Some rough estimates show that every year around 300,000 applicants manage to secure an internship in the USA.
But with nearly 19 million college students and over 6 million unemployed, getting hired as an intern in the United States can be somewhat of a challenge.
This naturally raises the question – how many internships should you apply to before you land one?
Expert recruiters advise candidates to apply to 5 to 10 internships per day to maximize their chances of being selected, especially in competitive markets. This strategy balances volume with the opportunity to customize each application, enabling you to stand out to potential employers.
This number is a bit overwhelming, which is why you shouldn’t get discouraged. Focus on your goal even if it takes 200 applications.
Let’s expand more on the topic of getting an internship and potentially reducing the number of applications needed to succeed.
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Is it hard to land an internship?
Students with lower grades have a harder time landing an internship. Due to a large pool of candidates, companies can afford to take the best-performing students as interns.
Company popularity is another key factor at play – the more popular a company is, the more candidates apply for internships.
In this scientific publication by the University of Southwestern Louisiana, the researchers point out that students who managed to land an internship had significantly higher grades. The publication points out that gender does not seem to be a deciding factor.
The biggest demographic applying for internships is college and university students. Since the majority of them don’t have previous (relevant) work experience, grades seem to be one of the major deciding factors.
The size and popularity of companies also play a big role. For example, big tech companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon have thousands of applicants each year.
The most sought-after companies for internships are usually found in bigger cities. So location matters as well, with some sources showing that New York is the most desired city by applicants.
Why internships are worth your while
Internships are considered a cornerstone in shaping a young professional’s career.
They offer a unique blend of academic application, skill development, and networking opportunities. Let’s delve deeper into their significance:
1. Practical experience
Internships are the bridge between classroom theories and practical, on-the-job training. They allow you to immerse yourself in a professional environment, tackling real challenges and projects.
This hands-on experience not only enhances your understanding of your field but also prepares you for the expectations and demands of the working world.
2. Skill development
While you’ll certainly hone technical skills related to your field, internships also cultivate essential soft skills.
From effective communication and collaboration with a team to managing multiple tasks and deadlines, these skills are universally valued across industries and roles.
Internships position you within a web of industry professionals. You’ll attend meetings, workshops, and perhaps even conferences, expanding your professional circle.
These connections can be instrumental in recommending you for future roles, offering industry insights, or even guiding you as mentors.
4. Understanding workplace dynamics
Every workplace has its unique culture and dynamics. Internships provide a sneak peek into organizational hierarchies, team collaborations, decision-making processes, and more.
5. Resume booster
In a competitive job market, your resume needs to stand out. An internship, especially with a recognized company or in a challenging role, can be a significant differentiator.
It signals to potential employers your proactive nature, your practical experience, and your familiarity with a professional setting.
6. Career clarity
Not everyone is certain about their career path. Internships offer a low-risk environment to explore a role or industry.
You’ll quickly discern what aspects you’re passionate about and which ones you’d rather avoid.
7. Potential Job Offers
Many organizations view internships as an extended interview process.
If you excel in your role, showcase your skills, and fit well within the company culture, there’s a good chance you might be offered a full-time position.
It’s a win-win, with the company securing a tested candidate and you landing a job.
How to increase your chances of securing an internship
While studying hard and getting good grades at college will be major deciding factors, there are certainly a few other good practices that you can follow to increase your chances of landing an internship.
1. Tailor your resume to every company
Building an excellent resume can take trial and error.
However, applicants often report that they landed their dream internship only after tailoring their resume for every specific internship they applied to.
List your educational and professional accomplishments in chronological order.
But also take into consideration any additional assignments, scholarships, and volunteering related to the position you are interested in.
If possible, add any quantifiable data and results that you have achieved – this will distinguish you from other applicants with vague resumes.
2. Use relevant keywords in your resume
Many companies use software that filters applications by keywords. It is recommended to use keywords that are relevant to the position you are applying for.
You can find them in the internship application under the requirements section, such as “You are a good fit for the role if you:”, “What you need to have:”, etc.
