Originally Posted: Apr 16, 2020
Last Updated: Aug 14, 2020
Binge-watching The Office five times this summer sounds tempting. So does lying on the beach all day, every day, taking a much-needed breather from school (when beaches open back up—fingers crossed!). But your summer would be a bit more fun if you had some extra funds. Even without the money, wouldn’t it be nice to have a cool experience on your high school résumé to really make it pop?
Getting a job may seem almost impossible with statistics showing teen unemployment at a staggering 14.3%, plus the current state of the world. Even with the scary numbers, there are people trying to help; there are hundreds of programs across the country to assist students in finding paid work for when things get back to normal. You just have to know where to look!
There are a ton of private companies that want to help high school students succeed by giving them summer internships. Many corporations partner with companies in local communities to provide internships for high schoolers. A lot of these programs also have learning modules incorporated into the programming, many featuring leadership skills.
For example, Bank of America hosts an internship program for high schoolers in cities across the country. Juniors and seniors are placed in local nonprofits for eight-week paid internships. At the end of the internship, students gather together for a leadership summit in Washington, DC. This summit is at no cost to student participants and focuses on how the government, businesses, and nonprofit organizations address different community needs.
For students in Boston, John Hancock Financial hosts a summer scholars program. These MLK Summer Scholars are given paid internships in nonprofits around the city for eight weeks. Internships range from STEM-focused positions at the Museum of Science to the chance to interact with the past at the Museum of African American History. Students also participate in forums every other week where they discuss leadership skills and learn from the leadership and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
If you live in western Washington State, Microsoft offers several programs for high school students. They offer a six-week internship to students interested in video game development where interns learn about and interact with the development team for Minecraft. They also have a 10-week paid internship for students interested in software engineering in which students work with mentors to produce real-world projects.
To find corporate-sponsored internship programs, ask your parents if their companies offer internships, or see if your school counselor knows about any programs like these in your area. You can also go directly to the websites for companies near you and do a site search for high school internships or student programming.
You’ve probably heard of the pre-college summer programs many colleges and universities host for high school students. Many students will gravitate to these options because they’re highly promoted as preparation for college (and they are). But did you know that many institutions also offer internships for high school students?
Stanford University has a range of programs for students interested in the sciences. Their summer internship opportunities range from research modules focused on environmental science to medical science research to health and medical training. Just be sure to double-check each program’s requirements as some opportunities are only open to Bay Area students.
Students accepted to the Simon Cancer Center Summer Research Program at Indiana University are given a stipend to spend eight weeks learning about cancer research and interacting with medical research professionals. The program is designed to increase the number of students participating in medical research from populations currently underrepresented in the field. A paid internship that embraces diversity and gives students real-world experience? Sounds like a win.
Check the websites of the colleges in your area to see if they have any summer programs available to you. State universities are especially likely to offer internships and other programs designed to help high school students achieve their goals.
City-sponsored internship programs
For example, Chicago has a youth employment program through the mayor’s office called One Summer Chicago. The mayor’s office also has jobs and events specifically for students with disabilities, and these services aren’t only for the summer. The Chicago Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities’ Youth Employment Program offers year-round programming designed specifically to help students with disabilities with the transition from high school to college or the workforce.
If you’re not sure whether your local government offers this kind of program, talk to your counselor or go to your city’s website and search for youth programs.
Additional internship advice
Most of the above programs, and programs similar to them, have application deadlines in February or March. Start researching and applying to programs in December or January to make sure you have the highest chance of getting accepted.
If you’re applying to highly competitive internships, make sure you have a backup plan in case you’re not accepted. If you apply to multiple programs and get accepted to more than one, it’s easy to say you’re no longer interested in a program. It’s far more difficult to find a program that’s still open later on if you only apply to one.
Consider other options too
Yes, it would be great to have a high school internship under your belt. But if there are none available in your area pertaining to your interests, you can still have similar experiences; you just have to get more creative.
For example, if you’re interested in animals, check with your local zoo, aquarium, or animal shelter. Even if they don’t have an official internship program, they may have seasonal jobs or volunteer programs you can apply for. And you can talk to your supervisor about what responsibilities you have and how you can adapt those to your specific interests.
For more advice on succeeding at work and internships, check out our Internships and Careers section.