For many college students, their internship is either the best or worst part of their college experience.  Working for free for a company which only vaguely resembles the student’s career path might feel more like torture than a real career experience.  Working for a company you love, though, whether as a paid or unpaid intern, can be a wonderful experience which can lead a student to even better opportunities in the future.

One of the first things you should know about getting a great internship is that you should start looking early.  Consider researching companies a few semesters before you even intend to apply.  Figure out places you might want to consider and if you have connections with someone within the company, mention your interest in the company.  If they normally hire interns, and they know you are interested, you will be on the top of the hiring list.  If they do not normally hire interns, but you mention your interest early enough, they may still consider having you work for them.

Another thing you can do is talk to your professors and other university officials.  They may be able to connect you with individuals in your chosen field or know companies who like to work with students from your school.  They might also be able to connect you with alumni who can get you a great internship.  If you have a good relationship with your professor, he or she may even recommend you to someone in the field, giving you an advantage over others who want the same internship.

It can also be helpful to befriend those who have your same or a similar major.  A friend who is a semester or two ahead of you might be able to give you pointers on getting a good internship.  A friend needing an internship at the same time as you can also be helpful as you can work together to research companies and apply for internships.  The big thing to remember if you do work with a friend is not to feel jealous or resentful if your friend lands your dream internship, and you end up with a different position.

Of course, the biggest key to getting your dream internship is actually applying for your dream internship.  All the researching and connections will get you nowhere if you are afraid to shoot for the stars.  Just because there might be many other students applying for the position does not mean you will not get it.  Figure out what makes you different, and highlight that.  What is the worst that can happen if you apply?  Someone else gets the internship, but at least you know you tried.  What is the best thing that can happen?  You land the internship even though you might think other people are more qualified.  Either way, you need to take that first step and you don’t want to spend the rest of your life wondering what might have been.

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