In the midst of winter break, thinking about summer plans may seem counterintuitive. However, winter break is an opportune time for college students, including premed students, to start thinking about summer internships. Application opens in January for many summer internships, and interviews typically occur from February to April.
What Premed Students Can Gain From Internships
Take advantage of the ample time you will have during summer break, because you will have weeks when you can devote several hours a day toward a fruitful summer internship experience. Because of this ample time, you can make extraordinary progress pushing projects.
When looking for internships and applying, write down your goals. With an eye toward medical school, ask yourself the following questions:
— What aspect of health care do I want to gain more exposure to?
— Is there an existing project on which I want to make significant progress?
— Do I want to develop or apply any particular skills?
— Do I want to work for a specific organization in order to secure a full-time job after I graduate from med school?
Writing down your goals will help you narrow down types of summer internships to which you can apply.
Common Types of Summer Internships for Premeds
Popular premed summer internships include roles at research programs, public health departments, nonprofit organizations, companies and global health projects.
Research programs. Pursuing a research internship is one of the most popular ways premed students spend their summers. You can continue with the same lab that you have been working with during the school year and devote more time to a project, advancing the research forward.
Alternatively, you can work with an entirely different research project. Perhaps there is a research group at a different university or biotech company you want to work with. Health-related research encompasses a large umbrella, including basic science research, clinical research, public health research and health policy research. There are also newer fields of health research in digital health and artificial intelligence that leverage technology and computer science.
Public health. Look for public health opportunities at academic hospitals or your county health department. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, health departments need help to stop the spread of the virus. Additionally, there are several health issues exacerbated by the pandemic that premed students can tackle, including gun violence, health care disparities, opioid overdoses and mental health.
There are plenty of leadership and innovation opportunities available. Public health summer internships allow premed students to gain hands-on experience with social determinants of health, community health, health education and local healthy policy.
Nonprofits. Doing a summer internship at a nonprofit whose mission resonates with your core values can be a rewarding experience. At nonprofits, summer interns often work with the leadership team to implement programs or conduct analyses of existing programs to see their effectiveness.
Additionally, premed students may get involved with grant writing and fundraising. Nonprofits always need as much help as possible, so there is ample opportunity for premed students to take initiative and spearhead new programs.
Companies. Premed students should also look to the private sector for fruitful summer internships. These positions can range from innovating at a startup company to working at a pharmaceutical company like Pfizer.
I know premed students who have even interned at Facebook and Apple, helping with health care initiatives. Summer internships at companies will provide project management experience and team collaboration. Often, internships in the private sector are paid.
Global health projects. Students may pursue a summer internship abroad with hospitals, physicians and global health nonprofits. They can learn about other health care systems and witness firsthand how they differ from the U.S. system.
Networking is important to secure global health internships. Premeds can find these internships through their universities, and often they find opportunities abroad through friends and family.
Tips for Strong Premed Internship Applications
To secure an engaging summer internship, start looking early. Networking is key and can help you get your foot in the door. Speak with the organizations you are interested in interning with and connect with previous interns and current employees at those organization.
Also, create a strong and tailored resume for the various internship applications. Premed students often ask whether they should include only health care experiences on their resumes. The answer is “no.” Write experiences that highlight transferable skills. Recruiters look for a strong work ethic, leadership skills and teamwork experiences.
You can also tailor your resumes by including the activities and experiences that reflect the specific roles you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a research position, you would include all your previous analytical and research experiences. If you are applying for a public health internship, you may include more of your community-building experiences and extracurricular activities that highlight leadership.
Finally, hone your interview skills. Once you submit a stellar resume and application that catch a recruiter’s eye, the next step in the process is the interview. You can never practice too much for interviews. Hone your interview skills through mock interviews with family, friends, mentors and college career center staff.
Best of luck with your internship search. All the hard work during your summer internship process will pay off because these experiences will help you if you seek full-time gap year positions and when you apply to medical school.
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