While colleges increasingly emphasize the value of “experiential” or “hands-on” learning within their own communities, high school students are discovering real benefits in setting aside time during their high school careers for internships or other out-of-classroom experiences. In fact, they are finding that internships provide amazing opportunities to gain significant work experience while exploring long-term career options.
But these opportunities don’t magically appear. You have to plan ahead and do a little networking.
And believe it or not, now is a good time to begin nailing-down plans for next summer.
Although college students usually stand at the front of the line for internships, businesses and nonprofit organizations are increasingly holding positions open for students currently in high school or those transitioning to college. But make no mistake—these positions are getting increasingly competitive. And many application deadlines are coming significantly earlier than in past years.
It may take advance planning and persistence, but opportunities are out there.
Going through the internship application process teaches much-needed job search and employment skills. Preparing a résumé, asking for recommendations, landing an interview, and understanding what it means to be a responsible employee are all skills that give high school students an edge in college and beyond.
And it’s no secret that internships strengthen college applications, as these opportunities introduce students to career fields or potential majors and reinforce valuable research or lab skills.
An internship helps students understand how professional organizations function in the real world. While learning and working, interns have the opportunity to refine career goals. In fact, a summer internship can serve as a “trial period” to test ideas about professions and industries without making any long-term commitments.
If you’re especially lucky, these kinds of opportunities can also lead to award-winning science fair projects, journal articles, or patents.
Where are the internships?
Local businesses and organizations sometimes have formal internship programs designed specifically for high school students. But for the most part, these programs do not offer housing and are usually limited to students able to commute or living in the immediate area.
For example, here is a sample of the many organizations making internships available to high school students in the Washington, DC area:
- American Fisheries Society Hutton Program (due January 31, 2017)
- Bank of America (due January 27, 2017)
- Department of Defense/Georgetown University Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (due February 28, 2017)
- Department of the Navy Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Federal Highway Administration 2016 Summer Transportation Internship (applications due January 20, 2017)
- George Mason University Aspiring Scientists Summer Internship Program (ASSIP) (applications due February 5, 2017)
- Geosciences Bridge Program (applications due March 31, 2017)
- Goddard (applications due March 1, 2017)
- High School Diplomats Program (applications due January 8, 2017)
- J. Craig Venter Institute, DiscoverGenomics Science Education Program
- Library of Congress (applications accepted any time)
- The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore
- Montgomery County Police Department
- National Aquarium
- National Archives
- National Air and Space Museum (application window: January 15 – February 15, 2017)
- National Eye Institute (applications due March 1, 2017)
- National Human Genome Research Institute (rolling application process but all due March 1, 2017)
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (applications due March 1, 2017)
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (applications due March 1, 2017)
- National Institute of Health Summer Internship in Biomedical Research (applications due March 1, 2017)
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
- National Institute on Aging
- National Institutes of Standards and Technology (applications due February 1, 2017)
- National Marine Sanctuaries
- National Science Education Center (Application window: January 1-March 15, 2017)
- National Security Agency
- Research Science Institute (applications due January 12, 2017)
- Rosie Riveters (spring internship)
- National Security Language Initiative for Youth (Department of State immersion program for less-commonly taught languages)
- NASA (applications due March 1, 2017)
- Northrop Grumman
- The Smithsonian Institution
- Uniformed Services University Summer Research Training
- US Department of Agriculture
- US Department of State Pathways Program
- US Secret Service
- Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars
- Werner H. Kirsten Student Intern Program at the National Cancer Institute (applications due December 16, 2016)
For a great list of opportunities outside of the DC area, check the webpages maintained by the Rochester Institute of Technology (scroll down for high school students and note that while the dates may not be updated the links are).
Be aware that some internship opportunities are “salaried” positions, some have stipends, and some are strictly volunteer. Again, they are generally highly competitive, and some deadlines may already be past. So make note for next year.
Also, many organizations don’t advertise the availability of summer internships. This is when you have to do a little investigative work on the internet and through other kind of public job listings. Use your networks—parents, relatives, family friends, teachers—anyone who may have contacts in businesses or organizations of interest to you. Internships, particularly for students at least 16 years of age, are great ways to get to know yourself a little better while building skills that will make you competitive for the future.
Nancy Griesemer is an independent educational consultant and founder of College Explorations LLC. She has written extensively and authoritatively about the college admissions process and related topics since 2009. Never miss one of Nancy’s articles – subscribe to her mailing list below.