When I was applying to college, I promised I would never do it again. I dreaded any essay prompt that wanted me to “tell my story” or “tell us a little about you.” Applying to college meant talking with my friends about where they are applying and gossiping about our peers’ college prospects, successes, and failures. It was a time when I felt my future was out of my hands.
The day my acceptance came, I was almost as excited about getting into my dream school, as I was at never having to log in to the Common App or checking US News and World Report again.
Now, two years later, I have reached the point of applying to competitive internships, and I feel like I broke my previous promise to myself.
Some of the elements are eerily the same. In my spare time I look for different internships, I talk with my friends about where they are applying, I think about the different environments of each work place, and think if I can financially afford to take an unpaid internship in a town far away from home.
However, applying for internships is much more confusing than applying for college because there is no standardization.
There is no internship equivalent of the US News and World Report or Princeton Review. I have no idea what companies offer internships, what qualifications I should have in order to apply, or what the application process is like for each company. It is just a game of chance that a great internship will be at your career fair or you will find it while surfing the web. There is not even a ranking of best to worst internships. It is possible that a prestigious law firm offers a highly competitive internship that will require you to make coffee and never network, but a small environmental law firm will have you sitting in with clients.
In addition, there is no Common App for applying to internships. Most internships require you to submit a resume, a cover letter, and a recommendation in some form, but they do not always look the same. Resumes come in all shapes and sizes and no format is great for all jobs. I have seen online resumes, colored resumes, resumes showing off only volunteer experience, and resumes with information about a potential candidate’s favorite hobbies. The term cover letter can also be different depending on where you are applying. For some employers, a cover letter is simply your information and a statement of the position you are seeking. However, I have written cover letters that seem more like essays based off a prompt asking me to tell my “story.”
I have reached such a point of frustration when applying to internships that I even miss The College Board.
Therefore, until someone creates one all-powerful company to control and monitor internships, I suggest creating your own system. Approach internships like applying for college. Establish reach internships, probable internships, and safety internships. Ask your peers to edit your applications, and give yourself deadlines and structure. Maybe if we establish our own rules for applying for internships, it will stop feeling like a game of chance.