You can also work with an organization like AIFS to find internships abroad.  

How do I choose which companies to apply to?

You can start by looking at your favorite companies and doing research about the industry or specific company you’re interested in. During this time, start reaching out to people in that field who work for the company or know someone working there. You can also attend conferences in your area to network and meet people who could connect you with internships.

When applying, it is crucial to send customized cover letters and resumes to each company or organization.   It is also an excellent practice to follow up about the specific company after applying.

 What should I ask when applying for an internship?  

It’s essential to learn about the company, what they offer, and where their internship program stands. You also want to make sure that the internship is in your major and in the correct area/city that you would like to live. It’s also important to ask about their company culture and whether or not work from home is an option. In addition, you should ask whether or not they prefer a traditional resume or a video resume.

Finally, you should ask if there are any deadlines since internships fill up quickly or if they’re only hiring for the summer.

What About Unpaid Internships, Are they worth it?

Your school may be able to help cover the cost of college credits for some unpaid internships. Others might be able to find a scholarship related to the industry or field they’re interested in. Interns are often expected to work for free, so ask about it.

They are worth it if you will get something out of it. What you get out of an internship will be experience and knowledge.

Internship opportunities range from entry-level positions to highly specialized roles, depending on your skillset, experience, and major.

Entry-level internships for biology majors include the following:    

Lab Assistant at your local college  or university department  (this can be a great way to get more involved in academics)

Undergraduate Biology Internship Program at your school   (designed to provide academic credit)

Environmental Studies Internship or Environmental Policy Internship  (These internships will be in a government office and may include community action.   Community actions can be something like working at a recycling center or volunteering to clean up beach debris)

Animal Care Intern at a local zoo (working from the bottom up, this internship could give you hands-on experience at the beginning of your career)

What is the correct number of internships someone should apply to?

If you’re in your junior year of school, applying to two or three internships is good. For seniors or graduate students, applying to eight to ten internships is a good goal.   We recommend less for first-year students and sophomores as they should spend time building their resumes and getting more coursework under their belt before looking for an internship.

If you’re not sure, apply to a few internships and see how it goes.   You can always send applications to more companies while still in the process of applying for internships.

What are some common mistakes people make when they’re applying for an internship?

One mistake people make is not following up. When applying for an internship, be sure and follow up! You should send a thank-you email within 24 hours and then after that, use social media (like LinkedIn) to ask about the status of your application.

Another mistake is not making sure they are applying for an internship in their field of study.   Consider talking to a professor or a mentor to help you train in your field if you have no experience.   Include all of your previous internship experience so that it is clear that you are applying for this as a career/graduate school opportunity.

Another common mistake is not to do your research about the company or organization. If the company culture is not something you want to be a part of, think about it twice before applying for that internship. You may even want to check out their social media accounts to see if what they are posting aligns with your values and goals.

Another mistake is to talk about pay on social media or in an interview.   Companies won’t have this information available when you’re interviewing, so be sure and wait until after your interview before asking about the pay scale.  

There are many mistakes that you can make when doing an internship search.   Taking time to prepare yourself for a great internship will ensure you have the best experience while gaining skills and making connections that will be helpful for your future career.

Conclusion on How Many Internships You Should Apply To

As you can see from the information in this article, applying to a variety of internships is essential. You should apply for at least two or three internships if you’re still in your junior year and eight to ten if you are a senior or graduate student. The more time that goes by without hearing back about an internship application, the less likely it will be accepted (or they’ve already filled their slots).