Getting work experience is important for whatever you do in life, but starting young is even better.
High school internships are on the rise, according to U.S. News, with some high schools encouraging their junior and senior students to complete internships before graduating. However, “a 2020 study by American Student Assistance, a nonprofit that helps students obtain college degrees, cites a recent survey showing that only 2% of high school students had completed internships.”
The real-life experience offered by internships and the possibility of getting a job—or at least increasing your changes of getting one—are worth considering. In fact, a 2019 survey of internship programs found that 70% of interns received a job offer, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
What Is an Internship?
An internship is often a work position given to a high school or college student for a designated period of time over which they work and learn at a business that gives them exposure to the working environment and specific industry.
Internships can be any time of the year, but commonly for high school students, they are over the summer.
At What Age Can You Be an Intern?
While it’s possible to get an internship at as young as 14 years old, many employers will likely have their own age restrictions set at 16 years old or above. This is because there are laws regulating the number of hours and type of work children below 16 can do.
Even still, being 16 doesn’t exempt you from all government regulation. Many rules still apply to total work hours and the inability to work in hazardous environments.
Another reason for age restrictions are that some younger children may not be mature enough to intern in a hospital, or strong enough to intern at a construction company.
After turning 18, there shouldn’t be any internships that are unavailable due to age, but even before then it is still possible depending on the company’s rules.
How Much Do High School Internships Pay?
Similar to requirements surrounding age, there are many factors that go into whether or not an internship is paid or unpaid. The Department of Labor has laid out seven factors that must be reached in order for an internship to be unpaid:
- Both the intern and employer agree that no payment will be given in exchange for their work
- There’s no promise of a paid job at the end of the internship
- The internship provides training that would be similar to what would be given in an educational environment
- The internship experience is beneficial to the intern
- The internship is tied to the intern’s formal education program (by integrated coursework or the receipt of academic credit)
- The work does not interfere with the intern’s academic commitments
- The intern’s work does not displace paid employees
If any of the above requirements are breached, an intern must be paid for their work. However, most if not all, internships for high school students are unpaid.
That said, the experience and opportunities you gain will most likely outweigh any payment you may have received.
How Can I Apply for an Internship?
Finding an interesting internship is only the first step. Next, students have to apply.
Every program or company should have a set of instructions for how to apply that can be followed and will usually also have an email for additional questions.
There are a few mistakes that some students make when applying for internships:
- Not supplying all required information
- If a company is asking for specific paperwork or your transcript from high school, those are things that must be submitted in order to be considered.
- Not preparing for the interview
- As part of the application process, an interview will often occur either by phone or in person. Most high school students won’t have much experience with interviews, so preparing for them ahead of time is crucial. Some specific tips for how to do in an interview can be found here.
- Applying to only one internship
- Unless you only have one place you’re interested in, it’s smart to attempt to get an internship at multiple places. This not only gives you the best chance to get accepted, but it may also give you options or leverage if you were to get accepted at more than one place.
- Missing a deadline
- Especially if you’re applying to multiple internships, you don’t want to miss a deadline or forget to send something when it’s due. Even sending something in earlier than required might show that you are prepared and excited to work.
Are Internships Worth It?
Internships can be very beneficial for students in college, but don’t let that discourage you from checking them out while still in high school.
Getting any sort of experience in a professional environment is incredibly useful and can specifically help those who are still trying to decide what they are interested in and enjoy doing.
Furthermore, adding a respectable internship to your college application can only boost your chances of getting accepted, as it not only demonstrates initiative by the student for putting themselves out there but also maturity in handling themselves around adults.
In some cases, an internship can lead to even more opportunities, such as an expanded internship in college or even a job offer once you’ve completed school.
They also give you someone who can be called upon for recommendation letters when you do apply for your next internship or job.
How Long Are Internships?
Internships can be any length of time, but they usually range from a week to 12 months. Unlike a job, they often have predetermined lengths of time that the work will last.
Depending on the type of internship, the hours can vary as well, but many are simply 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or follow the hours of the business you intern at.
Sometimes, there may be specific intern programs that have other special meeting times to go over additional information or hear from speakers.
How Long Should I Work at an Internship?
There are many options for how long you can work at an internship.
Some companies may have a time limit already set, but others may let you work there as long as you’d like.
It’s up to you and your schedule to determine how much time you want to spend there.
Working at the same place for a long time can allow you to form stronger relationships with your coworkers and bosses. But since you’re still in high school, you don’t want to risk hurting your academics at all. Another piece to consider is if you want to try another internship or program to experience even more types of work while you’re still young.
Where Should I Get an Internship?
Finding an internship can often be as simple as searching for one online. Be sure to include the city you live in and the industry you’re interested in.
Some of the top internships high school students look into are:
- Microsoft High School Program
- United States Secret Service
- NASA Internship
- Program at Stanford or other colleges/universities
- Volunteering for a political campaign
You have many different choices when trying to find an internship as a high school student.
Each one will provide you with a unique experience and give you valuable knowledge that will undoubtedly help you in the future.
Use College Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.
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