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Getting an Internship

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The search for internships should start early in the fall, even though application deadlines vary widely. Some laboratories and companies have deadlines in the fall, perhaps as early as the end of October, while others wait until spring. Even in the latter case, it is beneficial to develop a contact at the organization well before the application due date. Some laboratories require that potential mentors indicate their intern needs early for budget and other considerations. The application process takes time.

Career or internship services at the university or college can be helpful in finding opportunities and in assisting with resume development. Several sources on the World Wide Web (have links to a number of organizations with internships. Most large companies and government laboratories have established internship programs. Also, each year, the National Science Foundation funds a number of Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) at universities around the country.

Personal contact--whether through friends, family or faculty--is very beneficial in securing a position, as contacts may know of opportunities or others who can help you and may even communicate directly with someone for you. Make sure that you are serious in pursuing the position and plan to accept the internship, if offered. A known contact at an organization is far more preferable than dealing entirely with the human resources (HR) department. HR might not understand who in the organization can use someone with your computational science background; and, after having talked with you, a scientist might create an internship position that did not previously exist. Before starting such enquiries or discussions, however, you should have a resume.

Step 1: Write a Resume and Cover Letter
Please make an appointment with Career Services for help creating and perfecting your resume.
Resume Tips 

Additional Tips for Computer Science undergraduate resumes and cover letters:

  • Have the resume in a form that can be read electronically. Most people can read Microsoft Word or PDF files. Some templates can be difficult to use, so choose carefully.

The following are tips for a cover letter or email:

  • Have the cover letter or email be about a half page in length
  • Address the letter to a particular person
  • Give your most outstanding qualities or experiences
  • Indicate your interest in an internship and be specific about which one, if possible
  • Indicate that you will contact the individual in about a week to discuss the possibility of an internship further. (Do not forget to call!)
  • Have a professor or someone in career or internship services proofread your cover letter or email

Step 2: Apply for an Internship
When you send off your resume in applying for an internship keep a few things in mind:

  • If you are applying for an internship with a company, know what they do and what position for which you are applying to intern
  • If you are applying for a research position, try to get an idea for what you can expect by talking to previous interns

Step 3: Accepting or Rejecting
If you get an internship offer, accept or reject promptly so that the organization can plan for the summer. In the case where you are accepting another offer, tactfully phrase the rejection.

Step 4: Finding a Place to Live
Because of competition, it is a good idea to start your search for housing immediately after learning of your acceptance for an internship. A large organization with many interns often has a housing office that can provide a housing and apartment list along with names of other interns with whom you can share housing.

Universities often rent dorm rooms to student interns from other schools during the summer. You can usually obtain the contact information for a university's housing office through the school's web site.

Continue to During and After an Internship