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Securing Experience Prior to Junior Year

Experiential Learning: Internships & Beyond

There are many opportunities for first- and second-year students but it’s important to know that experiential learning goes beyond internships. Employers are interested in the skills and experiences you’ve acquired, whether through formal internships or by volunteering. Experiential learning provides opportunities for you to explore interests, acquire practical skills, and test different roles and career options.

Manage your expectations. There is not a set number of internships or experiences you need to complete during your college career. Additionally, the summer after your first year isn’t about finding the perfect internship. Many students go home and work at previous summer jobs, which is completely acceptable.

Keep in mind that experience comes through formally coordinated roles and programs as well as opportunities students may create/find on their own.

The chart below highlights the many experiential learning options available.

Experiential learning options available
Type of Experience Overview Resources to Consider

Academic/Class Projects

A classroom project that is a learning experience where you gain transferable and career-related skills, sometimes with a real client/organization.
  • Departmental websites
  • Faculty and academic advisers
  • Academic courses
Informational Interviewing Informational Interviewing is a method for conducting career research to acquire information about a field, industry, or position. They are also a form of networking that can help you develop professional contacts.
Internship A hands-on work experience (paid or unpaid) offered by an organization for students to gain career-related experience in a particular industry or field. Can take place in the summer or academic year.

Job Shadowing /

A short-term (1-3 day) experience in which students observe a professional on the job to learn more about a particular career path, industry or employer.

Northwestern Field Studies / Academic Programs  

Opportunities offered through Northwestern or other programs for academic internships and/or professional development.


Part-time/work-study is on-or off-campus employment that can be used to enhance academic or career goals.

Research / Independent Study Research conducted through academic departments or 1:1 with faculty that explore the application of one’s major or minor.
Fellowships Competitive awards that pay students (and alumni) for a short period of time to work on creative, research or community-project grants, provide academic scholarships, or internships.
Student Organizations A student led group experience that can provide a sense of community, while also developing transferable skills including leadership and collaboration.
Volunteer Experience A contribution of useful services to an organization or community for the purpose of personal, social or professional development.
Professional Development Activities that offer skill development and/or facilitated learning opportunities to help you build or enhance your knowledge of careers.
  • Professional conferences
  • Employer immersion programs
  • Case competitions
  • Hackathons
  • Music festivals