Get an internship in high school and spend time in a real work environment. Image: Girl with backpack walking past palm tree.

How and Why to Get an Internship in High School

It’s strongly recommended that college students do an internship before they graduate. It helps them get a leg up in the career-world, especially if they don’t have any work experience at all. But should you get an internship in high school? Is it even possible?

It absolutely is – in fact, more employers than ever are considering passionate, driven high schoolers for internships.

Read on for answers to all your burning questions related to high school internships:

  • Is it necessary to get an internship before college?
  • How do you know whether a high school internship is right for you?
  • What kinds of internships are available for high school students?
  • How do you go about actually getting an internship?

Is it necessary to get an internship in high school?

There are many benefits of high school internships:

  • Internships can improve your college applications. They show your interests and that you are serious about pursuing a higher level career.
  • They can tell you about the kinds of working conditions you want to have as you are researching career paths. For example, an internship can tell you whether you like going into an office or if you really prefer to set your own schedule.
  • An internship that aligns with your prospective major or career path can help you decide whether you love the idea of working in a given field, or if you want to shift your focus elsewhere.
  • This is an opportunity to start networking and building real relationships with employers (who might even write you a letter of recommendation for your college applications.)
  • You have the chance to learn real-world skills, ones you might be able to make money with.

While high school internships are not necessary to get into your target skills, there are obviously several reasons to do one before you start applying to colleges.

Related: This is how to decide what career path is right for you.

Should every high schooler get an internship?

Factors that determine whether you should get an internship in high school: time, interest, relevance.

Every student’s path is different.

And the amount of spare time you have may be limited by other interests, extracurriculars, or life circumstances.

You may want to spend all your time in a research lab. Or, you’re already the captain of your debate team. Maybe you have to work through high school to pay for college.

To decide whether an internship in high school is right for you, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have time to commit to an internship, class assignments, studying for exams, and completing college applications?
  • Is there another activity that better aligns with your interests or future career? For example, if you want to go to school for writing, joining a writing club or submitting essays to magazines might be a better option for you.
  • Do I have the resources to get an internship in high school? For example, if an internship costs money or requires travel, can you make that happen? Can you find one for free? (Short answer: yes.)

If you have the time, interest, and ability to get an internship in high school, go for it!

Otherwise, focus on getting good test scores and course grades, your other interests, and paying for school.

Related: Should you still take the SAT in 2021? Is it worth it?

Where to Find an Internship in High School

List of places to find an internship in high school: people you know, locally, online.

Start your search at the local level.

You’re probably tempted to look for advertised internships for big companies like NASA and Google.

And while those experiences would be great to have, you also have a lot of competition when it comes to the selection process.

So, consider starting your internship search at a local level.

Ask family members, friends, local businesses, volunteer and nonprofit organizations, high school teachers, and your high school guidance counselor about opportunities in your own backyard. You might find established internship programs for high schoolers, or you can work with business owners or organization leaders to create your own internship opportunity.

Work with them to lay out clear expectations of what they need, and what you want to get out of the internship experience.

Note: Many of these opportunities will not be paid. But that’s normal: You’re working to get experience (and for a glowing college admission application.)

An example of a local high school internship opportunity you build for yourself:

Say your local coffee shop might be interested in growing their social media presence. 

You can learn social media growth practices independently and apply your knowledge to their social media account.

They have an increased social media presence, and you have something that shows your social media management knowledge. Use this experience and this tangible result on your applications and to get freelance gigs, if you what to start a side hustle in high school.

Make a connection at a local college.

A lot of professors at colleges and universities (especially research-oriented schools) near you need help.

That “help” might come in the form of line-editing documents, combing over data for errors, or making calls – but these all count as opportunities that you can get something out of.

Research professors at local postsecondary institutions and read up on what they’re working on. Choose a few professors in areas you’re interested in, then send that first cold email.

Admittedly, emailing someone you don’t know at all and asking for something seems scary.

But trust us: Professors love talking about their work.

And the worst thing that can happen is a professor not replying, or telling you that they have no opportunities at the moment.

If you need help making initial contact with a professor, read this.

Search on popular job websites.

Recommended job websites with a bunch of remote and in-person internships for high schoolers:

Just type in “high school internships” and scroll through all your future opportunities.

Check out these dedicated internship and volunteer websites.

There are more dedicated internship and volunteer search websites than we could possibly fit in one post.

But some of the best internship sites include:

How do you go about getting an internship in high school?

Whether you are asking a local business for an opportunity or applying for an established program online, you will need to craft a resume and cover letter showing your interest and any relevant experience you have.

Don’t worry if you don’t have much to put down on these documents. You’re only in high school, and this opportunity is specifically made for students who need experience.

We do highly recommend using Canva to create a well-organized, aesthetically pleasing resume and cover letter. This alone could put you ahead of the pack (many employers enjoy seeing something other than a black-and-white document, unless it’s too hard to read.)

They have free drag-and-drop templates that you personalize.

You might also need to follow up with people you email. Give them a few days, or a week even, to respond.

Then, send a polite follow-up email to remind them of your existence. If they don’t answer the follow-up email, look elsewhere for your internship in high school.

Internship opportunities are all around you.

Do your research, calm your nerves, and make the ask.

You’ll be surprised at what you can do and learn as a high schooler in a real work environment.

But don’t forget to balance your internship responsiblities with your SAT/ACT studying and your courses. Don’t overwhelm yourself just to write a lengthy list of “high school activities” on your admissions applications.

Don’t get overwhelmed by the SAT or ACT. Sign up for one of our upcoming tutoring programs and study smarter, not harder.

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