North Central College students compare notes about their internships.

What is an Internship in College?

Kara Kots

Oct 08, 2021

What is an Internship?

Whether you’re applying to or attending college, you’ve most likely heard about internships but aren’t exactly sure about what they are and why they’re important. Don’t worry; you’re not alone! In this article, we’ll share more about whats internship, what it means to be an intern and why it’s beneficial to have one.

What is the meaning of an internship?

If you’re looking to gain experience and start networking in your field, an internship is an excellent route to take. So, what is internship for college students and what’s an intern? It’s a position within a company that allows you to gain meaningful insight and professional experience related to your field of study. This professional learning experience will give you the valuable opportunity to utilize and build upon the knowledge and skills you’ve gained so far in your classes, as well as view what a job looks like in your field before finishing your degree.

Why Do I Need to Do an Internship?

As an intern, you’ll have the opportunity to get experiential learning while working side-by-side with industry experts who have been in your shoes before. Knowing what an entry-level position entails, they’ll show you the ropes, giving you exposure to your aspired role and field. Besides gaining real-world work experience, you’ll also be able to form relationships and start creating your professional network. These connections will be vital to have as you build on your career. 

Why Do Companies Offer Internships?

While internships are an excellent option to help students with career exploration and development, they’re also beneficial to companies to try out new talent. At the end of the day, employers are seeking career-ready graduates equipped with prior experience. They want students to take the knowledge and skills they learned from their classes and apply them professionally. Often described as a three-month interview, if companies are impressed with an intern’s work and capabilities, a full-time job may be on the table at the end of the internship placement. 

Why are internships important?

What is the importance of internships? No matter which field or industry you’re interested in entering, having an internship reaps various benefits. As an intern, you’ll have the chance to grow core competencies, such as teamwork, decision making, problem solving and communication skills, in a professional setting. You’ll learn how to handle and overcome challenging work situations specific to your role or field. Throughout the daily trials of an internship, you’ll be able to recognize your strengths and weaknesses, giving you better insight into which skills you’ll need to continue to grow. Lastly, you’ll have the chance to meet and work alongside many individuals already positioned in the field. Forming real connections during your internship will be advantageous, as you’ll never know what opportunities they could bring. 

What Do Interns Typically Do?

While the role of an intern can vary from each position, most interns will first spend time getting to know the company, shadow an employee to understand the role and connect with other interns. After learning the ins and outs of the company and your new role, you’ll start to assist and contribute more to the team. 

How is an internship different from an apprenticeship?

While learning about internships, the word apprenticeship may have come up as well. What is an apprenticeship, and how is it different from an internship? According to, differentiating factors between internships and apprenticeships include the length of time, structure and pay. While internships usually last for one to three months, focusing on providing entry-level work experience, apprenticeships are much longer (one to three years) and focus on helping individuals master specific skills through a structured training plan. Lastly, apprenticeships are paid experiences that often lead to full-time employment, where some internships are unpaid and do not guarantee a full-time job. However, you will find that most internships do provide pay or an incentive like academic credit toward graduation. Similarly, if impressed, it’s not unheard of that companies hire their interns as full-time employees. 

4 Tips for Getting an Internship

When you’re in college, a common goal among students is to get internship experience. With a higher level of competition, it’s crucial to know how to prepare yourself best. So, if you’re wondering how to get an internship, read on for four tips on how you can put your best foot forward to land an internship offer. 

Start Early

When it comes to finding and landing an internship, starting the process early is crucial. “If you know you want to do an internship your first year, plan accordingly, stated Margaret Stacy-Duffy, assistant director of Career Development at North Central College. “Keep it in the back of your mind; talk to faculty, ask your peers who have done an internship how they got theirs and what they liked about them. The earlier you start thinking about it, the better,” she added. 

Have a Focused Resume

For just one internship, employers may go through more than 100 applications. While this can seem daunting, remember that you have unique experiences and skills worth highlighting. Standing out from the rest all comes down to how you present and market yourself. One way to do this is to understand how to write a cover letter for an internship.

Instead of writing a general cover letter and resume, analyze and reflect on what you think the company would like to see for the internship you’re applying to currently. What can you do for the company in this role? What skills and strengths do you have that go hand in hand with the internship description? Write those in a concise, error-free cover letter and resume, along with any relevant academic or work experiences. Remember, you’ll get much further in the process when you’re more intentional with your application materials.


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Grow Your Professional Network

You may have overheard before in conversation that a friend, family member or peer learned about an internship opportunity because they knew or reached out to an employee or recruiter who works at said company. Growing and utilizing your professional network is one of the leading tactics you can use to further your internship search and increase your chances of getting your foot in the door. In today’s world, networking can be as simple as sending a direct message on LinkedIn. You never know where that one interaction could lead you!

Know your Resources and Use Them

At most, if not all, colleges and universities, there are career resources available to help students prepare themselves for internships, graduate school and the job market. Whether it’s visiting the career office, reading the office’s online blog, attending a job fair on campus or even reaching out to faculty and staff for their support and expertise, these resources are on campus for you to use them. 

At North Central College, students have access to Career Development to help them realize their direction and goals. With the option to make an individual appointment, a college student can receive personalized internship and job search plans, the opportunity to have their application materials reviewed, complete practice interviews and much more. Additionally, Career Development organizes different career events and fairs on campus and provides access to Handshake, an online recruiting platform to help college students get connected to employers. 

What Are the Key Benefits of an Internship?

Overall, the scale tips over in favor of students having internship experience on their resumes. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, research supports the positive role internships play in the career outcomes of college graduates. 

The three key advantages of an undergraduate student who completed a paid internship before graduating had over those who did not complete one include:

  1. They found a job more quickly
  2. They received more job offers
  3. They earned more money in their first job out of college

In addition to these three key advantages, going through an internship also boosted students’ confidence. From testing their knowledge and skills to receiving feedback from a trusted mentor on their strengths and weaknesses, they felt more prepared and had a better sense of what’s next.

Kara Kots is a social media specialist for North Central College’s Office of Marketing and Communications. There, she contributes her content, writing and communication skills.



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