Tips for Completing Internship Applications

Tips for Completing Internship Applications

You’ve combed volumes of material describing available public health internships across the country. You’ve done your research and you’ve finally selected the program that best matches your professional and personal intentions. Now it is time to present yourself as the highly-qualified candidate that you are. This process almost always begins with the internship application. Below are some guidelines to help you make sure that your application is an asset to your success and not a liability. 

  1. Be Prepared.
  2. Start early.
  3. Follow instructions.
  4. Sell yourself.
  5. Respond accurately and honestly.
  6. Review your application thoroughly.
  7. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification.
  8. Make all submissions on time.


Be Prepared.

Mentors, peers, and others can provide valuable insight into the application process. Particularly on applications that require short answer or essay responses, it is prudent to seek guidance when tailoring your approach to the application. You may not always have the good fortune of knowing someone who has applied for an internship that you’re interested in, but it is important that you take advantage of the opportunity when you do. If you happen to know someone who was awarded an internship that you’re interested in, ask that person how they approached the application. Ask what challenges they had and how they went about deciding what information to include. Also, be sure to review the internship description. Many programs will describe the type of candidate they are looking for, or at least list the skills they expect interns to demonstrate during the internship. Allow this to guide your responses as your prepare your application. Your goal is to convince the internship coordinators that you are the best applicant for the position.


Start Early.

One of the first things you want to do when preparing an application is to note the deadline for submission. Then set a personal deadline that is much earlier than that one. This will prevent you from believing that you can afford to procrastinate in completing your application. Once you have made the decision to apply for an internship you want to begin work on the application right away. Your responses should be thoughtful and well-articulated. Beginning early allows you to carefully craft your application and have ample time to review it prior to submission. An early start will also give you time to gather necessary supplemental materials such as letters of recommendation and transcripts.


Follow Instructions.

Each internship application is distinct from the next. What is required for one application may not be necessary for another. It is important that you note what information is being requested. DO NOT submit any more or any less information than you are instructed. If you do not submit all required materials your application will be considered incomplete. Extra materials may not even be reviewed. At worst, submitting unrequested material may show that you have not carefully followed instructions. Be sure to note what additional documentation you may need to submit aside from the application itself. You may be asked to submit a personal statement, official transcripts, or letters of recommendation. Be sure to include all of these documents and materials if they are requested.


Sell Yourself.

The aim of your application is to present yourself in the best light possible. You are marketing your knowledge and skills to the organization sponsoring the internship. Make sure that your curriculum vitae, your application information, and personal statement highlight your assets. Be sure to include experiences that demonstrate your commitment to public health. Include relevant on- and off-campus activities that have been valuable to you. Recall the information you gathered during your initial research and note what internship coordinators are looking for in candidates. Appeal to these attributes.


Respond Accurately and Honestly.

While your application should be a glowing representation of your skills, it must also be honest and accurate. Be careful not to exaggerate or misrepresent yourself on your application. The strengths you have are ample enough that there is no need to embellish. Be sure to answer questions directly and completely. Include all relevant information but do not fabricate or misrepresent previous experiences. For example, class projects should not be described as formal research experiences. Likewise, written assignments are not considered peer-reviewed publications (unless of course your assignment was submitted to a peer-reviewed journal).


Review your application thoroughly.

This may be the most important step of your application preparation. It is a costly mistake to submit your materials without first reviewing them multiple times. When reviewing your application check for mistkaes mistakes in spelling and grammar. These are the easily preventable miscues that can ruin your application. Also check to make sure that all of your information is listed correctly. You certainly wouldn’t want to miss an acceptance letter because you listed the wrong address. Review your essays and short answers, if applicable, to make sure that your ideas are communicated clearly. Have others read your application as well. With all the time that you have invested in writing your application it will be helpful to have someone freshly review what you have written. Leave enough time prior to submission for review and editing as necessary.


Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification.

As you are completing and reviewing your application you may have some questions. Typically a point of contact will be given in the case that you have any questions or concerns about the application. If any of the instructions remain unclear to you after carefully reading them, do not hesitate to ask for further clarification. This will prevent your misunderstanding of any


Make all submissions on time.

If you follow Tips #1 and #2, timely submission of your application should be simple enough. It is important to make sure that your application is turned in well before the deadline. There is no need to place unnecessary pressure on yourself by waiting until the last minute. Always remain cognizant of deadlines and don’t allow time to slip away from you. Have all materials in before the listed deadline. In most cases, late submissions will not be considered. The best way to make sure that you don’t earn an internship position is to turn in your application late.


This list of recommendations is certainly not exhaustive, but coupled with the advice of a mentor, instructor, or well-seasoned peer, these suggestions will help you increase your chances of getting that dream internship.

Additional Resources:

Purdue University maintains an online writing lab (Purdue OWL) that offers great tips on writing your résumé, curriculum vitae, and cover letter. The links are below:

Writing Your Cover Letter:

Résumés and Vitas

The University Of Pittsburgh Graduate School Of Public Health provides an excellent resource for interview preparation: