Maximize Your Internship

You have invested time and energy in the internship search process and are on your way with an offer and start date.  Congratulations! 

Your internship will offer key experiences that will help you shape your career goals and objectives.  Your internship may also hold some surprises. You may find your "chosen" career is not as interesting as you thought.  Or, you may discover a new career field that is even more exciting than you imagined possible.  Be comfortable in exploring what you do like as much as what you do not in your internship, and gaining experience that will support your next step.  As an intern, learning about functional roles, organizational cultures, and industries will benefit you in developing transferable skills, direction, and a professional network to serve you in your future career pursuits.

The following resources will assist you in planning and preparing for your first day on the job, and making the most of your internship experience. 

Internship Planning Resources

Internship Agreements

Employers may need verification of your enrollment, confirmation of your ability to pursue an internship for credit, and/or work authorization among other requirements.  These requests can be directed to the Internship Center at the UVA Career Center at It is most helpful to completing internship agreements if you can provide the following in your email:

  1. Internship start and end date
  2. Internship coordinator name, position, company, and contact information
  3. Agreement form (if provided) or specific verificiation requirements

The spring semester is peak internship search and offer time.  Planning ahead as much as possible around application deadlines will assist the Career Center, UREG, and ISO offices in supporting your paperwork needs.

Global Internship University Travel Registry

UVA Policy requires that “All students traveling abroad for University-related purposes must register their international travel in the University Travel Registry before the expected departure date and, if possible, should update the travel registry as additional information becomes available or changes occur throughout the duration of the trip, including additional countries added during travel. This policy applies to all students traveling outside of the national borders of the United States for University-related purposes, which may include but are not limited to study, research, internships, service, conferences, presentations, teaching, performances, recruiting, or athletic competitions. University-related purposes include any travel that is for academic credit and/or utilizes University resources.”

Academic Credit

Academic credit for internships is not required by the University, but often a requirement of employers to ensure the internship aligns with the Department of Labor and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as a learning experience.  This is especially true with unpaid internships which can be as high or even higher quality experiences than paid internships.  It is critical to review the criteria that define internships for your protection.  See NACE guidelines. 

There are two formal ways to obtain credit for internships and as well as other options:

  • UNST 2820 is a one credit internship course offered each spring and fall semester
  • Internship Placement Program (IPP) matches students with Charlottesville internships that students could potentially receive credit for when paired with UNST 3510, a one credit course 
  • Independent Study or other academic department accommodation


Internships can be paid/unpaid, full or part-time, and for credit.  According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the average hourly wage for interns $16.21.  If you will be required to fulfill credit for your internship by an employer, you will need to factor tuition and your semester courseload in making the decision to accept the internship position.


No matter what city your internship takes you to, you can find housing through a variety of resources.  See listings of major metropolitan areas and housing options on our Housing & Relocation page.  Not finding your location?  Search national apartment and rental sources.  Additionally, consider your own network.  Do you have family, friends, or classmates you can live with during your internship?  If you do, you can save a considerable amount of expense.


Costs for transportation to and from your internship can vary widely depending on your need for public transportation in a major metropolitan city, or if you will provide your own transportation and require parking.  Some employers may offer a transportation stipend to offset the cost of travel.  Transportation costs are an appropriate area of negotiation with employers.  

Intern Onboarding & Orientation

Internship orientations can vary widely and it is wise to ask what your employer will provide so you can adopt an appropriate strategy to beginning your internship. Some employers offer structured internship orienation programs including an overview of functional areas within the organization, employee policies and procedures, resources to support you on the job, and perhaps even a mentoring network!   Other employers will be will be very informal with orienting you to the organization and expect you to hit the ground running and learn as you go.  Adopting a mindset of being proactive in identifying what you need to know to perform well in your internship is key.

Preparing for Your First Day

Be sure you have communicated in advance about basic information and expectations with your employer to ensure a smooth first day on the job.  Here are a few needs to prepare for your first day: 

  1. Employer's hours of operation and expectations of the time of your arrival
  2. Where to report and to whom
  3. Dress code
  4. Required employment verification identification
  5. Schedule for your first day
  6. Parking information if applicable.

Reflect on what you have learned about the organization, your internship role, and plan ahead for a successful first day.  A great way to familiarize yourself with your employer is through LinkedIn research about potential colleagues you would like to meet.   This is also great preparation for the many introductions that await you during your first weeks.  If you are in a new area, test out your first day commute ahead of time. 

Making the Most of Your Internship

Understand your supervisor's expectations of you before starting your internship.  Identify your objectives, deliverables, and ways you can receive feedback as you go.  The UVA Career Center provides helpful resources to support quality internship experiences such as:

  • Internship Learning Plan
  • Mid-Internship Self-Evaluation
  • Internship Supervisor Evaluation

On the Job 

Get a great start!  Discuss goals, expectations and how to evaluate your performance during your time with the organization. Expect to do a certain amount of "scut" work, especially if you are interning in creative industries such as media and entertainment.  You may find the internal culture of your organization is not conducive to getting feedback as much as you would like. Staying positive at all costs is essential and adopting a mindset of making your internship a valuable learning experience is key.  You want to have the company and your supervisor primed to tell your next employer about your work in a reference regardless of whether the experience meets all of your expectations.  Generally, keep your expectations of your organization realistic and expect more of your own leadership, self-direction, and learning.  Ultimately, these are key qualities to success in any work environment.

A focus on your development in the following areas will keep your internship meaningful whether you are closely supervised or work more autonomously:

  • Skill development
  • Project deliverables
  • Learning about the organization
  • Understanding the industry
  • Exposure to functional roles
  • Professional development
  • Networking

Highly Effective Interns

Successful interns understand their employer's expectations and set to exceed these and more by setting goals and maintaining a focus on self-learning. Remember that adjusting to a new office environment takes some time and requires being proactive. 

10 ways to a successful internship experience:

  • Go to coffee/lunch with people you meet in the office
  • Ask questions and always take notes
  • Don’t feel down if some of your work is too easy
  • Keep track of your experiences and progress
  • Take advantage of every opportunity to develop as a professional
  • Set goals for your own learning in addition to your job responsibilities
  • Invite feedback
  • Become your own industry expert through research and informational interviewing
  • Be known for your willingness to help
  • Identify potential mentors and network in and outside of your work environment

More to Explore

Connect with alumni for insights about the process of choosing and starting a career in their specific field. 

Explore careers, gain professional experience, and expand your network in Charlottesville during the academic year or summer! 

Contact: Rebecca Coulter

Schedule an appointment through Handshake, or by calling the UVA Career Center at 434-924-8900 M-F from 8 am-5 pm.