High school is the ultimate time of discovery. It’s the place where teenagers turn into young adults and begin to figure out exactly what they want to do with the rest of their lives. And one of the best ways to do just that might be to gain a little work-life experience through an internship.
Internships for high school students afford teenagers with a number of excellent opportunities including the chance to test out a few of their dream jobs, add an item or two to their resume, pop one more thing on their college applications, and could even help them make a few dollars on the side.
However, internship programs are a bit harder to come by for the high school set than for college students, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find one.
Here are a few of the pros and cons that come with interning in high school, along with advice on how to find internships for the high school students in your life.
What Is the Purpose of an Internship
To help clarify what’s expected of a high school or college intern, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) created a simple definition: “An internship is a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; and give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent.”
In essence, an internship is a way for young people to gain experience in their chosen field, getting to learn from professionals.
The Duties of an Intern
The duties of an intern vary from job to job. For example, those interning at a doctor’s office could include shadowing the medical professionals and taking notes on patient visits. Those interning at a marketing firm could sit in on marketing meetings and assist in any communication needs.
An internship experience is somewhat equivocal to an entry-level employee position. The point is to learn more about the career path, not just get coffee or file the office mail (though you may be asked to do this, too).
Pros and Cons of High School Internships
There are plenty of pros when it comes to getting internship experiences in high school. Those pros include learning about different career paths without having to commit to a lifelong job.
Learning about a path early on could help a high schooler determine a college vs. straight-to-job path, or even help them decide on which program they’d like to study in school.
Another pro of completing an internship in high school is gaining new experiences and skills. By working at an internship, students are able to learn from professionals and add relevant skills to their resume to help them gain a leg up in applying for jobs in the future.
And, of course, all this experience and new learning make for excellent items to add to any potential college applications.
There are few cons to working a high school internship, but if you ask a teenager, the downside may be having less time for friends after school or over the summer. Just make sure to balance work and fun time, as this, too, will help young people learn better balance in the real world later.
Finding the Right Internship
Finding the perfect internship is a wholly personal experience. First, young people should identify their interests in both the near and far term. By thinking about career paths they may be interested in, they could also identify internship opportunities around them.
However, not every young person knows, or believes they know, exactly what they want to do in the future. But, they may know a general interest.
For example, if their favorite class is English, an internship at a local newspaper may make sense. If they’re interested in nature, an internship with a local parks and recreation group may make a good fit.
If you’re a high schooler, make a shortlist of interests and sit down with a parent or guardian to identify careers that may fit within these bounds.
Next, it’s time to identify a few companies the high schooler may be interested in. Search around for companies near them that may be taking interns. From there, check out career pages on the individual companies to see if they have internship listings. If they don’t, try emailing the company to get in touch with the human resource (HR) department to see what may be available.
One quick tip: While researching and reaching out about internships make sure to stay realistic about the time commitment. If an internship takes place during the school year a student may only be available in afternoons for a limited time. Ensure the hiring manager knows the hours the student is available before committing to any long-term work.
Resources to Find Internships in High School
While there isn’t any centralized listing location for internships for high school students there are still plenty of places to find information on opportunities.
Schools: Students can reach out to school resources like guidance counselors, principals, and individual teachers who may know of companies worth looking into.
Individual companies: Again, seek out information from company websites and reach out to human resource departments to see what may be available.
Job search websites: Check out job search websites such as Linkedin, Monster, Indeed, and more and search for “Internships in [specific field here].” Make sure to search by location to ensure the internship is nearby.
Friends and family: This is the simplest tip—just ask around. Friends and family members are the ultimate social and work network. Make it known your high schooler is looking for an internship and ask people for their advice on just where to look.
Questions to Ask Before Accepting an Internship
After figuring out interests, asking networks, and finding an internship opportunity, you may think the work is done. However, there are still a few more questions to ask.
Before accepting an internship offer, make sure to ask about the full details. What are the hours? What can the intern expect to learn while on the job? What are the specific job duties and how will the intern be evaluated along the way? Will there be opportunities for mentorship? And finally, one of the most important questions: Is the internship paid?
Paid vs. Unpaid Internships
Scoring a paid internship isn’t a guarantee, but it’s not a completely far-fetched idea either. If a paid internship isn’t available, high schoolers can always ask about an exchange for class credit. Unpaid internships are a hotly contested issue so just make sure to do whatever feels right and comfortable for you or your high schooler.
However, even a paid internship likely won’t earn a high schooler enough cash to pay for all of college. To cover the gap between savings and various forms of student aid, and the cost of higher education, some students and their families might want to consider student loans.
After looking at federal student loan options, if there is still a financial need, a private student loan may be able to make up the difference.
Applying for a private student loan with SoFi is easy, takes place 100% online, and comes with zero fees—no origination fees, no late fees, and no insufficient fund fees. Ever.
SoFi even offers flexible repayment plans so students can find a loan that fits their individual budget. That way, instead of worrying about their loan, students can focus on their internship and studies—and their future.
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