How Many Internships Should I Apply To?

A young female being interviewed and shaking hands with the interviewer

The collegiate learning experience involves more than attending lectures and completing homework assignments. Ideally, your college experience will also include hands-on experiential learning opportunities. Internships are a common way to enrich the college experience while also gaining exposure to important professional skills.

If you didn’t complete an internship in high school, it’s only natural to have some questions. You may be wondering, How many internships should I apply to? and When is it too late to apply for summer internships? Let’s explore these and other common questions about college internships.

In This Article:

Why Should I Do Internships in College?

Internships can be an invaluable experience, both for current college students and recent graduates. They can offer the following benefits:1

  • Hands-on experience: Potential employers often prefer to hire job candidates who not only have the right academic credentials, but who can also demonstrate work experience. It’s tough to acquire work experience as a recent grad, but an internship is one way to do it.
  • Career identification: In college, you might know that you want to work in a particular field, but perhaps you aren’t quite sure about the specific career you want to pursue. An internship is one way to help narrow down your choices and refine your interests.
  • Professional networking: A successful job search is often dependent not only on what you know but also on whom you know. An internship is your opportunity to build a professional network that may aid you after college.
  • Letters of recommendation: If you plan on applying to graduate school or pursuing similar endeavors after college, you may need letters of recommendation. Supervisors from your internships may provide these for you if you make a good impression.

How Many Internships Should I Do in College?

Now that you know the importance of internships, you’re likely wondering, How many internships should I do in college, exactly? There is no universal standard, although some colleges may require you to complete a set number of internships to graduate. Generally, you should consider one internship to be the minimum, but two to four is preferable.2 If you definitely know what you would like to do after college, and your first two internships focused on that area, then you may not feel the need to do more. 

On the other hand, if you complete your first two internships in a field that you later decide isn’t quite right for you, you may benefit from pursuing more internships in your preferred field. The general rule of completing two to four internships (but at least one) holds true no matter your field of study and intended industry.

How Many Internships Should I Expect To Apply To?

The question, How many internships should I apply to? is a little different from the question of how many internships you should complete. This is because it’s unlikely that you’ll be offered an internship at every company you apply to. 

You should expect to apply to about 20 internships in order to get accepted to one.3 Of course, this is just a general guideline; it isn’t set in stone. It’s a good idea to create a spreadsheet with a list of companies and internships. Keep track of where you’ve applied, where you intend to apply and whether you’ve heard back from the company or not.

How Early Should You Apply for a College Internship?

As a college student, you can do an internship any time of the year, including during a semester. However, you may prefer to do internships during your summer breaks so you aren’t distracted from your studies. This is particularly true if you tend to participate in a lot of extracurriculars during the school year. If that sounds like you, then you should know when to apply for summer internships.

  • It’s a good idea to begin looking for available opportunities as early as September or October of the prior year. These are peak times for networking events such as career fairs. Expect applications to open from November through January.4
  • Because summer internships are often competitive, with large volumes of applicants, it’s best to submit your application as early as possible.4
  • Getting involved in clubs is also another opportunity you can take advantage of to get acclimated to your academic pursuits. Joining clubs that align with your program of study may provide resources and tips on finding future internships. This is also a great idea if you’re new the university experience and want to learn how to successfully balance the college life.

If you’d like to do an internship in the spring, you’ll need to start looking for opportunities and submitting applications during the late summer or early fall. To pursue a fall internship, plan on going through the application processes in the spring. For winter internships, you can expect applications to open in late summer and early fall.5

When Is It Too Late To Apply for Summer Internships?

Although you should plan on submitting applications for summer internships starting in November and extending into January, it’s really never too late to apply. Let’s say you didn’t land an internship from the batch of applications you submitted during that time period, and now it’s spring and you’re scrambling to find a position for the summer.

It may not be possible to land an internship at your preferred company or even for your preferred type of position. However, you’re likely to find ads for internships popping up on job boards throughout the year. If you’re persistent, you may still be able to find a position — so don’t give up.

How To Find Internship Opportunities in College

Now that you know the basics of internship timing — such as when to apply for summer internships — it’s worth taking a look at exactly how to go about doing so. It’s likely that your college offers career-related resources, including help finding jobs and internships. It’s also likely that your college will host a few career fairs.

Your first step is to take advantage of the resources available to you. 

  • Attend all the career fairs available on campus and show up prepared. Research the companies that will be present in advance; know what their mission is and what their products or services are.
  • Dress semi-professionally. You don’t need to wear a suit and tie, but you should wear something more formal than jeans and a T-shirt. Bring copies of your resume, make eye contact and offer a firm handshake. It’s also a good idea to come prepared with your “elevator pitch,” which is a brief statement about your career interests and why you would make a great intern for the company. Be sure to follow up with the recruiters afterward.
  • Visit your college's career services department. Ask for help looking for local internship opportunities. (The career services team can also help you put together a solid resume, so you might want to visit them prior to a career fair.) A third option is to browse online job boards and search for the keyword internship.
  • Use your network. Reach out to family, friends, mentors or professors and ask if they know of any connections or open internships, or if they have any advice for you. Professional organizations may also be a great place to search for internship opportunities and hiring events. 
  • Freshen up your LinkedIn profile. Go through and update your profile on LinkedIn to potentially be seen by other professionals. You can reach out to companies who are hiring and people you are interested in learning from. If you connect with someone on LinkedIn, suggest a virtual meeting. Use your best judgment in networking.

Visit GCU's Career Services Team for Guidance

At Grand Canyon University, we aim to provide student services that help prepare you for life after college. The Career Services team supports students with a range of services, including identifying internship opportunities, hosting career fairs, resume review and providing interviewing practice. Fill out the form at the top of this page to learn more about becoming a GCU student.

1 Indeed. (2023, Nov. 14). 10 benefits of doing an internship. Retrieved March 19, 2024.

2 Kaplan, Z. (2023, May 16). How many internships should I apply for? Forage. Retrieved March 19, 2024. 

3 Indeed. (2023, April 24). How many internships should I apply to? Retrieved March 19, 2024. 

4 Indeed. (2023, June 9). When should you apply for a summer internship? (With 6 tips). Retrieved March 19, 2024. 

5 Ciotola, F. (n.d.). Timing is key: When to apply for internships. Collegiate Parent. Retrieved March 19, 2024. 

Approved by the executive director of Career Services on April 18, 2024.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.