That's right. Internships aren't just for summers anymore. Opportunities to do internships during the school year are plentiful, and the potential rewards may be greater than those during the summer. According to one source, spring and fall internships "are sort of an undiscovered opportunity. People get wrapped up in schoolwork and don't realize they can take a semester off." Moreover, many college students do not want to give up the leisurely lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. Being an intern may not be quite the same as working in the dreaded Real World after graduation, but it may mean foregoing late nights, spontaneous road trips, and the occasional bending of the elbow. "You have to be scrappy and extra motivated," says our internship expert. "But they are good for those who appreciate the investment they're making."
Generally speaking, due to the comparatively low demand, off-season internships are easier to secure. To get you started, there are a number of readily available resources. One of the best ways to begin is with the Vault Guide to Top Internships and the Vault Internshi Board. Company web sites often provide a good deal of information as well. And as is the case with any other job, personal connections always come in handy. Recalls one former intern, "I was just hanging around at home during Christmas break, and [a former classmate] called me. I had to go in for an interview during a bad blizzard, but they hired me and I started work soon after." Failing these methods, some colleges have co-op programs which arrange internships for their students. An advantage of this method is that lest you feel taking time off from school will set you back, most of these internships offer college credit. While "some schools are snobbish about giving academic credit for nonacademic work," there are ways of circumventing such policies. Advises a source, "Sometimes you can work out an ad hoc arrangement, like writing a paper. Give the internship some academic overlay just so you get credits."
Once you get the position, you may be surprised at the quality of work you are assigned. Summer programs "have more structure, so you're treated more as an intern." But with fewer fellow interns and more flexibility, during the spring or fall "you might end up having greater responsibilities." Says one contact who landed a spring semester internship at a major national magazine, "Early on, I had to do a lot of customer service-type work, but just a couple months after I started, I began to get stories to write." Perhaps even more important, at most companies interns get a chance to experience the busy season firsthand. To cite an analogy, it is "like working at a football stadium during the season. The office is buzzing, and you get to see more. During the summer, people are on vacation. Business tends to be slow. It's not as exciting."
No matter what time of year it is, an intern's major goal is usually to get an offer for a full time job. Again, this is where doing an internship during the school calendar is particularly beneficial. With fewer people, "there is less competition and more room to be noticed." This is especially true as a result of the increased responsibility companies will give: "If you play your cards right, you can parlay the internship into a job." Companies as varied as BMG, Microsoft, and MTV "heavily draw on their internship programs" for new hires.