Frequently Asked Internship Application Questions

  • I keep looking for internships but there aren’t many posted! Where are they? Am I too late? 
    • Not at all! Don’t worry. You’ll see a bulk of internship opportunities posted in January and February, especially in the nonprofit sector. Keep in mind that different industries have different timelines (check in with an advisor for specifics), but many organizations take December to finish projects, take a break and will plan for the summer after New Years. 
  • Why don’t I see many academic research positions or clinical experiences posted on Handshake? 
    • Many academic-related opportunities are posted directly on university or institutional websites and/or posted through professional organizations’ sites like Pathways to Science or the Association of American Medical Colleges. Remember that Handshake is not an aggregator of every opportunity out there and that employers self-select to post their opportunities on the Amherst College Handshake platform.
  • Some applications ask for a writing sample. What is that? 
    • A writing sample is a selection of your past expository writing, like an essay or research paper. It showcases your ability to express ideas clearly and effectively. If an application requests a writing sample, this means that writing may be a key function of your internship. 
    • Choose a piece of writing, or an excerpt from a larger piece of writing, that you’re proud of (usually at most, five pages). Try to submit writing you’ve completed within this school year that relates in form or subject matter to the position or organization you’re applying to. Be sure to contextualize the piece in your header (i.e. What class was this for? What was the assignment? Is this an excerpt?)
  • Some internships request letters of recommendation/letters of support and some request references. What’s the difference? 
    • A letter of recommendation (sometimes called a letter of support) is very similar to letters of recommendation you solicited when applying to colleges. You submit these letters along with your application materials and, like college recommendation letters, they should be customized and tailored to you and your strengths. Be mindful to ask as far in advance as possible for these letters from faculty who know you well and ideally, from faculty who teach in the same subject area as your potential internship. Depending on the position, it can also be appropriate to have one of the letters be written by a coach, supervisor, or other mentor, if more than one letter is requested. The letter(s) will be read along with your application. 
    • A reference is a person who knows you well and can speak to your strengths, especially in regards to work, academic or otherwise. Again, this is usually at least one faculty member. You will list the contact information for that person with your application, but they will not be contacted unless you are a finalist for the position. Always ask the person in advance if you may list them as a reference. Share the position description and your application materials with them so they can speak about you in the most informed way possible. 

Former Peer Career Advisor Perspectives 

Sushan Battarai ‘24E writes… 

“The winter break is a great time to reconnect and work on things you could not during a busy semester. [Previously] I used this time to network back home (Kathmandu) and talk to professionals about the kind of work I was interested in doing in the future. I connected with them via a colleague from a prior internship who introduced me to them and was also able to meet people through emailing them and asking if they were free to meet for tea or a Zoom call. Networking at home could be a great way to expand your horizons and understand a different sort of job market. You can also use this time to do research and compile specific internships you want to apply to. I used Notion and Trello during the break to help me collect information and keep track of deadlines.”

Carolyn Thomas ‘23 writes…

“Once you find some internships you’d like to apply to, I recommend creating an Excel spreadsheet or a Google sheet with internships that interest you. In the spreadsheet, I recommend including important information such as deadlines and required application materials (letters of recommendation or cover letters, etc). I also color-code entries. For example, if the deadline is nearing, I highlight the opportunity in orange to make sure I am paying extra attention to the upcoming deadline. I think this exercise is excellent preparation for Loeb’s Jumpstart Internship Search week which takes place at the beginning of the semester! I also recommend signing up and paying extra attention to the career community newsletters and Career Columns since those opportunities are vetted by Loeb staff.”

By Emily Tareila
Emily Tareila Program Director, Charles Hamilton Houston Internship Program