Greetings from the future! It’s pretty cool here. Want some of the highlights?
You know that amazing (but competitive!) summer program you applied to? Well, you took the time to research, plan, and write a great personal statement. You sent in your application on time, and you were accepted!
The whole experience was even better than you’d imagined! You gained tons of knowledge, hands-on skills, and even more passion to pursue your interests. You can’t wait to update your resume and get started researching colleges in your chosen field.
Sound like a future you want to live in? You can totally have it! But you have to start planning it pronto.
So many students make the mistake of waiting until it’s almost summer to think about what they want to do for the summer. By that time, their first-choice enrichment programs have filled up and their dream internships have been awarded. They get stuck taking the leftovers and wasting time on programs that don’t really interest them just so they can say they did something.
Ick, right? Let’s not let that happen to you! I want to help you land the summer opportunities of your dreams!
If you start now and follow these steps for applying to internships and summer enrichment programs, you can make your dream future a reality!
Figure out what YOU want.
There is no perfect summer program that makes you irresistible to colleges or businesses. So breathe a sigh of relief and get down to thinking about what would further your academic and career goals.
Maybe you know exactly what you want to pursue in college or as a career. Great! That will help you plan for the summer with specific goals in mind. But if you’re still exploring, don’t panic! There are many great choices you can make once you’ve spent a little time thinking.
Your first job is to get clear on what you want out of your summer and why. The most helpful way I know for doing this is—you guessed it—a mind map / bubble cluster brainstorm.
- Grab a blank sheet of paper—no lines!
- Write down everything you can think of about your dream career(s).
- Write down everything you can think of about your college goals. (Use the career notes to help inspire you, but don’t feel anxious if you’re not sure what the perfect career path looks like.)
- Write down all the skills, interests, and experiences you have that are relevant to the college and career elements you wrote down.
- Write down all the ways you love to learn (on computer? by building? in groups?).
- Write down any thoughts you have about productive ways to spend your summer. (Do you want to add some money to our car fund? learn a new skill? meet professionals in the field you think you want to enter? add more experience to your resume? Do you need some more on-the-job experience to be eligible for an opportunity you want to take advantage of in the fall, or even next year?)
- Highlight the items that really make your eyes light up or that come up again and again on your brainstorm. These are the elements you should be looking for when you do your search.
Grab your brainstorm and start searching! Stay focused on your goals, but be open-minded as well. If you have to choose between an unpaid internship in your dream field and a paid one in an area where you have no background, don’t let money be the deciding factor. The experience and “paper trail” of interest in this field may turn out to be more valuable than the paycheck.
Here are some places to start your search:
- Summer enrichment programs for high school students
- Paid and unpaid internships, searchable by location
- Paid internships for high school students
- STEM opportunities
- Paid and unpaid internships with the US State Department
Make your application plan. Starting right now!
Those deadlines are going to pop up sooner than you think. Don’t wait to be inspired. You have to force the inspiration a bit by reading the prompts and brainstorming.
Writers who chase after inspiration get it a lot faster! [Tweet that!]
You need to imagine that this is a graded project. Push yourself to write something thoughtful and genuine. You're up against a lot of other qualified students. What makes you stand out is your excitement and enthusiasm for the topic. And you need time (and a plan!) to develop your unique approach.
Spin your story.
No matter what your background is, your job is to position yourself as an ideal candidate for this program. You'll do this by writing a well-curated statement. That means you'll include some details and exclude others to show yourself in the best light. Don't lie or make stuff up. On the other hand, don't tell your entire life story, complete with failures and shortcomings.
You should definitely discuss how your skills and interests will add to the program. But don’t shy away from talking about what you’ll get out of the program as well. Here are two ways to do that:
Story 1: You're a great candidate because you have tons of experience in this field and know it is for you.
- If you’ve studied this field at school, independently, or in other enrichment programs, play it up!
- Talk about what you’ve learned, what interested you initially, or how this area has affected you as a student and a person.
- Tell an anecdote about an “A-ha!” moment when you really connected with a teacher, classmate, or the material.
- Outline what you would like to do in this field in the future, in both your education and your career.
Story 2: You're a great candidate because your limited experience in this field makes you hungry for more knowledge. You're a voracious and enthusiastic learner.
- If you’ve only had a brief introduction—or maybe none at all—talk about how important the program would be to you so that you can develop your talent in this field.
- Come up with a concrete reason why you’re deeply interested in this field by reaching into your personal experience. Do you want to study cancer research because you lost your aunt to this disease? Do you want to design software because having a smartphone lets you stay in touch with your grandparents in Taiwan?
- Focus on what you would do with the experience you’d gain from the program. What would you go on to study? How? Where? Why?
When you look at the prompt and see that you only have to write between 250 and 500 words, you might feel relieved. That’s way less than you pump out all the time for school essays, right?
But the catch is that you have to write about yourself. And that’s really hard! Most students struggle with how to present themselves in the best light without sounding arrogant. It’s not easy to write a personal statement or statement of intent. It’s one of the hardest types of writing to do well!
Talk through your ideas with a friend, parent, teacher, writing coach, or your pet iguana. (Sometimes just saying your thoughts aloud helps you formulate them.) If you need help making a writing plan, I'm here for you!
Your bright future starts now!
Summer may seem a long way off when you think about all the school you have to get through. But in terms of making plans, it's right around the corner!
Don’t leave your summer internship or enrichment plans to chance, or to the last minute. Do your future self a solid by making a plan and grabbing the best opportunities right now!
Make your commitment right now: what are your dreams for the summer, and what steps are you taking to make them a reality? Tell me in the comments, and I'll offer ideas and suggestions!