Find the Right Internship for Your Career: Part 1

Navigating the Internship Application Timeline

By Erin Johnston

In today’s competitive job market, internships have become an invaluable stepping stone for students and recent graduates to gain real-world experience and kickstart their careers. However, securing the right internship opportunity for your career requires more than just a stellar resume and cover letter—it also demands a strategic approach to timing and preparation. Understanding the timeline of internship applications can often be the differentiating factor between success and missed opportunities.

In the recent webinar, “Find the Right Internship for Your Career,” career advisors Emily Seamone and Rebecca Schramm worked to demystify the internship application process. Drawing from insights shared during this session, this blog post aims to provide a guide for navigating the internship application timeline with confidence and clarity. This post breaks down the application timeline, based on both company size and industry.

Understanding the Internship Timeline

When it comes to navigating the internship application timeline, one of the most crucial factors to consider is the varying schedules of different companies, organizations and industries. Understanding these timelines can greatly influence your strategy and increase your chances of securing the ideal internship opportunity.

Diverse Timelines Based on Company/Organization Size

It’s important to recognize that the timeline for internship applications can differ significantly depending on the size and industry of the employer. Larger corporations, for instance, often kick off their recruiting and interviewing process much earlier than smaller organizations. Below is an internship timeline for different sized companies and organizations to guide you through your planning process:

Spring/Summer: For many large companies, particularly in tech, finance, and consulting sectors, internship positions for the following summer may be posted as early as the previous spring, summer or early fall. These companies tend to have structured internship programs and recruit interns well in advance to ensure they secure top talent. For example, at the time of writing this blog post (Spring 2024), many new internship opportunities are already being posted on Handshake for Summer 2025, including internships in Corporate Client Banking, Commercial Banking, Finance, Quantitative Research and Trading, and Technology

Fall: While interviews for internships at larger companies typically start to take place in the summer through fall for the following summer, some of these organizations may continue to post internship positions throughout this time. Therefore, it’s crucial to keep an eye on job boards and organization websites during the fall semester to catch any new  opportunities. You might also find positions posted in the fall for spring opportunities, though many large companies and organizations focus primarily on internships for the summer months.

Winter/Spring: Smaller and mid sized companies and organizations often begin posting internship positions for the upcoming summer during the winter or spring semester. Interviews for these positions may take place throughout the spring. Some larger companies and organizations may continue to post positions for the upcoming summer due to last-minute or unfilled needs.

Early Summer: As the summer starts, companies and organizations of all sizes might post internship positions for immediate hire, though these tend to cluster around smaller organizations or start up companies. These opportunities may arise due to immediate needs or last-minute openings.

The timeline will ultimately depend on the size of the company, as well as the industry, and individual organization demands. In general, assume larger companies and organizations will recruit 9–12 months in advance, and smaller to mid-sized companies and organizations will recruit 3–6 months in advance. However, there are exceptions to this general rule of thumb.

General Timeline by Industry for Summer Internships

In addition to the size of the company or organization, different industries also operate on distinct timelines when it comes to recruiting interns. Understanding these industry-specific timelines is essential for effectively planning and executing your internship search. Each sector has its own recruitment cycle, ranging from as early as May the year prior to as late as May of the current year. By familiarizing yourself with the general timeline for internship opportunities in your field of interest, you can strategize your search efforts and maximize your chances of securing a rewarding internship experience.

Here’s a general timeline to help you plan your summer internship search according to your desired field:

Finance and Consulting: Typically, internships in finance and consulting open as early as May and can extend through December. 

Tech: The tech industry generally recruits for summer internships from July to November. 

Business: Internship opportunities in the business sector are typically open from August to January. 

Government: Government internships usually have a broad recruiting window, running from August to May. 

Pharma & Biotech: The pharmaceutical and biotech industries typically start their internship recruitment cycle from September to March.

Science Research and University Labs: Internships in science research and university labs often open up from January to April. 

Arts, Culture, Media, Non-Profits, Entertainment: Internship opportunities in these fields typically open from November to May, with larger companies often starting their recruitment process even earlier.

Starting Early

While it might seem premature to start thinking about next summer’s internship in the midst of your current semester or summer break, the truth is that early preparation can significantly boost your chances of securing the most beneficial opportunity. By starting the internship search early, students not only give themselves ample time to find targeted organizations and opportunities and to craft tailored application materials but also demonstrate their proactive approach and genuine interest in the internship position. Remember, the internship application process is not a sprint but rather a marathon, and those who lay the groundwork early are often the ones who ultimately succeed.

Embarking on the journey of securing an internship can be both exhilarating and daunting. Understanding the internship application timeline and implementing strategic approaches to timing and preparation can significantly enhance your chances of success. In Part 2 of this blog, we detail our internship search plan to equip you with the tools and strategies needed to secure valuable internship experiences that align with your goals.

Additional Resources:

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