For many college students, searching and applying to internships can be quite stressful, but if done correctly, you may land the internship of your dreams. I’m going to provide a few tips about how I was able to receive my top internship choice through the Amgen Program, tips that I will use in the future and ones that I hope you find useful as well.
1. Apply with a purpose.
The most important thing in applying for internships is to apply with a purpose. If 1,000 people apply to the same program as you, chances are about over half have similar grades, honors, and work/research experience as you. So, how do you set yourself apart?
Well, nearly every application will ask for a personal statement or cover letter, where they are giving you the chance to say “This is why I can be more of an asset to you than everyone else, and this is why you should accept/hire me over someone else.”
If given the chance to write a personal statement, begin by articulating your motivation that drives you to pursue whatever internship it is that you are seeking. Are you inspired by your own hardships? Your parents’ hardships? What sort of adversity have you overcome that has led you to pursue X path?
An application committee wants to know that you are unique. That you bring something to their program that few others do. They don’t just want an intelligent person; they want someone intelligent that will drive others to be better. Someone who will seek the answers when they are not right in front of them. Someone with a purpose.
2. Aim high.
Realize that you are starting from ground 0. The fundamental base upon which you are building your brand, or constructing your pyramid of career success. I refer to this as “You Inc.” You’re essentially building your own business—yourself. With that said, you have nothing to lose by applying to the “most prestigious” program or more simply the internship that will accelerate the construction of You Inc. You have absolutely 0 risk but all the potential reward in the world.
3. DON’T “spray and pray” apply.
Don’t spray your applications to 100 internships and pray that 1 will accept you. This is a bonafide way to NOT get accepted to ANY internships.
I spent the most time applying for the Amgen Program application. The most selective and prestigious internship I applied to. I was accepted. However, I was denied by a few other prestigious, but not nearly as selective programs.
Why? Because after I submitted my Amgen application, I was exhausted with even the thought of applying to more programs. I had put so much time, effort, and revisions into that application, which just so happened to be the first one. After that, I had less ambition to be in the other programs.
I still applied, but I was not nearly as excited about most of the other programs. My point? Spend your time researching which programs you want to apply to. Say you find 15 programs. That’s not too uncommon. Try and narrow that down to 10 (I only applied to 5 programs, but I applied to several labs in the programs).
Once you narrow your search, you can now focus on making each individual application the best possible. Application requirements vary, so figure out which ones you want to apply to, and what you need to do for each. Then, carefully and meticulously refine your résumé and personal statement/cover letter for each one.
We hear it all the time. “Communication is key.” When applying for summer internships, it’s no different.
Communicate with those who are speaking on your behalf. It’s important that they know where you are applying, but is even more important that they know why you are applying. Share your application materials with them. Chances are they have been in similar positions and can offer advice on résumé formats and how to write a better personal statement.
Also, this is your chance to explain to them why you want this internship. It gives them a better idea of the person/student you are, and it allows them to write a better letter on your behalf. Share with them your personal statement. I promise you that your letter will be more than one copy and pasted from a former student’s application and adjusted for a mere 10 minutes to “customize” it for you.
Likewise, communicate with the people in charge of the programs to which you are applying. It shows that you are serious about the program and that you sincerely want to be a part of it. Have questions? Ask them. That’s what they are there for, and after you submit your application (most likely electronically) send them a separate e-mail and ask if they received it.
5. Reread. Revise. Repeat.
The last step in applying is to review your application and make sure that there are no errors or blunders in your application that make you appear unintelligent or careless. You spend a ton of time applying, and at the end you think “Woohoo! I’m done! Finally! Time to click submit.”
Once you think you’re done, you’re done for. Go back and reread your application. Does it reflect your purpose? Is everything spelled correctly? Are there any errors as mentioned above?
These are the little things that an application reviewer will see and immediately place your application in the trash pile.
I can’t guarantee that this will land you the perfect internship, but I can guarantee it will give you a better shot. So pick up your bricks and mortar (a computer and a few file folders will suffice) and start constructing your You Inc.!