Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

The Ultimate Timeline for Landing the Summer Internship of Your Dreams

If you’re a college student, your hunt to find a summer internship is a long, draining process that starts way before it even gets warm outside. Even worse, with so many different internships out there, it’s hard to know when to begin looking.

Need a little help with the process? Below is a breakdown of what you need to be doing every month during the spring semester to help you land the most rad summer internship ever.

January: Getting Organized

January is the time to get yourself situated and to really start hitting the ground running when it comes to finding what you want to do this summer.

Finding Opportunities

Not sure where to find internship opportunities? There are a couple of great places to start. First, don’t be afraid to head over to your college’s career center to see what resources they have both in-person and online. Many colleges have digital databases where students can check out internships.

In addition, a lot of times these databases contain information on students or alumni who have worked at a particular company in the past, giving you the opportunity to network with these people and set up informational interviews to learn more about their experience at a company you’re considering.

Another great option for finding information on internships is industry blogs (which typically include internship listings). Again, your career center might be able to help you with this, or if you know someone who works in the industry you want to go into, ask for his or her input.

Next, don’t be afraid of internship search engines, like the one on The Muse. Below are just a few sample listings.

Lastly, instead of focusing on just finding advertised internships, decide which companies or types of companies you’d like to work for. Is it your dream to land an internship at Google? Check out the company’s “Careers” page to see what’s available. Repeat this process with any other companies you’re interested in.

Recording Everything

If you haven’t done so already, create a spreadsheet to keep track of every internship you’re interested in—it can be overwhelming to keep it all in your head!

Some of the things this spreadsheet should include for every potential internship:

  • Name of internship opportunity
  • Company
  • Industry
  • Whether the opportunity is paid or unpaid
  • Location
  • Materials needed for the application
  • Deadlines (both in terms of when things are due and when you should hear back)
  • Name and contact information of the hiring manager (so you can follow up)
  • Name and contact information of any professional connections you have at that company

Some summer internship opportunities have applications due in January and February (some even earlier, like in October and November), so make sure you’re keeping a close eye on everything you want to apply for.

Putting Together Application Materials

Once you’ve figured out where you want to intern and what information those applications require, it’s time to get going on putting together your materials.

Never created a resume or cover letter before? You’re in luck: We’ve put together a list of 41 easy-to-use resume templates and an internship cover letter guide to help you get started.

If you’re also trying to figure out how to find time for applications in addition to doing your school work, come up with a plan that works for your schedule, and prioritize applications based on their deadlines and intensity. For instance, you might want to take time on the weekends when you’re not in class to work on internship applications, especially ones that will require more time or have special extra requirements.

Pro tip: Try to get internship applications done at least two weeks in advance. That way, if something comes up or there are any issues, you have some wiggle room to fix a problem.

February: Applying

This is going to be a big application month—and while it’s going to be a lot of work, you have to do it to land your perfect internship!

As you’re applying, you should also be looking at your location and housing options. For example, are you already sold on having a New York summer experience? Narrow down your internship list to only include those in New York and start checking out when summer housing options become available. Are you still open to different locations? Checking out housing in a variety of cities early is a great way to determine if they’re truly viable options.

For instance, you might want an internship in Austin, Texas but may find that affordable housing is nowhere close to the office (therefore forcing you to either have a car or take public transportation). It’s better to figure out if certain locations will be difficult now, rather than after you’ve already committed to an internship offer.

The best way to start looking for housing is through Google, since many housing organizations are based on city (just type in something like “intern summer housing NYC” and you’ll get options galore!). Universities in the cities you’re looking at are also good places to research for housing. For example, The New School, NYU, and FIT open up their residential buildings to interns during the summer. Some of these options can be pricey, but they also come with a ton of perks and amenities.

Some companies may even begin to give you offers this month. If an offer comes up, talk to the employer about when you’d need to give an answer. Some companies understand that you might be waiting for other internship decisions in March and April and will let you hold off on accepting the offer, but other companies may want your decision as soon as possible.

March: Continuing the Process

For many students, late February and early March marks the time when companies start interviewing serious candidates for positions. If a company reaches out to you, make sure you respond quickly and politely to figure out when and where you’ll be interviewed.

Additionally, a large portion of your internship decisions will start to come around mid-March, so be sure to communicate with employers in terms of when they need a decision from you.

Even if you don’t have responses from internships yet, this is a good time to start weighing the pros and cons of each and getting the information you need to help make a decision. Try to find current or former employees and interns you can talk to through informational interviews to help you make a decision. You can typically find people through LinkedIn or Twitter.

If you can (i.e., you definitely know what city you want to be in), this is a good time to really nail down your housing for the summer, as March is when many housing prices (usually for places specifically housing summer interns) start to go up. Don’t be caught paying twice as much as students who got an early start on things!

April: Making Your Decision

Things should be winding down in April: You should have most of your decisions in, the information you need to make a choice, and housing mostly figured out. All that’s left to do now is dot the i’s and cross the t’s!

If you haven’t committed anywhere yet, it’s time hunker down and make up your mind!

If you’ve already committed to an internship, make sure you’re talking to your employer about next steps, like putting you on payroll, submitting forms, and any other pre-internship onboarding processes. Definitely don’t slack off on filling out forms and going through these steps! Not only does it look bad if you’re not on top of it, but you could also potentially jeopardize your internship for not filling something out on time.

May: Getting Yourself Ready

There’s a chance you’re still waiting for a few stragglers when it comes to internship responses, but most of you should have made your decisions by now. So spend this month double-checking that everything is in place and getting yourself ready for your big summer!

Does your place of residence have all appropriate paperwork? Have you submitted any additional paperwork to your employer? Do you know where the company’s offices are, what you’re supposed to wear, and what you should bring on the first day? Is there anything the company wants you to have read ahead of time so you can hit the ground running? These are the types of questions to get sorted out before you leave for any internship.

And if you get to this month and everything’s fallen through for some reason? Step one: Don’t panic. Step two: Read our “OMG I Don’t Have an Internship Yet” Game Plan to figure out how to get the most out of your summer anyway.

Overall, the internship application process is all about staying diligent and organized. If you know exactly what you’re applying for and when everything is due, apps are not that stressful, nor is finding housing.

And just remember: It’ll all be worth it when you’re chilling at your dream internship this summer.

Photo of college student courtesy of Shutterstock.

A logo with "the muse" in white text.