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 now is a good time to begin nailing-down plans for next summer.
Although college students usually stand at the head 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 (student applications due February 15, 2019)
- Bank of America (due February 1, 2019)
- Carnegie Institution for Science (applications from graduating seniors only due April 15, 2019)
- Department of Defense/Georgetown University Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (due February 28, 2019)
- Department of the Navy Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (application typically closes in early fall)
- Environmental Protection Agency
- George Mason University Aspiring Scientists Summer Internship Program (ASSIP) (applications due February 15, 2019)
- Geosciences Bridge Program (applications from graduating seniors only due April 19, 2019)
- Goddard Space Flight Center (NASA applications due April 1, 2019)
- High School Diplomats Program (applications due January 9, 2019)
- J. Craig Venter Institute (opportunities posted on January 4, 2019)
- Library of Congress (applications accepted any time)
- The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore
- Montgomery County Police Department
- National Agricultural Library
- National Aquarium (applications due by December 15, 2018)
- National Archives
- National Air and Space Museum (application window: January 15 – February 15, 2019)
- National Eye Institute (applications considered on a rolling basis beginning in mid-December and ending March 1, 2019)
- National Human Genome Research Institute (rolling application process but all due March 1, 2019)
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (rolling application process but all due March 1, 2019)
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (applications due March 1, 2019)
- National Institute of Health Summer Internship in Biomedical Research (applications due March 1, 2019)
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
- National Institute on Aging
- National Institutes of Standards and Technology (applications due February 1, 2019)
- National Marine Sanctuaries
- National Science Education Center (Application window: January 1-March 15, 2019)
- National Security Agency
- Northrop Grumman
- Pepco Holdings
- Research Science Institute (applications due January 15, 2019)
- Rosie Riveters
- National Security Language Initiative for Youth (Department of State immersion program for less commonly taught languages)
- NASA (applications due April 1, 2019)
- The Smithsonian Institution
- Uniformed Services University Summer Research Training
- US Department of Agriculture
- US Department of Education
- US Department of State Pathways Program
- US Secret Service
- Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars (application typically closes in early fall)
- Werner H. Kirsten Student Intern Program at the National Cancer Institute (applications due December 14, 2018)
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 kinds 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.
At the end of the day, internships are great ways to get to know yourself a little better while building skills that will make you competitive for the future.