An internship experience is one of the most important pieces of the foundation one lays for a successful career. Since the professional world can be very different from high school and college life, it is important that students have an understanding of some of the differences.

Using free time wisely during  summer breaks from high school and college is extremely important. On a small scale, free time during the summer may mean going to the beach or checking your Facebook. But on a large scale, three summer months can be a great opportunity for picking up skills that give you an edge over other students.

Pursuing a lifeguard certification or waiting tables at restaurants are typical student job options. While both jobs sound fun, the value of using your time that way is short-lived. And, it can be harder when it comes time to graduate to demonstrate on your resume how this work sets you apart from other candidates. Avoid this scenario by using your summer months to benefit your career in the long-term. These 7 tips can help you find great summer internships for college students:

Choose the field: Summer internships for students are your chance to explore career options with low commitment. You aren’t expected to make a lifelong career decision. But choose smartly—the field might help you get a leg up when it’s time to find a real job. A great tool to help you decide the best fit is the Internship Predictor.

Choose the location: Enjoy considering possible locations for your summer internship, but be realistic. Think about housing, transportation, and proximity to family and friends.

Have your resume ready: To find a summer internship program, college students, even high school students, should be prepared with an organized, error-free record of your education and work experience.  Summer internship programs offer exposure to the real-world demands of applying for, landing, and keeping a job. Getting your resume right is a good first step.  Check out the RMABC Internship Course.

Get ready for the interview: If you are going to meet your future employer, you need to look the part. Trim your hair and wear neat and appropriate attire. If it’s a phone interview, be prepared and polite. In both scenarios, do some prep work— be prepared to explain and discuss everything you included on your resume, think about how any courses you’ve taken so far have prepared you for this job, have a few questions about the job and company ready to ask (they will ask you if you have any questions), and review your qualifications, strengths and weaknesses so you are ready to provide good answers. Taking the Intern Certification Program can help you learn more about what employers will expect of you and prepare you for a good discussion.

Be Realistic: Summer internships for  high school students and undergraduates, while valuable learning experiences, often are unpaid positions. Work up a budget so you know what you can realistically handle in the money department. Sticking to your internship program schedule and a budget can help you make the most of your opportunity.

Get your papers organized: When you apply for a summer internship you may need some documents beyond your resume. Transcripts and letters of recommendation are great pieces of information to share with your potential employer when your job experience is limited. And be sure to bring your identification.

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