What should I be looking for in an internship?

Overall, you want to gain work experiences that will help you to start to answer the question of “Is this what I want to do after I graduate (remembering that most students will have several professional careers over their lifetimes)?” Therefore, you want to engage in internships that allow you a first-hand look into an occupational field of interest. As you are researching internship opportunities, you want to try to determine what kind of job responsibilities will be offered to you as an intern. This information may be shared in an advertisement, as well as through an interview with an employer. The quality of experiences offered sometimes will outweigh the prestige of the name. It is also common for students to engage in different kinds of internships until they find a career field that fits best.

How do I find an internship?

How do I find an internship opportunity using on-line databases such as LACN?

Conduct multiple searches using different keywords just as you would if you were to conduct research on an online database for an academic paper. For example, if you are interested in doing an internship in organic farming, the keywords “organic,” “farming,” and “agriculture” will bring up opportunities of interest.

Students sometimes fall victim to giving up before they give a resource a chance. It may take a few of attempts!

What if I can’t find what I am looking for on the on-line databases?

Keep going back at least on weekly basis to these databases as new opportunities (those from Colby and otherwise) are being listed daily. Other resources to think about are individuals in your network: academic faculty, family, friends, friends of the family, past employers, parents of friends, or basically anyone that you know! Also, don’t forget about the Alumni Directory as a resource to locate individuals to add to your network.

Is it appropriate to ask my parents or my friends about internship opportunities?

Yes! These individuals are part of your network and may know of people or opportunities related to what you are interested in pursuing. The key in asking these closer relations for potential opportunities is being clear in what it is you are hoping to do and to be professional in your request.

Is it a good idea to use a search engine like Google to find an internship?

Yes, but do so with caution. In recent years, more and more internship companies are popping up, attesting to having great internship opportunities for college students with promises of placement. These companies will advertise on search engines like Google. Make sure to research these companies carefully by reading the fine print before applying. Oftentimes companies that specialize in connecting students to internships will charge hefty fees and cannot legally guarantee internship placement.

Internet search engines can be beneficial in helping you to locate companies and organizations in a particular career field of interest and/or in a specific geographic location. For example, students who express interest in wanting to work in healthcare and for a non-profit organization may want to conduct an internet search with keywords, “non-profit” “healthcare” and “low income.” It is common that company and organization websites will have links for employment or career opportunities with contact information.

How can the Alumni Directory help me find an internship?

While the Alumni Directory is not meant to serve as a job finder, it can allow you to locate contact information of alumni and parents who are willing to serve as mentors. The Alumni Directory allows you to conduct searches on career fields, business locales, and academic majors of alumni and parents. After an initial correspondence, students may want to consider professionally inquiring about internship opportunities.

To become registered for the Alumni Directory, please contact the Career Center to make an appointment or stop by during our drop-in hours.

How do I appropriately ask an alumni or a parent I found on the Alumni Directory about an internship opportunity?

If you locate an alumnus/a or parent on the Alumni Directory that you would like to contact, first see if there is a “preferred” e-mail address. If not, contact him or her by the work phone number listed. Start off by introducing yourself with your name, class year, and major. Explain to them in a short paragraph your interest in his/her career field and that you want to learn more about it. Inquire about a 20 minute phone conversation at a time that is convenient for the alum or parent. Alternatively, ask if they would be willing to answer some questions by e-mail. Provide your contact information, preferably a phone number and an email address. Don’t forget to offer appreciation for their consideration.

For follow-up correspondence, prepare a list of questions about the occupational field about which you want answers. Use these as a guide during your conversation or response. If the alum or parent has been positive in his/her response to you during the conversation, you may want to ask about an internship at that time. Follow-up with a “Thank You” email or letter.

Does the Career Center only have internships in Maine or in the northeast?

It is important for students to understand that a majority of the internships offered through Colby are from Colby alumni and parents. A good percentage of Colby alumni and parents are located in Maine and the northeast, in general. Therefore, in our database, we tend to have a larger number of internships located in the northeast than in other parts of the country. That said, however, we also have access to several other databases to help you find opportunities outside of the northeast.

If you have a particular geographic region in mind, consider speaking with a career counselor to help you brainstorm different internship resources to explore.

Is it a good idea to send my resume and cover letter to a company even if an internship position isn’t advertised?

Please do not do this. Sending your resume and cover letter without previous communication may result in wasted effort by having your application materials thrown away.

You can call the company’s human resources department first to find out about available opportunities. Or, you may consider sending a letter of interest. A letter of interest is a very specific type of unsolicited cover letter that is not intended for a position posting, but rather to find out about potential professional opportunities within a given company. Before doing so, however, we strongly encourage you to come into the Career Center to learn more about composing a letter of interest.

What if I call or email a company or an organization about an internship and one isn’t advertised?

