Applying for Internships

If you are responding to a specific advertised or posted internship position, be sure to follow the sponsor’s directions for making application.  If, for example, the advertisement specifies that your materials should be mailed, don’t assume that an electronic or fax submission would be appropriate.  Application procedures may vary from one organization to another.  Generally speaking, the more an organization relies upon volunteer help to complete its mission, the less formal or rigorous its application procedure will be.  In contrast, a private or professional organization may have a very formal and competitive application process.  If any sponsoring agency has not specified its application procedures, students would do well to send a résumé and cover letter.  Err on the side of professionalism.

Prepare your application materials in a professional manner, just as you would if you were applying for regular employment.  Remember that the purpose of these documents is to get you an interview: they should not be designed as personal history pieces but as marketing tools to “sell” your skills and experience to the sponsoring organization. Include only what is relevant to the position. Consider yourself from the sponsoring organization’s point of view: how can you be of use to the sponsor and contribute to the organization’s goals?  Consider your own objectives: what skills do you want to learn?  What kind of mentorship, training, support, and networking are you seeking?


  • Be sure to read the internship announcement carefully and submit all requested materials by any applicable deadline;
  • Do some research on the internship sponsor so that you can apply and interview knowledgeably;
  • Tailor your resume and cover letter specifically for each position you apply for;
  • Think broadly about your related experiences: most sponsors do not require professional experience, but do value prior internships, volunteer work, academic experiences, and extracurricular activities when selecting interns;
  • Whenever possible, address your materials to a specific individual (usually the hiring manager) and follow up once you’ve submitted them;
  • Ask for help: the UW Career Center and Humanities Academic Services Center (HAS) both feature online resources and offer personal, one-on-one assistance with resumes, cover letters, and interviewing;
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread.  Ask a friend, adviser, or classmate to look your materials over before you submit them;
  • If the sponsor asks for a writing sample, consider the audience when you choose what to submit;
  • Don’t become discouraged if you are not selected: keep applying for internships.  If your resume is not resulting in interviews, make an appointment with a UW career counselor or a HAS adviser to talk about revision and application strategies;
  • Don’t sell yourself short: you have valuable skills to offer!
  • Some internships are more competitive than other internships: if you don’t land that “perfect” internship right away, think about things you can do meanwhile to bolster your resume: do volunteer work, start with a less competitive internship, engage in student leadership/government, join student groups and participate in campus and community activities, etc.
  • Always feel free to discuss your goals with a HAS adviser: we’re here to help!