FAQ: Internships/Job Search

Internship Experiences

Is a summer job like a summer internship?

Employers may use the terms summer job and internship interchangeably. However, summer jobs and internships do vary in some ways.

  • Summer jobs: Typically, summer jobs include positions such as camp advisers, wait staff, administrative help and retail sales.
  • Internships: Internships tend to be more structured, include more training and supervision and are designed specifically for college students.

Both summer jobs and internships are means by which to gather work experience, although an internship might offer an experience more closely related to full-time opportunities after college.

How important are these experiences?

Internships and summer jobs are very valuable learning experiences. They offer the opportunity to test out different fields to gauge their interest. In addition, employers interviewing for full-time, post-graduation positions often consider internships held during college in their selection processes.

  • For incoming freshmen and sophomores: Summer jobs can be very useful. A position in a nonprofit organization or as a camp adviser can help students to build a set of skills, including leadership, program development, time management and organizational skills.
  • For incoming juniors and seniors: Internships are more important. The structured, professional environment of most internships helps students to evaluate if the experience is something they want to pursue in the long term. In some cases, a full-time job offer can result from a successfully completed internship the summer between a student's junior and senior years. 

When is the best time to look for a summer job or internship?

Students are encouraged to begin their search for internships relatively early. Some highly selective internships have deadlines as early as November 1 for the following summer. However, most freshman and sophomores are able to find an internship or summer job if they begin the search in January or February. Our career advisers will work with students to help them strategize. 

Seeking Employment

How can my son or daughter meet potential employers?

There are many opportunities for students to meet potential employers at Princeton throughout the year.

  • Employer events: Employers and alumni from different fields participate in career panels, career fairs and presentations about their organizations for students. 
  • Handshake: Many companies, organizations and government agencies recruit students for full-time and internship positions through the on-campus recruiting program. Using Handshake, students can upload documents, search, apply for jobs and even schedule interviews. 

Is the on-campus recruiting program the only way for a senior to search for a full-time position?

Not all industries use on-campus recruiting, including many nonprofits, health care organizations and publishing companies. That being the case, every student is encouraged to develop an individualized job search strategy. Students should learn about the hiring processes of the fields that interest them, and the different timelines they may have for hiring full-time employees.

  • Leverage Career Services: Our career advisers can lead students to resources and create networking opportunities with professionals in the student's field of interest.
  • Search the TigerNet Directory: More than 5,200 alumni in diverse career fields have volunteered to talk to students about what they do and provide career advice.
  • Use online tools: The Career Services website lists links to job search websites in a wide variety of occupational fields. 

What do employers look for in a candidate?

In general, employers look for students who:

  • Are highly motivated
  • Are able to communicate their ideas clearly and concisely
  • Demonstrate skills in leadership, teamwork and initiative
  • Present a desirable academic background, professional appearance and comfort level with the interview process

The skills that students need to demonstrate to employers are the cornerstone of a Princeton education. With a little practice, even the most timid student can become a good interviewer. Students are encouraged to work with one of our career advisers to create a job search strategy and practice the skills that will help them succeed in the process. We also offer mock interviews to help students prepare.

How will Princeton’s grading policies affect my student’s search?

Please contact the Office of the Dean of the College if you have any questions or concerns about Princeton's grading policy.