How to Find the Perfect Paid Internship for College Students

Landing a paid internship is a goal for many college students in the United States. Internships are plentiful, but a lot of them are unpaid. They can still provide good work experience in your chosen field, but they won’t do anything to help you defray your expenses or save money.

One of the things we pride ourselves on at Addition Financial is helping families prepare for college. That means talking to parents and students about college savings plans, student loans, and budgeting. We often get asked how to find paid internships for college students. Here are some tips to help you find (and land) the paid internship you want.

Decide What Field You Want to Work In

The first step is to think about what field you want to work in. Deciding will help you narrow your choices. It has become increasingly common for large companies to pay interns for their work, at least in part because some interns who have been asked to do work outside of their job descriptions have filed lawsuits against their employers.

If you haven’t yet declared a major and you’re unsure what to do, then you should focus on narrowing your search to a few fields that interest you. You can be flexible, but you should still be thinking about doing something that appeals to you and might help you decide on a post-college career.

Research Potential Paid Internships

There are a lot of websites that college students can use to find paid internships. One is, which has a searchable database of paid internships. You can narrow your search by location or, if you’re open to multiple locations, simply scan through their listings.

Other websites to try include:

Keep in mind that your college or university may have internship listings as well. If you have already declared a major, consider checking at your department office or asking a professor for suggestions. If not, you can always try the Dean’s office, the Admissions office, or the library.

Reach Out to Companies You Like

What if you identify a company you like but they have no paid internships listed on their website? Does that mean you should give up? The short answer is no. You never know what might happen if you reach out to the Human Resources department.

We suggest drafting an email to the company’s hiring manager. If you can’t find their name on the website, a quick call can get you the information you need, including their email address. Then, draft a short email – no more than five to seven sentences – introducing yourself and explaining what you can offer. Do what you can to show that you know about the company and its goals.

Create a Compelling Résumé

Your résumé is your calling card for any paid internship. As a college student, you may not have a lot of work experience. If that’s the case, you should consider creating a skills-based résumé that highlights what you can do.

You’ll still need to list your employers and provide references, but a skills résumé offers you the opportunity to talk about what you can do. For example, you might be a horticulture major with extensive gardening experience that makes you the perfect fit for a paid internship at a nursery. Even if you don’t have experience working in your chosen field, you do have skills that could make you an ideal employee.

The Alumni Approved College Handbook for Incoming Freshmen

Fill Out Your Application

The most competitive paid internships often require an application in addition to a résumé and cover letter. If that’s the case for your chosen internship, you should plan on filling out your application as soon as possible.

It’s important to find ways to make yourself stand out from the other applicants for the internship in question. We don’t recommend using gimmicks, but you should think carefully about the words you choose and how you present yourself. It’s also extremely important to proofread everything. If spelling and grammar aren’t your strong suits, hire a proofreader to handle it for you. One spelling error could ruin your application and it’s better to pay someone a few dollars to edit your submission than it is to lose out because of a mistake.

Prepare for Your Interview

Some paid internships don’t require an interview, but some do. It’s best to be prepared. If you expect to have an in-person interview, you’ll need appropriate attire. Even if you know a company allows employees to dress casually, it’s better to show up professionally attired just in case. You want to make a good impression.

You should also research the company and come up with a list of questions to ask. Interviewers are looking for candidates who are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the internship and asking questions will show them that you are.

You should also be thinking about answers to common interview questions. Here are some examples:

  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Tell me about how you handled a difficult situation.
  • What do you hope to learn from this internship?

You don’t want to be overly rehearsed, but thinking about how you would answer these questions can help minimize your nervousness about the interview. You should plan on sending a thank you after the interview and following up until you get a decision.

Finding paid internships for college students can be a challenge, but the steps we have outlined here can help you prepare.

To learn about Addition Financial’s student loans and how they can help you pay for college, please click here.

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