Tips on Scoring High School Internships

Editor, Porter Sargent Handbooks

Apr   2012



We talked about summer internships for high school students back in August, but it seems worth revisiting as summer approaches. More and more teens are looking to internships for a taste of real-world experience in their potential career, but deadlines have already passed for most highly selective internship programs with large organizations like NASA or Bank of America.

So if you weren’t lucky enough to score one of those, you need to go local. Ask your guidance counselor if any businesses in the community have expressed interest in hiring students, but don’t limit yourself to companies with formal internship programs: in some cases, a business might not even want a summer intern until that perfect applicant (that’s you!) walks in the door.

Okay, so it’s not quite that easy. But there are opportunities available to students who take the initiative to track them down, says Jessica Givens, a Houston-based college admission counselor and author of Get Your Summer Strategy On!

“The problem is usually that kids are just afraid,” Givens says. “We encourage students to find local businesses, call up or walk right in and say ‘I’m a high school student, here’s my résumé, and I’m wondering if I could spend a week here this summer and learn more about what you do.’”

Givens says the first step is to put together a résumé. But what exactly does that entail for a high school student without much education or work experience?

  • Previous employment. Even if it’s just a part-time job that doesn’t have anything to do with the business you’re applying to, listing prior work experience shows you’re not a total stranger to the workplace.
  • Relevant course work. If you’re applying to intern with a local bank, mention those straight A’s in economics classes.
  • Extracurricular activities. Make sure to highlight any leadership roles. For example, serving as a student council officer looks great if you’re trying to intern with a local politician or campaign.
  • Special skills and awards. Are you a Photoshop wiz? Do you speak any other languages fluently? Don’t brag, but list any special skills or honors you’ve received that could be relevant. 

For more help, check out the résumé builder on Givens’ website,

Givens says students should research company websites before calling or visiting, and be ready to give three reasons why you’re interested in interning with each firm. And don’t be afraid of doing menial tasks if it’s the only way to get your foot in the door.

“I tell students to be willing to do anything from making coffee to running errands just to be there,” she says. “Most businesses are really willing to let kids come in and volunteer for a week or two.”

So what are you waiting for? Get your résumé together and start your internship search before it’s too late. 

Have any readers already arranged internships for this summer, or care to share experiences from past internships? Let us know in the comments! 

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About Jim Martinho

Jim Martinho

Jim worked as an Editor at Porter Sargent Handbooks from 2005 until 2012, following his graduation from Northwestern University with a degree in journalism. Jim’s first task at Porter Sargent was to research summer programs for the Guide to Summer Camps and Summer Schools, published since 1924 to describe recreational and educational summer opportunities for kids and teens. Jim helped to make the Guide’s 1600+ program listings fully searchable online at In his free time Jim enjoys reading, playing guitar, and seeing live music. He spent his own high school summers in suburban Boston working at a supermarket and freelancing for local newspapers.

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