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A Guide to Internships for High School Students

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Moriah Adeghe in a CollegeVine livestream.




This article is based on a livestream by college expert and advisor Moriah Adeghe. She discusses:


  • How high school internships can provide valuable experience, connections and insight into the professional world, and can help determine if a certain field is a good fit.  
  • The benefits and drawbacks of high school internships compared to paid jobs.
  • Tips for finding the right internship for you, and strategies for making yourself a competitive applicant. 
  • How to find the right internship by researching and narrowing down your interests and considering if you can afford to work for free. 
  • The difference between high school internships and jobs, and the relevance of the job or internship to your career goals.


About Moriah


Moriah Adeghe graduated Cornell University in 2021 with a degree in Policy Analysis and Management. She has interned for various organizations, including the Hillary Clinton campaign. She resides in New York City, where, in addition to being a college mentor and advisor, she works in corporate finance. 




Getting an internship is important, especially in college, as it provides valuable experience in your chosen field. However, internships can also be beneficial for high school students, as they can help you explore your interests and narrow down your career choices. In this discussion, we will cover the benefits and drawbacks of high school internships compared to paid jobs, tips for finding the right internship for you, and strategies for making yourself a competitive applicant.


Why High School Students Should Consider an Internship


Internships can seem similar to regular jobs, but they offer important insights into the professional world and can lead to valuable connections and contacts. Having connections in the professional world can give you a big advantage after you finish your education. Internships can also help you determine if a certain field is a good fit for you, and can be added to your resume to show experience and growth as a student and professional. While internships may not be compensated for labor, they can lead to potential bonuses or job offers.


Which internship is right for you? 


Finding the right internship can be a challenging task, but with a little bit of research and self-reflection, you can find the perfect opportunity.


First and foremost, you should figure out the area or field of study in which you would like to get an internship. This can be done by considering classes that you enjoy, extracurricular activities that you participate in, or even where you spend most of your time with friends. Once you have a general idea of what you’re interested in, you can narrow down your search to specific areas within that field.


For example, if you’re passionate about food, you can ask yourself more specific questions about your interests in food. Do you like cooking and baking? Are you interested in the economics of food distribution and food waste? Do you enjoy watching cooking shows or writing about food? Once you’ve narrowed down your interests, you can find high school internships that align with those specific interests. For example, if you’re interested in cooking and baking, you could look for an apprenticeship at a restaurant or bakery. If you’re more interested in writing about food, you could look for an internship with a food blog or magazine. If you’re interested in the economics of food, you could look for a research opportunity with a local university.


On the other hand, if you’re not sure what you’re interested in, you can look at the types of activities that excite you and make you want to get out of bed in the morning. Consider how these activities might translate into the professional world and look for internships or careers in those areas. For example, if you enjoy writing letters to pen pals, this could show that you’re interested in writing and have strong communication skills. In this case, you could look for internships or careers in writing or journalism.


No matter what your interests may be, there is always a way to turn them into an internship opportunity. With a little bit of self-reflection and research, you can find the perfect internship for you and take the first step toward your dream career.


Jobs vs. Internships


When it comes to deciding between a job or an internship, it’s important to understand the main differences between the two. Internships are typically intended to be learning opportunities, while jobs are often focused on earning a paycheck. However, this isn’t to say that learning can’t take place in a job, but internships are often more geared towards the professional world.


One key consideration when deciding between a job and an internship is whether or not you can afford to work for free. If you need the money, a job might be your best option as internships typically don’t pay. However, this doesn’t mean that having a job in high school is a lost opportunity. In fact, having a job in high school can demonstrate to colleges that you’re a hard worker and have a good work ethic.


Another important factor to consider is the relevance of the job or internship to your intended major or field of interest. As a high school student, it might be difficult to find paying jobs that are closely related to your interest or intended major. However, you can be creative and look for opportunities that are tangentially related. For example, if you’re interested in teaching, you could look for paid tutoring opportunities or other jobs that involve working with kids.


While internships are unpaid most of the time, they offer more of an educational element than you might find in a traditional job. They provide the opportunity to develop specific skills that are unique to certain fields, whereas jobs help you develop skills that are more general, such as time management and a good work ethic. Many careers require internships before an applicant can secure a paid role in that field, but most, if not all, won’t expect you to have completed them before college.


Securing an internship in high school can demonstrate to college admissions committees that you’re serious about your chosen field and that you’re pushing yourself to learn outside of school. Additionally, internships can connect you with important members of your field who can serve as mentors and can be helpful in your career during college and beyond.


Compared to a standard paying job, internships often require smaller time commitments. You may only work for a few hours a day, or maybe just over the summer, which allows you to balance your work and school commitments.


