Internships

How To Get an Internship as a Freshman in College

Want to get an internship as a freshman in college? Read this comprehensive guide that touches on resumes, hunting for internships, aiming big, and other things you can do if you don't want to intern!

Riya Cyriac
Published: (Updated: ) - 5 min read
Students laughing at a table as they work

As a freshman this year, I, like many of my friends, frantically looked for a summer internship. Each of us had varied levels of success, but nonetheless, we all universally understood that finding a summer internship as a freshman with limited experience is difficult. However, it’s not impossible! This summer, I interned at Simplify and NaNoWriMo, and after you read this comprehensive guide, you’ll be better able to put your best foot forward!

Perfect Your Resume

Leverage Past Experiences

Often, companies don’t hire freshmen due to a lack of experience or education. However, increasingly, students are working at younger ages and racking up personal projects that give them a leg up in the internship field. Whether you built a website, created a nonprofit, or started a business, your previous experiences can hold valuable weight on your resume.

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If you did research in high school, be sure to write it! Organized a hackathon? Transfer those skills over. Worked an internship? That will definitely give you a leg up. The more experience you have to prove your ability to function efficiently in the role, the better. Additionally, if you’re a freshman, this is probably your last year that you can get by using those high school experiences, so make full use of all that you did in high school! 

Use quantitative descriptions to enhance your experiences

A common issue with freshmen is getting past the resume round, and it’s often because freshmen are not analytically driven when creating their resume. Jobs don’t just want your job description, they want to see the impact you created, the growth you generated, and changes you made to go above and beyond your role. Not the difference between the two following examples.

Organized blog posts that increased user engagement with the product
Solicited and wrote blog posts that increased user engagement by 40% and sign up rates by 25%.

Both lines essentially say the same thing: the blog posts you created positively impacted the company. However, the second option proves your quantitative impact on the project or product, proving to employers that you are a valuable contributor to the company’s success.

Get it reviewed by an upperclassmen

The best people to review your resume are the people that are where you want to be. Upperclassmen are seasoned at applying to internships, and have a wealth of information that can help you refine your resume.

Hunt For Internships

Use Simplify

We created Simplify to make job hunting easier, but it isn’t just an extension that fills out your job applications for you! Simplify also curates internships for you after you take a quiz indicating your interests and career goals. Simplify also tracks all your applications, whether made on the site or not.

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Check out this job list for Fall 2023 Internships

See where your upperclassmen friends interned freshman year

I browsed all my upperclassmen friends' LinkedIn profiles when I was deep in my internship hunt, and discovered startups and small companies that I otherwise never knew of.

After checking it out, I would contact the upperclassmen and ask about their experience and for resume review help. This was so helpful for me, and helped me secure my fall internship for the upcoming year. If your friend can, they may also refer you to the hiring manager, which can give you a leg up

Reach out to small firms and/or startups

While interning at Meta as a freshman might be a stretch if you have no prior experience, you can always intern at a small tech startup and gain the necessary skills and experience to prepare you for the larger companies.

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Want to be an investment banker? Intern at a middle market firm. Want to work for the white house? Start with your local government. Everyone typically starts with small experiences that provide them the skills to excel at the big ones.

Aiming big? Make sure to do this.

If your goal is to intern for Meta, McKinsey, Deloitte, or another big for your freshman summer, all hope isn’t lost. I have a handful of friends that managed to secure those internships, but this is because they had a lot of experience before. If you’re aiming big, follow these three tips.

Start early

My friends that are currently interning big companies started recruiting, networking, and applying the summer before their freshman year and early in the fall. 

Network and Practice Early

Networking is king, so make sure you start that well before you plan on applying. If you’re applying to technical internships, leetcode until you can’t code anymore. This preparation will help you advocate for yourself.

Accumulate Experiences

If you know you want to aim big, do the small things earlier, like in high school. Accumulate valuable experiences in the summer, fall, and spring. If you can show that you’re overqualified for your age, you’ll have a higher chance of securing the internship.

Things To Do Instead of (or With) an Internship

However, don’t feel pressured to get an internship freshman year! Plenty of successful people didn’t intern anywhere their freshman year. Here are some things to do instead of interning.

Study Abroad

While I am interning this summer, I also filled my summer with a study abroad trip. Studying abroad is truly a revolutionary experience that I recommend to everyone, and if you’re worried about the cost, be sure to apply for as many scholarships as you can! There’s a lot of study abroad funding at schools because they want their students to go abroad. My study abroad trip was nearly fully funded through scholarships, and yours can be too.

Work on a personal project

Working on a personal project, like a startup, webpage, a novel, a club, or anything that builds skills is also a great way to make your summer productive. My personal project in high school (my nonprofit) is what made me stand out in the intern pool.

Research

Doing research through your school is also an amazing way to use your summer. I have plenty of friends in medicine, engineering, and law that do research in their freshman year.

Do a summer program

Many big companies have programs for freshmen, like the Goldman Sachs Virtual Insights Program, McKinsey First Year Development Program, the Deloitte Discovery Internship, and more. These programs can give you a lot of insight into a company. There are also short company sponsored leadership programs, like the Armanino Aspire Student Leadership Program.

Take self-paced courses and/or summer classes

Your freshman summer is also a great time to get ahead in your degree plan or take self-paced courses on Coursera or Forage.

Work

Working in the summer doing retail or fast food is also a good way to get hands-on work experience and make money! A lot of companies value retail or fast food experience because it provides valuable skills, like communication, sales, teamwork, and resilience.

Volunteer

Plenty of people, especially in law and medicine, spend the summer volunteering at hospitals, pro bono clinics, pro bono firms, and camps. This volunteering experience is equivalent to an internship in those fields, and a wonderful way to spend your summer.

Network

Whether you are interning or spending your summer with friends, you should be networking. Networking is king, especially in finance, tech, law, and consulting. Even if you’re pursuing law or med, connecting with students in grad school can help you understand the field better and prepare.

With these tips, we at Simplify hope that you are successful in your internship hunt!