High School Internships

High School Internships in Boston- Standing Out in a Test Optional World

It’s spring 2021 and you’re a high school junior thinking about college applications.

Here’s the dilemma:

  • SAT and ACT tests are now optional at 700 colleges including Harvard, Princeton and Stanford.  
  • According to the Wall Street Journal, admissions officers spend 8 minutes or less reading an application.
  • Less than 2% of high school athletes get in as D1 athletic recruits and most college sports are now canceled due to Covid.

So, how can you stand out on your college applications?

This is attainable by thinking outside of the normal extra-curricula activities and at the same time, building on your academic strengths. Colleges seek out students whose interests and talents will contribute to both academic and college life on their campuses. This is quite apparent by the typical application question, “What are your interests and how will you pursue them on our campus?”

A project-based remote or in-person internship, specifically designed to relate to your academic interests, your talents, your passions will convey something unique. How many high school students can say that they’ve attended legislative hearings for a State Senator, worked in the lab at a Cambridge biotech startup, or helped design costumes for a professional theater company? A structured, project-based remote/virtual internship can also provide the same opportunity to work with a mentor in a student’s chosen field.

In our experiential school-to-career program, we always begin by asking our students- What experiences have you had in school or out of school that were really exciting or meaningful?  Let’s explore them in-depth through a structured, educational internship supervised by a carefully chosen workplace mentor.

Students often talk about their internship experiences during interviews and in college essays. In addition, a letter of recommendation from your mentor discussing how your academic interests related to the internship can be an impressive addition to your application. Not only will your internship set you apart on college applications but even more importantly, the experience will help you gain the confidence and life skills needed for college and beyond.

7 Summer Internships for High School Students in Boston

We enjoy getting our students together either in-person or remotely to share their internship experiences. In this photo, students interested in business are listening to the CEO of a MassChallenge startup on the Boston Waterfront.
1. David Zhao from Acton Boxborough High
Tell me about your experiences.
The workplace feels more like the set of “The Social Network” than an actual workplace; FanPier’s harbor location and the informal work environment are truly invigorating and inspiring. The work was involving, but all I needed to recuperate was the view out the 14th floor-windows, where I could see all of Boston sprawling beyond the harbor. In terms of the internship, my mentor Jason started me off with a research project for potential business partners (preferably start-ups) and I compiled an Excel spreadsheet with data for each partner. That project took the entire day, though Jason took me out to lunch with a fellow MIT-Sloan peer. We discussed my college plans, the application process, and potential majors.
Jason truly embraces the role of mentorship–he’s been recommending books, checking in constantly, and teaching me various business essentials (e.g. LinkedIn, database-use, etc.) Jason’s also been asking me for ideas. All in all, the first-day experience was really eye-opening and exciting. I really think that I’ll enjoy this internship and learn a great deal about business, particularly if I want to pursue entrepreneurial business myself.
2. Daniel Alpert from Needham High.
What has been the best part of your internship?
I am learning about business, especially how to run a start-up company. Also, there is a ping pong table there.
Describe a situation in which you took a risk by putting yourself in a new position, such as meeting new people, asking questions, making suggestions.
I’m the only high school kid with a lot of college students. I didn’t know anyone and they all knew each other so I had to put myself out there to make friends. Over time, I felt less intimidated and now I go out to lunch with them.
3. Ally Reiner Wellesley, MA.  Lehigh University College of Business and Economics.
It’s been going great at the fashion company. I have a lot of responsibility and have been learning a lot. I’ve been able to help out with a lot of the marketing ideas and events in addition to some PR responsibilities.  
4. From the Mentor of Max Lasser from the Dexter School in Brookline, MA.
Max is doing great! He attended the EACC meeting last week where he got to see how companies are awarded state tax incentives based on their job creation commitments. The meeting was open to the public; he saw various company executives, local, and state politicians. It was a good experience for him. He is very well mannered and always eager to help. We are glad to have him for the summer. Aiden
5. Emma Witherington from Deerfield Academy.
I’m really enjoying myself at the non-profit. Janel, Blake, and Kay have all been welcoming and helpful guides. That said, they still treat me as a mature adult and expect me to be able to handle important projects.  Because it is just these three women who work in the office, I have great opportunities to partake in hands-on work relevant to the organization. I am taken seriously, and feel I like I am genuinely helping them during their busiest season by providing a fresh and thorough hand on time-consuming projects.
List the kinds of things that you’ve been doing at work.
I’ve been three days so far. The first day was largely about understanding the organization, so I went over a binder of materials that Blake had prepared for me. After this introduction to the business, I completed my first task of choosing photos from recent events in Tampa and Dallas and uploading them, now displayed on the company’s Facebook page. Since then, I’ve been given a larger assignment in which I research other organizations (some for charity, others not) and put information like event size, fundraising means, and sponsorship into an organized spreadsheet.
6. Kevin Zhu from Newton South High School.
The internship at the State House has been quite relaxing and interesting. They said that the real fun begins in July, because that is when all the bills and policies really start to take motion into being passed, so next month will be quite hectic in the State House.  What I have been doing for my first week is participating in the Speaker series that they have at the statehouse, as well as creating a e-mail list for my representative when there isn’t a speaker at that time.
7. Griffin Green from The Rivers School, Weston, MA.
List the things you are doing relating to your interest in robotics and engineering: 
1.     I created a pallet of potential stained glass samples for use in their tesserae software
2.     I worked in Solid Works (CAD software) designing 3d models for a potential tool to cut the glass
3.     Started to make a design and cut glass tile by hand (soon to be replaced with a more efficient method)
I have been very excited about my internship. I feel that the work is very important to the company. I have had the opportunity to work extensively with Ted as he helps to guide me in the right direction and with Paul and Blake. Each of them has shown me a different aspect of the company. When I work with Paul, I focus on the design process, which eventually leads to the creation of the product. On the other hand, Blake allows me to explore the business aspects of the company. On top of all of this, the work environment is very relaxed and makes me feel right at home.

