Time-Efficient Strategies for Applying to Internships

A grey laptop displaying a resume on a wooden desk.
Applying to summer internships shouldn’t have to be stressful.
Photo Credit: Bram Naus

As spring semester has arrived, the ever-expanding workload is not the only thing that students have on their minds. With application deadlines extending from now until late March or April, it is the time of year that we start thinking about where, and how, we will apply to summer internships, research opportunities, fellowships, and more. One perk of attending Princeton is that countless summer opportunities are made available to us and (bonus!) oftentimes many of the logistics (housing, payment, etc) are figured out by Princeton beforehand. But, this list can be daunting. Even figuring out which internships to apply to can be challenging, let alone how to best fill out their applications. We may feel like we just don’t have the time to think through our summer plans before we embark on them—but, trust me, some careful planning can make the difference between a life-changing internship and a bummer summer. So, I’ve compiled a short list of the best, time-efficient strategies for finding and applying to internships which are truly meaningful for you. 

  1. Start with a Composite Resume

On one Google doc, write down everything (and I mean everything) that you think could possibly be beneficial to future employers. Even if you don’t have any official work experience, you might be surprised just how much you learned from prior exposure to ecs, academics, or family obligations such as caretaking. Depending on the type of opportunities you are interested in, you may even have had direct exposure to their type of work through research or lab experience through your Princeton courses. Feel free to make this starting resume longer than 1 page, and it doesn’t have to fit any specific format. The point here is to figure out who you are as an applicant. Once you know this, it’ll be much easier to “fit” your resume to whatever opportunity your looking for. Need additional advice or want specific examples? Book an appointment with the Princeton Center for Career Development and their Peer Career Advisors (PCAs)

  1. Tailor each Resume to the job you are applying for

After you’ve written your composite resume, now it’s time to tailor it to the specific internship you are applying for. Tailoring a resume is all about emphasizing why you are a good fit for the specific internship that you are applying for. Cut out what doesn’t seem relevant to the internship, and elaborate on your job experiences which do cater to that internship. This requires first knowing your organization through-and-through, so do your research beforehand! You’ll want to know what is expected of you on a daily basis, and how you would fit into a broader picture of their organizational framework. Researching the organization may require some extra time, but trust that it is well-worth doing this research before you start applying. After all, you don’t want to end up doing a whole summer of work you don’t enjoy!

  1. Don’t apply for the sake of applying

As summer approaches, it is common to hear students applying (and in some cases overapplying) to a wide range of internships. While it is good to keep your options open, often students apply to internships sheerly out of fear that they may otherwise end up with nothing by the time summer rolls around. 

But, you certainly don’t want to spend a whole summer doing something you aren’t actually invested in. That’s why it is critical to only apply to internships you can actually see yourself doing and enjoying. This may require some visualization. Can you actually see yourself working in that organization everyday? What would you be doing on a daily-basis? Even if you don’t have much (or any!) experience in the field, could you see yourself enjoying the work? At this stage it’s critical to gauge your level of interest in the opportunity. Your undergraduate summers are a unique opportunity to cultivate a passion, do something fun, or try out something brand new. You’ll want to make the most of that opportunity by only applying to summer programs which excite you. 

  1. Relax

My last tip of advice is to relax. It may seem like summer is fast-approaching, but your time here in the present should always be first priority. As you begin your summer search, it may seem like internship applications have already passed, but I guarantee you that there are still hundreds of opportunities just waiting to be sought after. If you’re ever at a loss for where to look, a personal appointment with someone at the Center for Career Development will provide you a list of opportunities tailored precisely to your interests. In addition, the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) website offers a repository for hundreds of on and off campus research opportunities. In particular, the OUR Student Initiated Internship Program (OURSIP) provides housing and funding for first years and sophomores for on-campus research projects with faculty. Their priority application deadline is February 26th but you can apply as late as April 2nd.

Whether you’re doing research this summer or trying out something totally different, Princeton offers so many chances for you to experience a new field, new research environment, or even a new country. With careful time management and a critical eye, you have everything you need to make the most of it.

–- Amaya Dressler ’25, Social Sciences Correspondent