Internship Hunt

Among engineering college students there is always a fuss about third year internships. Everyone wants to get a lucrative offer and good place to work during summer. I also had high expectations in fifth semester during my third year. In IITK, the internship process starts in early August when the companies come and take various rounds like GDs, written tests, interviews, essays, etc to shortlist the students. Initially [till Sept. 2013] I couldn’t make it to any of the reputed companies like DB, ITC, etc. After which, I decided I would go for academic internships.

I already did a research project during summer 2013 in IITK under a EE professor, which helped to prepare my application and molded my interest. There had been a lot of sessions by our seniors about how to apply for university internships. Here, I would explain the options that are available to avail university internships.

  1. Internship program – One can check for university website for International scholars program and apply in it. Most of the good universities have internship programs for foreign students. One can google something like “CMU summer internship”, “IITK summer program”, etc. (Keywords: “college name”,”summer”,”internship”, “fellowship”, “research”) So you can prepare your application according to instructions on the website and wait for the results. The general requirement is good GPA, previous project and research experience, good recommendation and personal essay. Each program has their own criteria of selection, so go through every aspect to make your application strong.
  2. Contacting Professors personally – One can directly contact professor of your interest and ask if there is any position for internship student. This is very cumbersome task. As per my understanding one needs to follow these instructions to increase her/his probability of selection.
    1. Write down all of your previous projects, research experience and interest, that you have done in undergrad. This should be extensive.
    2. Filter down your interest to few topics in which you would like to pursue research.
    3. Make a good academic resume.
    4. Look for professors across the world who are working in your field on interest. Suppose you want to on image processing, then google something like “image processing XYZ university computer science department”. Other way is to read recent research papers on that topic and contacting the authors. So after few iterations, it will give the list professors who are working in that specific area. Scroll through the profile/webpage of each professor and spend at least 30 minutes/1 hour to understand what he/she is currently working on. This can be done through reading his/her recent paper, looking onto the webpage thoroughly, may be talking to current graduate students, etc. This will give you the insight of the group. Once you investigate few papers, that will definitely create curiosity (or a new idea itself!) in your mind.
    5. After this background research, you can email the professor (prefer to email from your college email ID not gmail, yahoo, etc).
    6. There is no fixed email format but please do follow all the etiquette and be precise in your words. In my case I used to first introduce myself and my purpose of sending the email. From the background study that you have done before, try to explain your interest and how did you develop it. Why are you emailing that particular professor only (here you can cite his papers and elaborate upon the results which fascinated you and which topic would you like to explore more) and talk about the current research. Then you can write about your previous experience and it would be wonderful if you have your own idea for the project. If that is the case then, attach total description of the proposal in a separate PDF file. This increases your chances manifolds. Also attach a copy of your resume. 
    7. As professors might be busy, so you should wait at least a week for the reply. If you still don’t get the response, you might want to send a gentle reminder. If there is still no response then you can assume the professor is not interested and don’t send any further emails. Many times it happens that a professor is willing to take you as intern but there is no funding to support you, then you have to arrange funding on your own (you can mention it in your email if you are self sufficent).
    8. Please don’t spam the inbox of professors, as it deteriorates the college’s reputation and it is timewaste for both. Write to each professors personally and spend time on your email. This might be time taking, but fruitful. Most of the professor would reply if you have written the email genuinely.
  3. Contacting companies: You can directly contact the companies where you would like to intern and follow the HR instruction afterwards. This process might be time taking due to delayed response of the company but it could be escalated if someone from inside the company could refer you. Don’t contact the the companies who are already being invited by your placement team.

I got offer through amalgam of first and second mode to HKUST [program link].

Other useful resources:

[1] – Quora link for Internships

[2] – Quora link for cover letters


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