How Many Internship Applications Should I Submit?

Over the past few weeks, I have had several discussions with students interested in pursuing summer internships. While everyone’s stories and interests are different, one question has surfaced over and over again – how many internship applications should I submit?

I wish I had a simple and easy answer to this question (if I could predict the actual number for every student, I could probably predict many other things as well, but I digress…). My response to these inquiries is that I encourage students to avoid extremes and focus more on the process and less on the number of applications.

What do I mean by extremes?  Generally speaking, I would not advise students to only apply to a small handful of positions and certainly I never advise students to apply for every single opening they find of interest.  The ultimate number of internship applications submitted would ideally be somewhere in between, but again I try not to focus on numbers here.

While employers ultimately make the decision to extend interview and internship offers, students do control how they approach the internship search process.  A bit of planning and strategy can go a long way to conducting an effective search.  Be purposeful and not erratic.  In other words try to work your way through a thought-out process to researching and applying for internships opposed to navigating the process ad-hoc and sporadically.  If you can set aside a consistent amount of time per week towards your actively pursuing your internship search, you may continue to discover new and interesting opportunities.  However, if you apply to internships and stop your search waiting to hear back from the places you applied before proceeding, you very well could miss out on securing an internship that’s a good fit for you.

Remember at the end of the day, the number of positions you apply for will guarantee a successful outcome.  In fact, over time you will forget the actual number of internships you applied for.  But if you proceed steadfastly with your search with confidence and prudence, you may feel more control over a seemingly uncontrollable process.

Author: David

David Ross is a Senior Associate Director of Career Services for Wharton undergraduates and occasional blogger for "Penn & Beyond."