Internships can be a crucial stepping stone in your career, from learning job skills and gaining professional experience to networking and even realizing what you don’t want in a job. However, finding, applying to, and landing an internship isn’t always easy — and how many internships you apply to might be a significant factor as to whether you get one. If you’re wondering, “How many internships should I apply for?” here’s your go-to guide. We’ll cover:
- What Is a Good Number of Internships to Apply For?
- Is It OK to Apply to Multiple Internships at Once?
- How to Determine How Many Internships You Should Apply For
- How to Apply to Multiple Internships
- How Many Internships Should I Apply For? The Bottom Line
What Is a Good Number of Internships to Apply For?
While it’d be wonderful to know the golden number of internships to apply to that would guarantee you a role, the truth is there is no one right answer for how many internships you should apply for.
Experts agree that the “right” number varies — and disagree when naming an exact number.
“Consistently, I’ve seen better performance and higher enjoyment of life from interns who focus on quality over quantity,” says Katana Lemelin, senior marketing consultant at Clicksuasion Labs and intern manager. “There isn’t one right answer to how many internships to apply for. Rather, I think this is a matter of passion and setting achievable goals. If I had to choose a number, I would say as many as they can without burning themselves out, which is typically between two and four. Ideally, have a backup plan if none of the internships are accepted.”
Daniela Herrera, equity, diversity and inclusion professional and recruitment expert, agrees that it depends on the “student’s time, energy, needs, and goals,” adding that the time internship applications take can be a barrier to applying to a large number of them.
“Interviewing for an internship role, similar to a more senior opportunity, would require multiple rounds of interviews — and sometimes, companies may even request take-home tests or exercises,” Herrera says. “It’s important for students to find the balance that works for them! Some students may decide to apply just to one or two roles, while others might want to cast a wider net. And that’s completely fine too!”
But how wide should that net be? Jeremy Grunfield, director of student success at Forage, suggests something much higher: 100 applications.
“It’s unfortunate, but quantity is vital in the current world of intern recruiting,” he says.
Why? Grunfield believes more applications mean a greater likelihood of a recruiter reviewing your application.
“The application process is imperfect,” he says. “It isn’t unusual for applications to occasionally go missing or for some applications to never be reviewed. If you apply for some roles and get ghosted, it’s no big deal. It’s annoying, yes, but not unusual. Getting ghosted happens to absolutely everyone. The best way to reduce the impact of being ghosted is to have enough applications out there that it doesn’t really matter.”
Is It OK to Apply to Multiple Internships at Once?
Yes, you can and should apply to multiple internships at once. You don’t need to wait to hear back about one internship before applying to the next one.
Yet while you apply to multiple internships, be sure to do so with a targeted approach, where you’re applying to roles you’d actually accept. You don’t want to “spray and pray,” a phenomenon where applicants apply to many random open roles and hope one of the applications will stick.
It’s OK to apply for roles in various industries and teams, but be sure you’re submitting personalized applications to each one. For example, maybe you’re interested in both software engineering and marketing, which is great! However, ensure you’re not applying to both kinds of positions with the same generic resume and cover letter, as the skill sets and qualifications for those roles can differ.
Is It Good to Apply for Multiple Internships at the Same Company?
Yes, it’s OK to apply for multiple positions at a company. But first, make sure you research any guidelines the company might have. For example, you can apply to one office and one division at Bank of America each year.
Keep in mind the types of roles you’re applying for within a company. Are they within the same department? Do they require similar skill sets and experience? While it’s OK to want to try out different roles, know that applying to vastly different internships within the same company won’t necessarily increase your chances of landing one — you might end up confusing the recruiter as to what you’re qualified for and interested in.
Can You Apply to Too Few Internships?
Sometimes, you’re lucky, and the one internship you apply for gets you the job. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case and you might only hear back from a couple of companies, get an interview at three or four, and then an offer at one.
The more internships you apply to, the odds you might get one are better — of course, with the caveat that you tailor each application to the specific internship and company you’re applying for.
How to Determine How Many Internships You Should Apply For
So, if the real answer to “How many internships should I apply for?” is “It varies,” how can you figure out the best number for you? Luckily, there are ways to determine how wide of a net you should specifically cast in your search. Consider:
Some industries have internships that are much more competitive than others. For example, investment banking and consulting are highly competitive fields where internships can nearly guarantee a full-time role after graduation. As a result, competition for top internships in these fields is stiff, and you might need to widen your net to ensure you get an offer.
Like some industries are more competitive than others, some companies have more competitive internship programs.
For instance, at a place like PwC, where 90% of interns get offers for full-time hires, the company has a highly competitive and selective program. Smaller companies might have less application competition.
You can even ask for an internship at a company that doesn’t offer a formal program — and avoid competition from other intern applicants!
Internships happen year-round, but participation varies between seasons. Summer is the most popular season for internships, so if you’re looking to intern between school years, you will have more competition than if you intern in the winter or spring.
“Some companies might only want to engage with students at a specific school year based on their current and future business needs,” Herrera says.
Suppose the company intends to hire interns after graduation. In that case, the company is likely targeting rising sophomores and juniors. As a result, applications from students in these years might be preferred, and you might have a lower chance of landing the role if you’re not in those school years.
How much time do you have to submit quality applications? You don’t want to distract yourself too much from schoolwork, other commitments, and personal life (yes, even students should cultivate a healthy work-life balance!). You also want to avoid burning yourself out and spending precious time on applications that aren’t your best.
How to Apply to Multiple Internships
Applying to multiple internships isn’t easy and can quickly suck up much of your time. However, there are some ways to streamline the process so you can get more quality internship applications done without wasting any time.
Find Relevant Positions
First, gather all the internship positions you want to apply for. You can search job sites (like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed) and company websites to find open positions. People in your network — including people you ask for informational interviews on LinkedIn — and your career center might also have ideas of internships to apply for. Gathering all the positions first ensures you can correctly prioritize your applications to get them all in by the deadline (or, preferably, early).
Applying to internships early helps you land an internship in two ways. First, many companies have rolling deadlines, meaning they review applications as they come in. The earlier you submit, the better your chance of landing the role, as the recruiter is less likely to have filled it and you have less direct competition.
Second, applying early ensures you’re not trying to work on too many applications simultaneously. Many companies have similar internship application deadlines but may open their application months apart from one another — so be sure to read up on internship application openings and get ready to submit as soon as possible.
Create a “Catch-All” Resume
Tailoring your resume for each position can be frustrating if you start from scratch each time, so create a “catch-all” resume to pull from instead. This resume should include your top achievements, skills, and experiences. Then, you can create a copy of this resume and customize it for each position.
Pre-Prepare for Your Interview
While each company will have its unique set of interview questions, you can prepare for common questions you’ll likely encounter in various interviews. You’ll have to answer general behavioral interview questions and industry-specific ones.
For example, if you’re applying for technical roles that require programming skills, you can practice common coding interview questions. If you’re interested in investment banking, you can prep for common Superday interview questions.
Finally, if you’re applying to multiple internships — maybe not 100, but even more than 10 — set up a spreadsheet to keep track of your applications. You can track whether you’ve heard back from the company to ensure you send follow-up emails at the right time and you’re not missing important interviews, and you can see the status of all your applications at once.
How Many Internships Should I Apply For? The Bottom Line
It might be scary and frustrating to think about applying for multiple internships, but the truth is that applying to more internships — as long as they’re quality applications! — increases your chances of landing one. Fortunately, there are tons of strategies for helping you streamline the process so you feel confident when applying and can land an internship you’re excited about.
Ready to start applying? Learn how to apply for an internship.
Image credit: Canva