When to Apply for Internships

when to apply for summer internships

If you’re an engineering student looking to apply for summer internships, you may be wondering when to start applying. The short answer is that you should start applying for summer internships as soon as possible. However, different companies start hiring at different points in the year and there are ways to prioritize your applications for best results.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and want to be strategic about where you’re applying and when, then you’re in the right place. Here’s a guide on when to prioritize applying for internships at different companies and why.

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Larger companies: Prioritize in the Fall

When should you start applying for internships at larger companies?:

Larger companies typically start hiring for summer internships in the Fall, around September. You can start applying for internships as soon as they start to pop up. However, a good rule of thumb is to start applying for internships a week or two before career showcase.

Why do larger companies start hiring sooner than smaller ones?:

Generally speaking, the larger the company, the earlier they start hiring summer interns. Large companies typically have established intern programs. They have a specific budget set aside just for hiring interns. They typically even have HR Reps designated to run the intern program. Since these companies have their budget and resources established, they are able to start hiring earlier.

When should you stop applying for internships at larger companies?:

Larger companies hire throughout the year, not only in the Fall. So don’t freak out if you already missed the fall career showcase. They attend national career fairs as well as your school’s spring showcase (if you have one). However, large companies have a specific number of spots, so the earlier you apply the better.

 Additionally, if you don’t manage to land an internship in the fall, you can apply again in the spring. This gives you another opportunity and the company will like your persistence.

There’s no set date of when to stop applying for internships at larger companies. However, larger companies tend to fill their positions by April at the latest. If you get to April without an offer, there’s no need to stop applying for larger companies if you see positions pop up. You just might want to consider switching gears and focusing more on smaller companies.

Smaller companies: Prioritize in the Spring

When should you start applying for internships at smaller companies?:

Smaller companies tend to start hiring interns in the Spring, around March or April. This is more of an estimate, so you should be looking throughout the year. However, you’ll likely see more internships start to pop up in the Spring. Generally speaking, the smaller the company, the later they will start hiring interns.

Why do smaller companies start hiring later?:

Unlike large companies, small companies don’t have a budget set aside for interns. The teams usually have to hire interns using their own budgets, and because of it, they won’t know if they have room for an intern in the budget until later on. The good thing about this is that the teams who hire interns will likely have a set plan in place. They’ll have something specific set aside for you to work on because they genuinely need you. At larger companies, teams know they can just get an intern easily so there’s less urgency to prepare for your arrival.

When should you stop applying for internships at smaller companies?:

The great thing about smaller companies is that they hire up until the very last second. This is a great thing to keep in mind if you find yourself at the end of the school year with no internship secured.

Realistically, you can keep searching for internships through May. Some of the smallest companies might not even post internship positions until May.

Working for a small company might not seem as exciting as a larger one but they are still great for resumes. The benefit of working at a smaller company is that they typically allow you to have more responsibility and ownership over projects. Fewer people at a company means more responsibility per person, which leads to a great learning experience for interns.

What about medium-size companies?

Medium-size companies typically fall somewhere in the middle. They may not be as organized as the large companies and start hiring in September, but they probably won’t hire as late as the small companies either. Just keep an eye out for them throughout the year.


In conclusion, start applying for internships as soon as you can. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, prioritize the larger companies in the fall before searching for opportunities at smaller companies.

The best thing you can do is to not overthink it and just start applying. The best way to increase your odds of getting an internship is to apply to as many internships as you can.

Read More:

8 Ways to get an Internship with no Experience

Co-ops vs. Internships: 7 Major Differences

How many internships should you do in college? Let’s talk about it.