Watching TV and movies gives us a rather false sense of what an internship really is. While my regular “The Journey” posts shall continue, I decided to also give a breakdown on obtaining an internship for high school students, since I kept mentioning my biotech internship. High school students are often told (for good reason) that they cannot let their summers go to waste, especially before their junior or senior year. These are the summers that can really help your application shine in the eyes of admissions officers. Internships also offer many advantages besides having a stronger college application.
When applying for an internship, do not look for something just because it may look good for your application. That is an added bonus of any internship. The best thing is to find something you are interested in and go from there. Secondly, do not live under the delusion that movies promote interns getting their supers coffee and file papers away while talking to their glamorously dressed friends. Most high school internships are real work and require time and effort. Finally, rather than searching far and wide for any internships, look for ones that you are interested in and will be willing to put in time and effort into. This means narrow your search to something meaningful and don’t settle for anything until you are completely satisfied.
I applied for a biotechnology internship at Ohlone College in Fremont called the Ohlone Biotech Summer Institute. My internship was basically like a course and an internship all in one. Monday through Friday for four weeks, eight hours a day, the other students and I would do labs and learn various molecular biology lab techniques. The first hour in the morning was usually instruction and lecture. Then we ventured into the lab, which usually took many hours. Some labs even spanned multiple days. It was a rewarding experience because we were taught the most relevant and modern bio lab techniques, and we got to read real, current scientific literature. Also, at the end of the four weeks, we had the opportunity to apply for a follow-up internship at a biotech company. Unfortunately, in my year, the company that usually took most students decided not to show up and most of us were left without follow-up internships. However, the main course at Ohlone itself was rewarding and pretty challenging. Sadly, the Biotechnology Summer Institute was not offered after Summer 2008.
Do not be disheartened! There are many opportunities for you out there. That was just my personal experience, and there are internships in any field you can think of. The College Board offers links to comprehensive websites that list many internships for high schoolers: http://www.collegeboard.com/student/plan/high-school/8382.html
Also, make sure to ask teachers and other people for help. I heard about the Ohlone experience through my AP Biology class. My friend interned at her family friend’s tax office. She ended up majoring in Finance and Accounting later in college. So use all the resources around you including friends, family, and the old, reliable yellow pages. The key is to not be afraid to ask. One of my other friend’s volunteered for her optometrist’s office and ended up using that experience to gain a paid position at another optometry clinic.
As someone who was always interested in biology, I looked for summer internships at various bio companies like Genentech, Cedars-Sinai, and many others. Look at the career pages of any large company in the area of your interest and I’m sure you can find something, either paid or unpaid. For example, the CDC offers summer volunteer research opportunities for high school students. Just make sure to go to the careers page and refine your search for either internship or student opportunities. Another big internship hub is the US government. Make sure to check out www.usajobs.gov/studentjobs/ to find interesting opportunities. Whatever your interests, there is an internship for you – you just have to go find it. With that being said, good luck with your search!