How to Find Internship Opportunities


Internships are a great way to gain valuable experience and skills in a particular field, and they can also be a stepping stone to a full-time job after graduation. However, finding an internship can be a daunting task, so here are a few places to look for internships:




The internet is a great place to start your search for internships. You can Google internships in your area and find official internship programs or companies that usually hire interns. This is a quick and easy way to get started, but it may not be as effective as reaching out to people in your network.


Reaching Out to People


Another great way to find internships is by reaching out to people you know, such as family members, friends, or people who have had internships in the past. They can often point you in the right direction based on your personality and interests. Additionally, teachers and guidance counselors at your school may also know of internships that would be a good fit for you.


Local Businesses and Governments


Another option is to reach out to local businesses and governments. This is what the speaker did with their campaign internship – they just went to the campaign office and asked if they could intern. This can be a great way to get your foot in the door and gain experience in a specific industry. Even if a business or government does not have an official internship program, you may still be able to volunteer, which can provide you with similar experience and skills.

It’s important to remember that if a nonprofit or local government does not have an official internship program, you still may be able to volunteer, which will provide you with the opportunity to learn many of the same skills as an internship would teach. However, for-profit businesses can’t accept volunteers by law, but you can still check to see if there are other part-time positions that might teach you some of the skills in the industry.


Making yourself a Competitive Intern Applicant


When applying for internships in high school, it’s important to make yourself stand out as a competitive applicant. This is especially true for larger national internships where you’ll be competing with many other applicants. However, even if you’re applying to a local business that doesn’t have an internship program, it’s still a good idea to make yourself a competitive applicant. In this article, we’ll go through some tips for making yourself a competitive applicant.


Resume Tips


  • Limit yourself to one page. Don’t try to cheat the formatting and make your resume longer than it should be.
  • Be picky about what you include. Only include experiences that are directly relevant to the opportunity at hand.
  • Avoid including any experience on your resume that took place more than five years ago.
  • Think carefully about how you split the content of your resume into sections. Make the content of your resume as digestible as possible by splitting everything into small sections, each labeled with an overarching theme or section heading that will catch your reader’s eyes.
  • Quantify anything when possible. Be as specific as possible when describing what you learned, did, or were responsible for when elaborating on jobs.
  • Use action verbs. Instead of saying “made spreadsheets,” say “tabulated marketing data” or “performed data collection.”
  • Get it reviewed. Ask a parent, counselor, guidance counselor, or teacher to read over your resume and give you feedback on it.


Maintaining Strong Grades


Since you’re in high school, the internship application process will likely consider your high school GPA. They might even want you to send a copy of your transcript. That’s why it’s important to maintain strong grades. Not only will it make you a more competitive applicant, but it will also demonstrate that you’re a hardworking and dedicated student.

In conclusion, making yourself a competitive applicant is important when applying for internships. By keeping your resume up to date, being picky about what you include, quantifying your experiences, and maintaining strong grades, you’ll be able to stand out from the competition.


Questions from the Audience


Can you take on an internship that’s not related to the field you’re majoring in? 


An internship can be a valuable experience for gaining skills and knowledge in a particular field, but it doesn’t have to be directly related to your major. In Moriah’s experience, she did an internship for the Hillary Clinton campaign, even though her major at the time had nothing to do with government or politics. The internship was at a local campaign office, and she helped with on-the-ground efforts such as “get out the vote.”


If you’re interested in a career in computer science or data science, having some coding knowledge is important. If you’re early on in high school, you can use a summer to learn a programming language such as Python. If you’re already later into your high school experience, you can look for internships and jobs in the field and see what technical skills are required. The internship or job posting will often list the necessary skills, and if not, you can reach out to the employer and ask. If you find that many internships in the field require a certain programming language, it may be worth your time to gain that knowledge before applying for the internship the following summer.


Is it possible to get an internship as a high school freshman? 


As a high school freshman, getting an internship may be unlikely but it doesn’t hurt to try. Consider reaching out to local businesses and asking about interning opportunities, even though you are a freshman. National high school internships may be more geared towards juniors and seniors. If a business says no, don’t be discouraged and try again in the future.


Is it possible to intern at a nonprofit? 


Absolutely. Presidental campaigns, for example, are nonprofits. For other types of nonprofits, you can intern in areas such as volunteer management or data analysis. The line between internships and volunteer work can be blurry at nonprofits, so it’s important to clarify your role when reaching out to them. It’s also a good idea to use the term “internship” when inquiring to ensure that you’re clear about your intentions. Overall, internships are definitely possible at nonprofits.