While this is not a bad idea, it does fall under the category of “cold calling.” It is best to do this provided that you know someone within the company or organization. If you do not know anyone in the company or organization you are interested in, start by speaking to someone who works in the human resources department or sending a letter of interest to ask about internship opportunities. Do not just send in a resume and cover letter! While internships may not be directly advertised, depending on the company, they may welcome the opportunity to take on an intern. Overall, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

How do I apply for an internship?

How many internships should I apply to?

This depends on your career field of interest. For example, high-profile internships with large finance corporations are extremely competitive, and therefore, students are encouraged to apply to many positions. Other fields, such as film and theater, are competitive because very few opportunities exist. While in the field of education, internships tend to be easier to locate. Factors to consider before applying are your desired career field, GPA, class year, past work and volunteer experiences, and the geographic location in which you wish to work.

Regardless of your field of interest, it is not a good idea to apply to only one internship. Applying to internships and jobs is a process. You may start off applying to two to three internships, and then continue to apply to new opportunities as they arise until you get a desirable position. Overall, you want to consider the quality of the experiences rather than the quantity of internships.

When should I start applying for internships?

Applying for jobs and internships does not necessarily reflect the schedule of an academic calendar. Internships are being offered at various times of the year, and so there is no one “application period.” This is true for both January and summer internships. However, there are some companies and organizations that will have deadlines for their internship programs or positions. Do not wait until the deadline-apply early to have a better chance at securing a position.

Best advice is to start early and speak with a career counselor if you feel that you need guidance on the process. In addition to having your resume polished, you want to start researching positions and networking with contacts early in the semester before coursework begins to pile up.

It’s December or it’s May, is it too late?!?

Yes and no.

While the deadlines for some internships have passed, there may be opportunities available to you. However, time is of the essence, especially if you wish to register your internship through the Career Center in order to receive Jan Plan Credit or Transcript Notation. Due dates for internship applications (for Jan Plan Credit or Transcript Notation) vary each year, but are typically in mid-December for January internships and mid-May for summer internships. Please check the Career Center’s website each fall for specific deadlines.

It is important that you allow for some flexibility at this stage of the game. If you are getting a late start, you may have to make compromises such as in the field of internship or in the geographic location. It is also a good idea to apply to internship positions that are advertised rather than contacting individuals and asking for an internship that has not been created.

Will I need a resume and cover letter in order to apply to internships?

Most often, yes.

Many internship positions will request that you send a resume and a cover letter in order to apply, even if they have a formal application. Please visit the Career Center’s website or make an appointment to see a career counselor to answer your questions about creating or revising a resume or a cover letter.

How much time should I devote to finding an internship?

It is recommended that students set aside at least a couple hours a week on the entire internship process from start to finish. This will include working on a resume and cover letters, researching internship positions, calling and emailing employers, and so on. Students should schedule this process just as they schedule their classes, club meetings, and study times.

Why is it that some students have landed internships and I haven’t gotten one yet?

Even though we know that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to our peers, we do it anyway. Try your best not to do this as it may make you less motivated to work on getting an internship. If you have concerns about your qualifications, application materials, or your approach to finding an internship, speak with a career counselor to discuss these issues. The difference between you and another candidate for an internship position may be something that can be easily fixed with a visit to the Career Center. Overall, it is not uncommon for students to apply for multiple positions over a period of time regardless of great qualifications.

What if I am abroad or will be going abroad, how can I get an internship?

Thinking ahead and preparing early is the best way to go if you will be abroad and want to do an internship once you return. Some students have been able to set up internships six months in advance knowing that they will be out of the country for a semester.

If you are abroad and have reliable access to the internet and a phone, it is not impossible for you to search for and to secure an internship while away. You still have access to the Career Center’s website at, which hosts a series of websites with internship listings, including Colby Connect, LACN, Spotlight on Careers, and Internships-USA. You may also want to investigate the Alumni Directory for contacts. If you have particular companies and organizations in mind, conduct a Google search with the name and find if an employment link or human resources contact information is listed on the company website. Overall, you may be able to conduct the entire process via phone and e-mail, but just be mindful of the time difference.

Alternatively, if you are looking to secure an internship abroad while you are overseas, please visit our Internships Abroad site.

If you are abroad and do not have reliable access to phone or internet, contact with what you are hoping to do and a counselor may be able to assist you by e-mail depending on your interests, what you were able to accomplish before going abroad, and present timeframe.

How do I decide on an internship?

I haven’t heard back from an internship, how long should I wait and what should I say?

Usually internships and jobs require an in-person or a phone interview, during which employers will often state when they will get back to you with a decision. It is also appropriate for you to ask when you should hear back from them at the end of an interview if the employer does not offer this information first.

If it has been at least a week since your interview and you have not been told when you will hear back, it is appropriate for you to call or e-mail the employer and ask. In your correspondence, you want to emphasize your interest in the position and ask when you may hear back from the organization with a decision. This extra step may work to your advantage as the employer will want to hire someone who is a “go-getter” and who demonstrates interest in his/her company/organization.

