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Career Fair

NCA Guides Students Through Internship and Career Searches 

We're always with students every step of the way.”

Mark Presnell
Executive Director of NCA

The office also offers the Summer Internship Grant Program, supporting students as they pursue unpaid summer internships 

Northwestern Career Advancement (NCA) offers career counseling and advising, navigates employer relations and ultimately guides Northwestern students and recent alumni toward post-graduation success. 

“We provide comprehensive career services, regardless of the career field that you’re interested in,” Executive Director of NCA Mark Presnell said.  

The office, located at 620 Lincoln St., contacts between 7,000 to 10,000 students annually across various programs, according to Presnell. 

“We connect students with advisers to teach them and support them as they go through their career development process,” Presnell said. “We provide the same support for our employers. We work with them one-on-one so they can recruit at Northwestern.”  

Most of NCA’s work involves one-on-one advising, during which advisers assist with goal-setting, resume and cover letter editing, internship and job searches, and interview preparation. Walk-in hours are held daily, and the office also offers career programming, including career treks to visit employers in the cities across the U.S. and  the Summer Internship Grant Program, which is open to all undergraduate students at Northwestern. 

Virtual and in-person appointments can be scheduled on Handshake, an online portal where information sessions, career fairs and other events are publicized, alongside internship and job postings.  

For SESP senior Anthony Engle, one-on-one appointments with an adviser have helped him land interview-heavy internship roles, including his most recent position at AstraZeneca.  

“I feel like if someone were to be like, ‘you’re being thrown in an interview in five minutes and you’re gonna have no time to prepare,’ I would not really be afraid,” Engle said. “I think that they really helped me beef up my interviewing skills and my ability to be able to market and sell myself in a way that could apply to a variety of roles in a variety of industries.”  


NCA hosts quarterly career fairs, where students can speak virtually and in person with employers. The office also holds sessions to help students prepare to engage with companies. 

NCA’s in-person services are supplemented by technology, including Live Chat and Handshake.  

“Last year, we posted over 140,000 jobs and internships on Handshake,” Presnell said. “The interconnected ability for students to have so many different choices in terms of their summer experiences and their post-graduation experience is unparalleled.”  

When advisers are not in the office, NCA’s website can be a resource for career guidance and internship search information. It also lists the career development software available for free to students, including CaseCoach, an interview prep platform, and VMock, an artificial intelligence software that critiques resumes twenty-four hours per day.  

“Essentially, we're always open. Between our staff and our technology, NCA is always open to provide services to students.” 

NCA also offers programs catering to first-generation and low-income (FGLI) students. 

“In everything we design, we have to make sure that low-income students can fully participate, that first-generation students understand the opportunities available to them, and are making active choices on how to be successful, both in the summer and after graduation,” Presnell said.  

These programs include ‘Cats Closet, which provides students with gently used professional and business casual clothing for free, and the Career Development Fund, which supports students in their career development by providing funds to purchase a suit, pay for preparation courses for graduate school entrance exams or assist them with application costs.  

NCA’s most robust financial assistance program is the Summer Internship Grant Program, funded by NU alumni, central administration and University friends. Students completing an unpaid or low-paid summer experience can apply for the $3,500 grant to support their living expenses throughout the summer. According to NCA, 362 students received the award in 2023. 

“The program is designed to support students who are pursuing unpaid experiences but might not otherwise be able to without some financial support or assistance over the summer,” Assistant Director Maggie Smith said.  

Smith emphasized that students can receive SIGP even if they aren’t completing a traditional internship over the summer.  

“Whatever you’re looking to accomplish over the summer, SIGP could be a good fit for you, even if it’s not an internship,” Smith added. 

Applications for SIGP include two essay questions about how an applicant’s summer experience will advance their career interest, what students are hoping to get out of their summer internship and their previous career experiences. There is an optional third essay question if applicants want to comment on their financial need for any reason. 

“[The application] probably took me an hour, including reading the prompt and going over it,” Weinberg junior and 2023 SIGP recipient Sarah Wachs said. “Super easy. There was no interview or anything.” 

Wachs completed an internship with HIAS Pennsylvania this summer, working on recruiting interpreters to support refugees. As a Legal Studies major, Wachs’ long-term goals include law school and working in refugee law and policy, specifically with LGBTQ+ asylum seekers.  

“HIAS is world-renowned, and somewhere that I see myself working in the future and I would not have been able to have that opportunity to get this great experience working with them had I not gotten SIGP,” Wachs said. 

No matter which NCA services students access, Presnell said he hopes the office can support students as they discover what “excites and interests them” professionally. 

“We're always with students every step of the way. That is our model. We want you to come see us,” Presnell said.