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  • Writer's pictureChrista Ruiz

First-Hand Experience on the Internship Process & Tips for Success

Christa is a Summer Analyst with RBC Capital Markets and a student at the Stevens Institute of Technology studying Quantitative Finance


Securing an internship has become a crucial part of the college experience for many students. Though many students try to find an internship during their summer break during their junior year in hopes it can potentially get them a return offer once they graduate, some students even begin searching during their sophomore or freshman year.


As a student in my second year, I began searching for internships starting in October. As I became more familiar with the application process over the span of almost four months, I came to recognize that the process is pretty monotonous, time-consuming, and inequitable. Applicants are thrown into a pool with everyone else who applied and hope that the few experiences that they have early on is enough to grab the attention of a company. This makes the process especially selective. At this point, four months in, I reached almost 200 applications and only received one offer.


There are a number of top-tier companies that almost exclusively recruit from prestigious universities, which gives most students little to no opportunity to be considered. This recruitment style also does not take into account students from disadvantaged backgrounds that may not have ever been given a fair opportunity to be admitted to one of these colleges.


As a sophomore, I recognized that I had significantly fewer internship opportunities than a junior would. Thus, although my general career interests lay in business analytics, I applied for almost any business role that I thought sounded interesting based on the job description. Any position that could give me experience in a business environment was good enough for me.


In late December, I heard back from the first company that wanted to schedule an interview with me and I was thrilled. Fast forward two months later, and I received interview requests from a little over ten companies. Many of these interviews started coming back all at once. I even became overwhelmed with the amount of interviews I had to balance with school work. When I got into the habit of setting aside time every day to apply to as many as I could, I started hearing back from companies more frequently. Some days it was five, some days it was 20, but making applications a daily habit helped me commit to the process. Winter break was an especially good time to apply since I wasn’t taking classes and a lot of companies post applications in January as well.


In regard to how I found these opportunities, I searched and applied for most of my internships on LinkedIn. For example, I would search “summer 2023” in the jobs tab and filter applications to ones posted within the past 24 hours to increase the chances that my application would be seen. In the beginning of my search, I also used Indeed, but I didn't hear back from any of the jobs I applied to from there. I also felt that LinkedIn provided me with more relevant opportunities. Although I haven’t applied to as many jobs on this platform, Handshake was also a good source for finding opportunities. Handshake is associated with my university, so I believe that internships posted there were more likely to recruit me. I would highly recommend that if a university has a platform like Handshake to utilize it as well.


Besides applying for internships, I also applied for sophomore summits that give students the opportunity to interview for a role in their junior year, or just gain more insight about the company and increase their chances of being noticed in the future. A number of these summits are targeted towards minorities to help underrepresented students gain a better opportunity early on into college. I was fortunate enough to attend one of these summits at a leading investment bank and received an interview opportunity as well.


Though there are companies that do take initiatives such as this, underrepresented students are still typically at a disadvantage in gaining relevant experience and at a good company. For instance, many students may not know where to find these opportunities, or even be aware that they exist in the first place. Students may also struggle with landing professional opportunities that help build their resumes to be noticed by companies to begin with.


This issue can be addressed by a school increasing its corporate outreach and making sure students know about opportunities specifically available to them. Additionally, receiving feedback from opportunities students didn’t get can help applicants tailor their resumes differently or know what experiences and skills they should gain. Maintaining a current list of active roles also helps students not waste their time applying for a role they probably won’t receive. Finally, top-tier companies making a better attempt to diversify where they recruit from will take into account the inclusivity of students from underrepresented backgrounds.


Internships certainly can provide valuable work experience, build a resume, and help students figure out what they want to pursue in their careers. However, the process to get an internship could be far more equitable, and I hope that more strides will be made to change this in the future.


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