How Many Internships Should I Apply For?

By Jack Flynn and Experts - Nov. 11, 2020

Find a Job You Really Want In

Often, internships are the gateway to the job of your dreams, and some colleges even require one to graduate in certain majors. Therefore, whether you’re an undergraduate student, graduate, or on your way out of school, trying to land an internship can be a stressful and overwhelming process.

Take a deep breath!

The world of internships is incredibly competitive, and the odds of landing one are not always high. Fortunately, knowing the right ways to apply and how many you should apply for can save you immense disappointment and frustration.

How Many Internships Should I Apply To?

Given the competitive nature of internships, you’ll need determination while going through the process. Unfortunately, the truth is that you are not going to get every internship you apply for.

To prepare for this, you have to avoid being too picky. While it’s easy to apply for the one or two internships you think are perfect, your odds of getting one of those will be significantly lower.

Instead, you shouldn’t turn away potential internships because they don’t meet every single one of your needs. In fact, according to Hamline University, most internships are considered interdisciplinary, and therefore, branching out slightly will not conflict with your major.

Dedicate some time to searching for internships. Make a general list of the ones you find agreeable, at least ten or more, in order from your most desired to the ones that are just acceptable. Afterward, apply for all of them in the order you listed.

Applying for ten or more internships may seem excessive, but doing so will raise your chances considerably. Further, even if you aren’t chosen for any of those, you can’t give up. The more persistent and determined you are in seeking out and applying for internships, the more you’ll set yourself up for success.

Internship Application Tips

Once you’re determined to tackle the applications, it’s essential to know what will make you stand out from the crowd. After all, if you submit a stellar application, you’ll be less likely to have to apply to dozens of internships.

  1. Update your resume. Before you go on ahead and send your resume out to several internships, you’ll want to go over it and make sure everything is updated. Add any new job experience and relevant educational information, and check everything over for proper spelling and grammar.

  2. Research the company in question. There are few things hiring managers like to see more than an applicant understanding their company. Therefore, one way to make your application stand out is to mention your knowledge of the company and why you think you’d be a good fit for the internship, given the information you researched. Doing so will make you a much more appealing candidate.

  3. Include a cover letter. Regardless of how many applications you send out, if you want to land your desired internship, you must include a cover letter.

    Though this may seem like a lot of writing, keep in mind that internships are an extremely competitive business. Therefore, choosing not to include a cover letter may just waste all the time you spent applying in the first place.

    Instead, utilize similar templates for each letter, but find ways to personalize them to each internship you’re applying for. Doing this will give you the maximum chance of standing out among the crowd.

  4. Gather reference letters. Though this might be harder than creating several cover letters, considering that you have to ask others to do this for you, you should still make an effort to gather as many personalized reference letters as possible.

    When in doubt, ask several different people to write letters, so the workload is less daunting, and each individual is more likely to agree. If you’re able to procure at least one reference letter per application, you’ll shine even more to the company in question.

  5. Personalize your application. Even though you have to apply to several internships, it’s still vital that you find ways to personalize each application. Even personalizing just three sets of cover letters and resumes will give you more of a chance than sending out 20 generic ones.

    For example, your resume should be highlighting skills and qualifications that the company in question specifically calls for in their internship listing. Considering the fact that recruiters spend an average of only 6.25 seconds looking at an applicant’s resume, personalizing your application in this way will prevent you from being added to the discard pile.

    Remember, it’s okay to maintain similar templates throughout, but you’ll want to allude to each specific organization you’re applying to and make it clear you understand their culture and mission.

    Further, if you can think of relevant parts of your experience to share on each application, you will stand a much better chance of being seen by a hiring manager.

Managing your Internship Opportunities

Now that you’ve applied to a decent amount of internships, you must continue to manage your opportunities from there.

First, even if this seems obvious, you should check your email daily. Keep track of any emails related to your applications, and try to organize each internship, so you can easily find what you need.

Be aware of when you sent your applications out, and if you don’t hear anything back within five to seven days, you can send a “checking in” email. This will prevent potential employers from forgetting about you and remind them that you’re diligent and motivated.

Finally, if you aren’t seeing any progress coming from your applications, you should return to looking for more internships. After all, internships tend to be very time-sensitive, so you should be as aggressive as possible in your search.

More than anything, don’t lose hope! The more applications you can manage, the more opportunity you will have.

Common Mistakes

Generally speaking, all the things you shouldn’t do are the opposite of what you should do. Many of these mistakes were alluded to already, but it’s still good to keep them in mind.

  1. Waiting too long to apply. Most, if not all, internships are very time-sensitive. For example, if you’re looking for a summer internship, the job listing can be posted as early as fall or winter. With this in mind, don’t make the mistake of waiting to apply. Start your search early and try to apply as soon as listings are posted. This punctuality will give you the best chance of success.

  2. Applying for only a few internships. As mentioned previously, internships are an incredibly competitive business. Therefore, applying to only two or three will give you abysmal chances. Given that, regardless of how confident you are or how much of a perfect candidate you are, applying to only a few will be a mistake. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with you, you just have to get through the competition.

  3. Not sending a cover letter. Given the competition at hand, it’s vital that you do whatever you can to stand out. Not including a cover letter with your resume is a common mistake that can land you in the discard pile. Therefore, make sure you include a personalized cover letter so you can survive the hiring manager’s vetting process.

  4. Not cleaning your social media. Often, potential employers will check your social media or other public records of you. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to make sure you aren’t dropping F-bombs in your posts, posing in offensive pictures, or getting involved in controversy on the regular. If you see any of these issues on your social media, it’s a good idea to clean things up!

  5. Not following instructions. Read the application instructions very carefully. The last thing you want is to ruin your first impression by submitting your resume incorrectly or not including something the employer wanted in your application. Instead, keep the application description open while you’re applying so you can look it over.

  6. Only applying to one kind of company. Major corporations often have a surplus of applications coming in all the time. To enhance your chances of getting an internship and broadening your horizons, look for work at all different kinds of companies. Small or big, branching out will only give you better chances and positive new experiences.

  7. Not following up. Employers aren’t perfect, and your application can easily be lost in the crowd. To prevent this, be sure to follow up. A simple email will suffice, and let the potential employer know you’re highly interested in the position.

Get Out There and Apply!

Now that you have a general idea of how many internships to apply for and how to put together your applications, there’s no time to waste. Take the time to do some research, and apply for your chosen internships as soon as possible.

Good Luck, and don’t give up!


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Jack Flynn

Jack Flynn is a writer for Zippia. In his professional career he’s written over 100 research papers, articles and blog posts. Some of his most popular published works include his writing about economic terms and research into job classifications. Jack received his BS from Hampshire College.


Matt Warzel, CPRW, CIR

Matt Warzel a President of a resume writing firm (MJW Careers, LLC) with 15+ years of recruitment, outplacement, career coaching and resume writing experience. Matt is also a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Internet Recruiter (CIR) with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (Marketing Focus) from John Carroll University.

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