July 10, 2015, by Laura Estrop

Five Things I Wish I’d Known before Applying for Internships

By Alexandra Batchelor, biology student

Some of you will have just started or be some way into your summer internships in which case, well done, I hope it’s going well! If, like me, you applied but ended up spending the summer doing a different type of work experience, it’s really not something to be worried about!

Applying for internships gave me a lot of practical experience that will help me when I start my search again. I would like to share my advice that I gained, if you’re planning on applying this year.

1. Start early


A lot of the competitive internships I went for last time had a January or February application deadline date, which is of course exam time. My advice to anyone applying for an internship would be to start your search and application early, at least October or November time.

It might seem like overkill to start that far ahead, but you have to remember that before the closing date you’ve got the joys of exams, revision, Christmas, December and January deadlines, and… Well you get the point.

Some schemes close earlier than advertised if they reach a certain amount of applicants. Therefore, it’s good to give yourself plenty of time; it might also help to make a calendar of closing dates for applications so that you don’t miss any.

Photo: CJ

2. Know what you want but be flexible

Plan B

You might have a very specific idea of what you want to do with your future, but you need to bear in mind that the most popular internships will have a lot of competition. It’s all very well for me to want an internship at the New Scientist Magazine, but since they only have three places, with two of those being in America, there’s no point in limiting myself to just applying there.

I found it useful to have a backup plan, if I can’t get a science communication internship, I would be as happy with a lab or fieldwork one. It will still give me that key experience, even if it’s not quite what I want to do after university. 

Photo: Geralt

3. Ask your lecturers

If you’re enjoying a module, you could ask the lecturer if they know of any internships available in their field. Some of the best pointers I had were from one of my lecturers who I had asked about internships. Even if they don’t know of any openings over the summer, they might know about some other form of work placement opportunity. It’s always worth a try and the most you have to lose is 15 minutes writing an email. 

4. Tailor your application


A lot of the internships I applied for wanted both a CV and cover letter. While your CV will have many common elements; contact information, current qualifications, degree class, it is still worth thinking about tailoring your CV to the application.

You should also take extra time and care with your covering letter to make sure it’s relevant to the specific internship you’re applying for. There’s not much point in me talking about writing for a student magazine when I’m applying to a plant pathology internship and likewise, why would I write about my fieldwork experience for a science communication internship? Make sure what you’re saying fits and if they ask you a specific question, make sure you answer it!

Photo: GotCredit – Application

  1. Get it proofread


Get a friend, your mum or your partner to read through your application to make sure you haven’t used the wrong their, there or they’re, a fresh pair of eyes will spot any of those silly little mistakes.

You can also ask the Careers and Employability Service if you need any extra help answering a specific question. But don’t underestimate how long it will take to write a good application and to get someone to look through it, doing it the night before is really not going to work in your favour.

Photo: Nic McPhee – Editing a Paper

Hopefully this advice will be useful to anyone trying to get an internship next year. Good luck!

If you’re starting your search for an internship or work placement now make sure you visit My Career to see all of the latest internship vacancies. Remember you can always book an appointment with our staff if you need any help securing a role or filling out your application form. 

Featured image: Niekverlaan

Posted in Applying For JobsWork experience