While most college students are just settling into the new term and next summer’s break seems ages away, now might be the time to secure that important internship. Students are often surprised to learn that internship applications open during the early winter season through early spring. Some may accept applications as early as the summer before the internship. Internships can be competitive – the earlier you start, the more opportunities you can pursue.

Although most internships are secured 3-5 months from the start date, there can be a lengthy application process. Additionally, your educational institution may have a process and requirements for acceptance that need to be known and arranged before the search.

Finding the right internship can seem daunting, but with plenty of time to plan, you can meet your goals. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Meet with your academic advisor or visit the career center

The best place to start your summer internship search is at your school’s career center. First, if your institution or program has any requirements for internships that must be met – this is where to find that information. Second, many businesses and organizations seeking an intern will list their openings with the educational institution. Third, your college or university career center is poised to assist with interview preparation, resume and cover letter writing, and personal career exploration support.

  1. Attend job fairs or networking events

Job fairs and networking events are not just for permanent job seekers; they are a great opportunity for students to explore and learn more about what jobs and professions appeal to them and search for available internship opportunities. Although most jobs are listed online, the majority of jobs and internships are acquired through networking and personal contact. Students should do research before attending a job fair and focus attention on networking with companies within the specific career path in which they are interested. After the event, students should connect with the representatives and companies they met on LinkedIn and request information on any available opportunities.

  1. Conduct informational interviews

Another worthwhile opportunity to network and make connections that could ultimately lead to promising internship leads is an informational interview. An informational interview is a meeting to learn about the real-life experience of someone working in a field or company that interests you. Professionals across the board are often more than willing to discuss their work and encourage up-and-coming young professionals. Although not a job interview, this type of meeting allows for networking and inquiries which may lead to an internship or job offer in the future.

Despite the growing virtual nature of our society, networking and face-to-face communication is a tried-and-true method to achieving your internships and professional goals. Take a moment to research some local and national businesses that may be offering internships and check 518 ElevatED’s resource page, as internships are often listed there as well. Starting early and having a plan will put you on your path toward your next internship.