3. Use networking and social media to your advantage
It is hard to attend networking events and seminars when you have to study hard all the time.
This is why having a LinkedIn profile can prove to be useful, as there are countless recruitment specialists and talent managers who can help you.
Besides, it is a good idea to follow the social media profiles of the companies you are interested in. This way you can gain access to their intern recruiting events.
Read our guide on messaging recruiters on LinkedIn with templates on exactly what to write for internship inquiries.
4. Seek guidance
Make sure to ask your relatives and friends if they have any acquaintances who work in the field you are pursuing.
Having the right connections can be the stepping stone you need to reach your goals.
While it’s unlikely that they will be recruitment specialists, you can ask them how they landed this job and if they were a part of the company’s internship program.
Also, such connections would look great on your LinkedIn profile.
5. Research smaller companies
If you think that you have no chance to get an internship at a major company, then consider researching smaller companies and start-ups.
It would be easier to land an internship at such a company, even if you have no previous experience.
Who knows, you might end up at a company that will be just as big as the well-known household names a few years down the line.
When to apply for internships?
Successful interns share that the best time to apply for internships would be during junior year, so you can land an opportunity during the summer before senior year.
This allows you a better perspective on what you have to work on once you return to school.
For example, you can apply from August until December during junior year because the lists for most summer internship programs become full by spring.
Even candidates who have excellent resumes are likely to be put on a waiting list once the initial applicants have been selected.
However, if you make it to the interview stage, don’t be afraid to show character and negotiate your salary.
How many applications does it take to get an internship?
Some candidates who have landed internships share that they had to apply to over 200 positions before they were called in for a beneficial opportunity.
While this seems like a large number, remember that all of the efforts will be worth it once you are in the company that you are interested in.
Keep in mind that you are able to use the same resume format for multiple internship applications.
What may slow you down during this process is having to register on individual platforms for each separate company.
It is recommended that you keep track of your accounts by creating a spreadsheet file and logging in all information that you have provided, as well as the resume format you have sent.
At a later point, you may want to revisit those applications and update them with your latest educational and professional achievements.
You can start with 25 – 30 applications per week and increase to 50 after a while if you are not getting any responses. Yes, it is important to apply to as many internships as possible.
However, remember to give yourself enough time to review the information you are providing – ensuring a polished, outstanding resume can help you with getting noticed by recruiters.
Do not underestimate your earliest attempts – this could very well be your shortcut to an internship.
Is it okay to apply to multiple internships at once?
It is recommended to apply to multiple internships. As positions are limited, make sure to apply to as many internships as possible.
Some companies take more time to review applications. Others, as reported by netizens, can call you in for an interview as soon as a week after they have received your application.
Is it possible to do two internships at the same time?
While some internships require you to stick to one company, some opportunities will allow you to be an intern for more than one position. Here are a few good practices:
Look for part-time internships – this will give you more flexibility and provide you with additional time to do research outside of work.
Try to get one full-time internship in the field you are interested in, and a part-time one that would complement it. The second one should not be as straining and time-consuming.
In case the two schedules overlap, contact your project manager to ask if your working hours can be adjusted. And, of course, if starting a second internship is allowed.
My advice on getting an internship
As I explained, the job market is very competitive, and it could take you several months and hundreds of applications to land your internship.
That is why you need to have patience and consistency on your side. Don’t give up and don’t lose hope. The calls from recruiters will eventually come.
Until then, follow the steps I outlined based on my experience, as they might help you land an internship quicker and with fewer applications.
In the end, if you are unable to land an internship, there are other ways to gain relevant professional experience through volunteering, for example.
Frequently asked questions
What’s the best time of year to apply for internships?
While many companies offer summer internships and start their selection process in the winter, it’s wise to keep an eye out year-round as opportunities can arise at any time.
Is it okay to follow up after submitting an internship application?
Yes, a polite follow-up email after a week or two can show your continued interest and initiative.
How long do internships typically last?
Most internships last between 2 to 6 months, depending on the industry and seasonality.
How can I turn my internship into a full-time job?
Exceed expectations, network within the company, express your interest in a full-time role, and seek feedback regularly.