What if I have received offers from two (or more) internships, and can’t decide?

If you have been offered more than one internship position, ask the employers if you can have a couple of days before you make a decision. During that time, research the companies and organizations thoroughly and learn as much as you can about them. If there are interns currently working at these locales, ask the employers if it would be okay for you to talk with them about their experiences. You may even want to consider writing a list of pros and cons for the internship positions to aid in your decision making or talk with a career counselor.

Before turning down an offer, first make sure you accept the internship you want and finalize the start date. For the position(s) you are turning down, express your appreciation for the offer and explain that you have taken another internship position. You do not need to explain why you took the other internship, unless the employer asks. Always offer words of gratitude for their time and consideration.

How many internships should I do before I graduate?

At least one, but more if it is possible.

Research shows that students who engage in internships before graduation tend to be better prepared for the world of work and are more likely to get quality employment positions post graduation than students who don’t. This is also true of students who are planning to apply to graduate, law, or medical school. In some instances, internships will turn into full-time employment opportunities for students post graduation!

What about housing and financial support?


How do students support themselves financially if they do an unpaid internship?

Unfortunately the number of unpaid internships outweighs the number of paid internships. If you want to do an unpaid internship, but need an income, consider asking about paid opportunities within your company or organization, especially if your internship is part-time. Students also may opt to conduct an unpaid internship on a part-time basis while working at another paid job. If taking on a part-time internship is not an option, the Career Center offers come funding options; more information can be found on the Funded Internships page of the Career Center’s website.

How can I find housing if my internship is in a location where I don’t know anyone?

There is a binder in the Career Center’s library, titled “Housing Options”, which lists potential housing options by state. In addition, Craigslist ( is another good resource for finding temporary housing based on geographic location. Also, colleges and universities often rent out student housing at a discounted rate during the summer months. To get more information about college and university summer housing options, contact the residential life offices.

What do I need to know about the Colby internship application?


Do I have to complete the internship application through the Career Center in order to do an internship?

Students often will choose to complete the application because it will allow them to receive Jan Plan credit for January internships, academic credit or transcript notation. If a student would like to receive Jan Plan credit, academic credit, or transcript notation, an application (available online) must be completed, along with other required documents. For additional information regarding internship criteria and policy, please visit the Career Center website and review “internship criteria.”

Should I wait until I have confirmed an internship before I arrange for a Faculty Sponsor?

No, as soon as you have a clear idea of the type of internship you want to pursue, you should identify who you would like to serve as your potential Faculty Sponsor. The first step is to determine if this faculty member is agreeable to serve in this capacity; you can reach out to him/her via e-mail or in person.

Is my Faculty Sponsor the same person as my Faculty Advisor?

It can be, but more frequently, it is not. Your Faculty Sponsor for your internship is a member of the teaching faculty whose academic specialty is usually in an area related to the subject of the internship.

What should I discuss with my Faculty Sponsor?

The most important item to discuss with your Faculty Sponsor is the nature of the academic product you will produce at the end of the internship. Many students maintain a daily Reflective Journal (The Career Center staff can provide guidance on this process). Other students agree to write an Analytical Paper or construct a Creative Project. The Faculty Sponsor determines the length and nature of these academic products.

Can I earn academic credit for an internship?

Yes, beginning in 2011-2012 Colby will offer academic credit for internship experiences. However, if a student chooses not to pursue academic credit, he/she can still earn transcript notation (to document the experience on your transcript without receiving credit or a grade) or Jan Plan credit (for an internship you complete during the January term) for an internship.

Are we still allowed to do field experiences for credit?

Colby is no longer approving field experiences for academic credit or Jan Plan credit. The term “Field Experience” tends to mean different things from one academic department to the next. An internship is clearly defined as being a career-related work experience with an on-site work supervisor.

If I am not pursuing academic credit for an internship, why should I register an internship and fill out the internship application?

Many employers are now requiring written documentation from the college that the internship has been formally registered and is under the supervision of a Faculty Sponsor. Upon completion of your internship, you will receive transcript notation showing the dates and the name of the organization at which you did your internship. The transcript notation will only be on your transcript upon final completion of your internship; this includes handing in your final internship project to your Faculty Supervisor, receipt of your on-site supervisor’s evaluation, and completion of the internship survey.

How do I submit a Colby Internship Application?

On-line applications for Jan Plan and summer (or fall and spring) internships can be accessed here. Application deadlines are updated on a yearly basis; for current deadlines, please see Credit Deadlines on the Career Center’s website.

The application must specify:

  • The number of hours per week (you will be working) at the job site
  • The name and contact information of the on-site supervisor
  • A 375-word proposal detailing expected responsibilities and learning objectives