Internship Process

There are a couple of key points Western students need to consider when seeking an experiential learning opportunity:

Academic Connection

Credit - Some academic programs at Western require students to complete field hours or an internship in order to graduate. If you are unsure about the requirements for your particular area of study, please refer to your DegreeWorks and visit with your Faculty Advisor. For an undergraduate student to receive academic credit, the student must obtain pre-approval from the appropriate faculty establishing internship learning objectives and academic requirements as established on the Registrar's internship approval form (currently available in hard copy in the Registrar's office). A formal evaluation process assesses the student's competencies as they pertain to academic goals. The student's grade is then awarded based on student performance. Each program is different; some are pass/fail, others offer a letter grade. The internship provider (site supervisor), student and Western faculty member are all included in the assessment process. Students pay tuition for credit-bearing internships and earn a final grade, and the student may be covered under Western's worker's compensation policy for the semester in which the student is enrolled in the internship credits. Students earn credits based on the number of field hours they complete.

The credit allocation is based on the following:

Supervised Field HoursCredit Hours
37.5 hours1 credit
75 hours2 credits
112.5 hours3 credits

Non-credit - Depending on your academic program, you may not be required to complete a credit-bearing internship in order to graduate. With that said, there are many students who are seeking experience and networking opportunities and are not as interested in the credit component. With non-credit internships, there is no official paperwork that must be submitted by the internship provider or the student. In fact, the institution is released from any connection with that experience. Although there are no documented learning objectives connected to non-credit internships, it is advisable that students still be mindful of their overall academic and professional goals before and throughout the internship experience.

Compensation

Paid or Unpaid - some internships offer stipends or even an hourly wage. Others are unpaid, where the student is essentially volunteering their time and skills. When looking for an internship, keep in mind that if you are earning academic credit for the internship, you will have to pay tuition on the experience. Each student has a different financial situation so it is up to you to decide what kind of internship(s) you will pursue. Bear in mind that you might limit your experiential options if you only seek out paid opportunities.

Either option that you choose to apply for, you will want to verify that it is in accordance with the U.S. Department of Labor's Fair Labor Standards Act.

Scheduling

Credit-bearing internships take place during one of the following time frames (click here for the current academic calendar):

Fall Semester - late August through early/mid December

Spring Semester - mid-January through late April

Summer - May through August

Western students complete their hour allotment during one of the above listed terms. The student must be enrolled for the credits during the term in which the work is initiated. The course work is part of a student's academic load for that semester. The student must be in direct communication with their faculty member verifying that the internship dates work for all parties.

Non-credit internships can be completed during a time frame that is both convenient for the internship provider and the student as it is not influenced by Western's academic calendar.

Searching for an Internship

Your advisor and academic department: Some departments have an internship posting board or a faculty member that keeps students updated on openings.

Networking: Reach out to people who are doing what you want to do. Set up a LinkedIn account as a way to reach out to professionals in your field.

Business/organization websites: If you know which field you want to pursue, research companies and organizations to see if they advertise internships and jobs on their websites.

Western's website: Check out the Job & Internship Search page for links to dozens of search resources, and login to Handshake for even more internship (and job) openings.

How to Apply

  1. Find one or more internships that support your academic and professional goals. If you would like help in starting or narrowing your search, you are invited to make an appointment with Career Services through Handshake to chat.
  2. If seeking a for-credit internship, you must have at least a 2.0 GPA and have completed at least 12 credits within the academic area of the internship. Each academic department may also have their own requirements. You may get an internship packet at the Registrar's office and complete the packet with both your site supervisor and academic advisor prior to the beginning of the internship. For non-credit experiences, simply follow the employing organization's requirements.
  3. Update your resume and be prepared to submit a cover letter for the position(s) that interest you. Then, prepare for an interview.
  4. Meet with the professor who will serve as your faculty sponsor so that you understand their academic requirements and expectations.
  5. When you have confirmed an internship, return the completed internship packet to the Registrar's office. NOTE: The internship packet must be completed, submitted and approved prior to both the add deadline and the first day of work at the internship site.

How to Make the Most of Your Internship

Congratulations on securing an internship! Making the most of this opportunity requires careful planning and dedication on your part. Here are suggestions from Career Services based on the experiences of previous interns:

Before You Start

Communicate with your internship supervisor about your goals and future career aspirations. The more defined your goals are, the more likely it is that you will get what you want from the experience. Before your first day do a trial run to your internship site and time how long your commute might take (obviously, this is more of a concern outside of the Gunnison Valley).

During the Internship

Do be punctual. Arrive on time and don't go over on breaks. Constant tardiness could eventually be held against you.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Everyone knows that you are an intern; do not expect to know everything right away. With that said, you also don't want to behave like a "know-it-all."

Do talk to your supervisor within the first week of your experience about the documentation that will be required if you are pursuing a credit-bearing internship.

Do keep a daily journal or unofficial record of your assignments (for your eyes only), how you accomplished them and what you learned. This information will be useful in writing reflections and personal assessments, as well as for future reference when writing your resumes and cover letters.

Don't play on the computer or on your cell phone. Be sure that your cell phone is off unless required for your position; it may just ring at the most inappropriate time.

Do try to engross yourself in the company material or information pertinent to your current project. Be alert and aware of new things that the company is trying to achieve and see if there is a way that you can be of assistance.

Do understand the company culture, dress, and appropriate behavior. Some outfits or conversations may be inappropriate. Identify someone within the organization whose style you admire and use that as a guide to how you should present yourself.

Do steer clear from giving your opinion on politics and other sensitive issues. Office politics can be sticky!

Don't complain or slack off on your assignments. You might feel like you are doing unimportant tasks, but if you work with a positive attitude you might eventually get bigger opportunities.

Do take responsibility for your work, even if you make a mistake. Learn from your mistakes and demonstrate that to the person who will be evaluating you.

Don't take things personally. Assess the situation objectively. Furthermore, if you receive criticism, don't get defensive. Know when to speak and when to listen.

Do network. Professionals in a field of your interest surround you. Take initiative and try to learn as much about them as possible by asking or joining them for lunch. Talk to them about your interests and aspirations, and theirs! Find someone within the organization with whom you may want to conduct an Informational interview; you might find yourself a valuable mentor!

Do get feedback and take interest in projects around you. This perspective will help you understand how you are doing, and your interest might help you attain other great jobs down the road.

Do remember that the Career Services office is open during the summer and would be happy to assist you.

Self-Reflection

Self-reflection is an important part of your internship experience, whether you are seeking a credit-bearing or non-credit internship. Halfway through the internship you should be able to analyze whether you are attaining your goals, or if they have changed. Use a journal to help yourself gain insight. Be proactive about your learning and take the necessary steps that might make your experience better. Also, feel free to talk to your supervisor about any concerns in a professional and proactive way.

After the Internship

Talk to your supervisor about what you have achieved. If possible, make a portfolio of the work you did so that you have concrete examples. If you are unable to create a portfolio, at least update your master resume to reflect some of the bigger projects and skills you attained.

Send a thank you note to your sponsor and to other people at the organization who made a difference to your overall experience, and try to stay in touch with them on a regular basis (consider connecting with them on LinkedIn). These connections will ensure that your name does not fade away and it might come up for other job or networking opportunities.

Be sure to complete the final paperwork for your credit-bearing internship, which will help you assess what you have learned.