“Must be 18 or older to apply.” Ah, the phrase that can crush hopes and dreams in a matter of seconds. Sure, you have your volunteer opportunities and the miscellaneous school clubs to back you up on your resume, but as you soar through your high school career, you may still be wondering what you can do to make yourself really stand out to college admissions officers.
Of course, the first thing that might come to your mind is getting a job. Plenty of people get jobs, and that’s great. Jobs teach you responsibility, commitment, and give you a little pocket money at the same time. But something else that is often overlooked by high school students is the marvelous world of internships.
Internships can be scary. I always envisioned them involving working in a tall office building, wearing business casual attire, and maybe fetching coffee for the Big Bad Boss (imagine Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada). The great thing about this is that you don’t have to be a college student to do such activities; you can do them now, too. And surprisingly, it’s easier than you think to get an internship as a high school student. You really aren’t too young to score an amazing opportunity to get involved somewhere and make your mark. Plus, there are so many different types of internships to choose from, ranging from ones designed specifically for high school students, to ones where you might have to reach out yourself and get it.
I can tell you how I scored an internship as a junior. This past year I got really into listening to NPR. On my drive to school every morning, the NPR station was alive and blasting in my car. On the drive home from school, NPR. On the way to ACT class, on the way home from ACT class…you guessed it, I was listening to NPR. Pretty soon, I had the entire NPR schedule memorized (sad, right?). One night, my mom took our family to a theater to watch The Lion King live. I was so surprised to learn that the theater was actually right across the street from the broadcasting office of my city’s public radio station, which incidentally also broadcasts NPR. When I was done fangirling, I got home and immediately logged onto my local public radio’s website, found a few names and email addresses that looked important, and sent an email.
A friend of mine, who is a journalism student at the University of Maryland, College Park, has interned at big names like CNN and ABC and once gave me some really helpful guidelines to sending emails intended for some kind of internship or opportunity. First, you obviously want to introduce yourself; give your name, school, year, major (which won’t apply to us as high school students, but still). Next, tell them the reason why you are contacting them, how they can help you, and then ask to meet with them if possible. I used these guidelines when I sent the NPR email, and it worked perfectly. After sending some type of correspondence, you should probably wait around a week for their response before sending a follow-up. Luckily for me, I received a response within a week, and by this summer I was interning for my local public radio station!
As a high school student, I don’t do too much at the office. I mainly help out at special events, handing out fliers and what not. At the actual station, I give tours and do office work, like organizing files. Even though it isn’t really gaining exposure to broadcast journalism, the fact that I actually get to be in the office, participating behind-the-scenes in my absolute favorite radio station, makes me happy. Plus, it’s something extra to put down on my resume (wink wink).
Other TP staff members have similar stories to mine, too. Fellow intern Josette Marsh says, “Before I was offered an internship with TP, I tried applying to a summer program. When I didn’t get in, I didn’t have a backup plan, so I emailed the editors of three or four local newspapers asking for an internship. I wrote a little snippet about myself and my interests – and two of then replied, and accepted! I didn’t take them, but keep in mind that if you don’t get into the program/internship that you want, you should try working something else out.”
Similarly, Stephanie Jones told me, “I have an internship with a professor at Villanova University. Last summer I did the LEAD program, which is a really great opportunity for minority students. So when I was looking for an internship, I emailed the professor and asked for one since I live close to the college, and he accepted. At my internship, I work with computer micro controllers and do basic programming. The only tip I have is to remember people you’ve connected with, and keep in contact.”
Co-founder of The Prospect Steven Gu interned with his local state senator’s office in Pennsylvania. “My dad asked [the office] if they had any internships since I was trying to figure out what to do during the summer. When my dad told me to give their office a call, I did and they asked if I could send them my resume or anything and then they invited me to have an interview. After the interview, they offered me the internship and the rest was history! As the youngest intern they hired, I mostly did office related tasks such as answering phones, organizing files, replying to constituent letters, and gathering local news for the staff members. This was all new to me and incredibly valuable to have a grip on before I did other jobs. The largest task I was assigned with was calling vendors for our annual Kids’ Fair that the state senator holds.” His advice on scoring internships? Much like our other TP staff members: just ask. “You’d be surprised how many opportunities will open up when you just ask,” he said.