How to Write a Cover Letter for College Internships
Reviewed by Jacob Imm
Nov 24, 2021
How to Write a Cover Letter for College Internships
What is an internship, and what is the importance of an internship? Internships are a crucial part of the college experience. Without internships, it can be difficult to build your resume, gain reliable references, and prepare yourself for the professional world post-graduation.
Getting an internship in your chosen field can be a challenge. Companies receive hundreds of resumes for each position, so you’ll need an effective way to make your application stand out from the crowd. So let’s dive into how to get an internship.
A great way to start is writing a good cover letter to submit along with your resume and application. In this article, we’ll discuss how to write a cover letter for internship positions, plus we’ll provide a few tips and tricks on how to land these valuable positions as a college student.
To put it simply: your cover letter is basically an introduction on paper. Everyone needs an introduction, especially if you’re trying to score an interview. So, before you get to the interview stage of the hiring process, a good cover letter will make the company want to meet you.
This means you’ll need to properly introduce yourself with this letter. While you don’t want to go into too much detail, you should briefly include the following points:
- Your name
- Your school
- Your major
- Your grade / Year in School
- Your GPA
- Any extracurricular activities or academic achievements that may be relevant to the position
The bottom line – Don’t forget the basics. Potential employers want to know who they’re looking at without having to do additional research.
Specify the Internship You’re Applying For
Hiring managers are busy people. When a company is looking for new employees, managers may wind up sifting through hundreds of applications each day for various positions.
This is why it’s important to specify what position you’re applying for in the first paragraph (or even the first sentence) of your cover letter. It may seem simple, but the easier you make this process for the person reading it, the better your chances will be. Too often, this is a step students forget, especially if they’re applying to multiple internships at the same time.
In many cases, it can also be helpful to mention how you found out about the internship position, whether it be:
- A referral from an employee
- A job listing site, like indeed or ZipRecruiter
- A college internship board
Whatever you do, don’t leave the hiring manager guessing what your internship application is for. This will almost certainly lead to your application being rejected. Keep this part simple, straightforward and easy to understand. Once the basics have been covered, you can move on to the creative part of your cover letter.
The bottom line – Be specific. Your cover letter should have some creative elements, but the details about the position you’re applying for should always be front and center.
Use Keywords From the Listing
Keywords are crucial to writing an effective cover letter. By using keywords and phrases found in the description of the internship, you’ll be showing the hiring manager that you fully understand the position (and you’re qualified for it).
Here’s what you’ll need to do to find some keywords. Read the internship listing carefully. You may want to go over the job description multiple times to make sure you fully understand what’s expected of you. This will give you a stronger foundation when writing your cover letter. Then, make a note of the preferred skills listed in the job description. These are going to make up a large chunk of the keywords you’re going to include in your cover letter.
Common keywords to note may include:
- Organizational skills
- Time management skills
- Proficiency in certain programs, such as Microsoft Word, Excel, or editing software
- Collaboration and communication skills
- Research and analysis
Once you begin writing, try to incorporate these keywords as naturally as possible. Break up your usage of keywords by using one per paragraph. If you can provide specific examples of these skills from previous internships, jobs or volunteer positions, this will make your cover letter even better. You want to prove that you actually possess these specific skills from prior relevant experience, rather than simply regurgitating the words in the listing.
The bottom line – Look for the important words in the internship listing, especially the preferred or required skills and experience. Sprinkle these in throughout your cover letter and back up your claims with prior work experience and anecdotes.
Discuss Previous Work Experience
If you already have professional experience under your belt, you’ll want to make this absolutely clear in your cover letter. As previously mentioned, you’ll want to include any relevant skills you learned from these previous positions. If you see a certain skill is preferred for applicants, try to tie it into your past experiences to help show that you’re qualified for the role.
Of course, not all candidates will have the specific work experience listed in the internship description. As a student, this can be intimidating—but you shouldn’t let it deter you from applying. There’s always a way to communicate other non-work-related experiences that may be relevant to the role.
In addition to internships, part-time jobs can also be helpful to mention. For example, service industry or manual labor jobs teach a plethora of vital skills that can be helpful for an internship role. Experience with entry level jobs can also show that you’re willing to work hard and excel no matter what kind of specific position you are in. Note if your previous employment helped you gain any of the following specific skills:
- Helping customers
- Managing your time
- Sticking to a work schedule
- Solving problems at the workplace
The bottom line – No matter what work experience you have under your belt, there’s often a way to work it into your cover letter. Don’t be afraid to get creative and make connections other candidates may not think of.
Talk Yourself Up
The next step toward writing a great cover letter is simple, but not always easy: talk yourself up!
Employers want to hire a candidate who is confident, prepared, and equipped to handle the job. As a student, it can feel difficult to bulk up your resume with relevant work experience and internships. In order to make up for lack of experience, it’s important to give yourself credit where it’s due. This means mentioning things such as:
- Good grades
- Work ethic
- Classroom/school project experience
- Your career goals (and how they relate to the job)
- Your enthusiasm for the position
- Your dedication to the position
- Something unique that makes you stand out (such as a hobby, volunteer work, work experience, etc.)
Be careful not to let this element of your cover letter come off as bragging., That said, it’s important to understand that your potential employer expects you to mention your positive qualities. After all, you’re applying for a competitive role. Don’t be afraid to explain why you deserve the position over other applicants.
The bottom line – Pat yourself on the back when necessary. It’s perfectly fine—and expected—for you to talk yourself up in an internship cover letter.
Sign Off Respectfully
Finally, you’ll want to end your cover letter with a respectful sign off. To create a cohesive letter, it’s crucial to end with a nice flow and a call to action for the person reading it. Here are a few tips for singing off your internship cover letter:
- Say thank you – It’s important to be respectful of the hiring manager’s time. Thank them for taking the time to read and consider your internship application before ending your letter.
- Be optimistic – Noting that you hope to hear from the prospective employer soon is a great way to show you’re optimistic and confident about your application. This also adds a tone of commitment to the letter.
- Mention availability – To incorporate an even stronger sense of commitment to your cover letter, try to mention your availability for an interview and how soon you’d be able to start. This will be particularly helpful if your availability is fairly wide open. If your schedule is more complicated—you can skip this step.
- Sign off with your name – Lastly, end the cover letter by signing off with sincerely, (Your Name). It’s also a good idea to add any other contact information somewhere on your cover letter, whether it be in the header or at the very bottom.
The bottom line – Don’t leave the hiring manager with a cliffhanger ending. Sign off respectfully, comfortably, and optimistically. Note your availability, thank them for their time, and show your enthusiasm for a future interview.
Make an Internship Part of Your Career Path with the Help of North Central College
College is an important part of jumpstarting your professional career, but not all schools offer the same resources in this department. It’s vital that students look for a school like North Central College that takes internships and career goals seriously. Being based in Naperville makes the college an ideal place to find internships. According to Money magazine. Naperville is one of the Midwest’s best places to live, making it ripe with career opportunities!
North Central College’s Career Development Center is here to help guide students through the complicated world of internships, jobs, and networking. Dedicated staff are ready to assist you with building a resume, practicing interviews, learning how to network, finding compatible internship positions, and everything else you’ll need to start a flourishing career post-graduation.
Get ahead of the game and find out how you can start building your professional experience early at North Central College.
Jacob Imm is a communications specialist in the North Central College Office of Marketing and Communications. He has 11 years of collegiate communications experience and has worked with hundreds of college students. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University.
Duszyński, M. (2021, June 30). Cover letter for an internship: Examples & tips for all interns. zety.
Doyle, A. (2021, July 15). Cover letter for an internship samples and writing tips. The Balance Careers.