Where are they Now? Jennifer Pierre, Law Clerk at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, LLP.

           Jennifer Pierre, Law Clerk at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, LLP.

We are so excited to hear that Jennifer will be starting as a law clerk at the prestigious New York law firm, Cravath, Swaine & Moore, LLP. I’ll never forget how impressed I was the first time we met. She was a senior at Buckingham Browne and Nichols, interested in leadership, public speaking and government. Jennifer participated as a senior prefect as well as on the student activities council at BB&N. It was so impressive that she traveled a long distance each day to school by public transportation and held down a part-time job in addition to her heavy course load. Jennifer handled everything with charm and an upbeat attitude. For her high school government internship, we thought that she would enjoy interning at the Massachusetts State House for State Representative Jeffrey Sanchez, from her hometown district.

Jennifer’s mentor was Noel, a wonderful young woman of Hispanic origin who held the position of legislative aid. Noel arranged for Jennifer to attend hearings and listen to speakers from the Black Legal Caucus and the Women’s Caucus. She learned about issues pertaining to HIV, government funded programs to support under-served communities and the environmental impact of various state-wide legislation.

Following her internship, Jennifer was accepted to Bryn Mawr (her first choice). She told us that influenced by her high school internship, she became an active member in student government in college and was elected class president.

Jennifer, tell us about your college major and how you decided to go to law school.

I graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 2011 with a B.A. in Political Science, concentrating in comparative politics. Throughout college, I debated between pursuing a law degree and a degree in public policy. Since I was still unsure about which one to pursue follow graduation, I decided to gain work experience to help me decide. 

Following Bryn Mawr, I started work as a paralegal for a corporate law firm in NYC. The work was challenging, but provided a realistic experience at what would be expected of me when I was a lawyer. After two years at the law firm, I wanted to switch fields to understand what it meant to be a lawyer in a non-profit setting. I began work at an international non-profit focused on human rights advocacy. Having gained exposure to law in both the private and public sectors, I moved to Haiti to learn more about the skills a lawyer needed to contribute to a community based organization in Haiti. It was through this experience that I realized that I wanted to pursue a law degree to work with high-level stakeholders to solve issues related to international development and human rights.

As I start my career as a lawyer in a corporate law firm, I hope to gain the skills and proper foundation that will enable me to transition to work at the nexus of international development and human rights.

Did you have additional internships after high school?

After my first taste of interning at the Massachusetts State House, I made it a priority to find an internship following each summer during college. Although it proved challenging, I landed a position with the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development as the coordinator for its Ladders for Leaders program. Ladders for Leaders paired NYC high school students with prestigious internships across various sectors. As the coordinator, I was the liaison between program participants and program management. I also wanted to act as a resource for these high school seniors since I had been in their position only one year before. To that end, I organized a presentation and information session on how to best prepare for college. It was also through the Ladders for Leaders internship that I was put in contact with someone who enabled me to acquire my next internship at the US Mission to the United Nations after my sophomore year. While there, I provided support to diplomats working on issues related to nuclear non-proliferation and war crimes.

Finally, following my junior year, I participated in a fellowship at Princeton University that focused on international relations and diplomacy.

Now that you’ve had a great deal of career experience, what would you tell your 16-year-old self?

I’ve been a planner for as long as I can remember. I always imagined that I had to follow  a specific path to lead to success. What I’ve learned thus far is that my professional career has not always been linear or what I imagined, but it has always worked out in the end. That being said, I would advise 16-year-old Jennifer to trust the process. If you remain motivated and open to opportunities, continually network and put in maximal effort in every place you work, everything will work out in the end.

Any final advice for our students?

It is never too early to start networking and a LinkedIn account.

So if you’ve ever thought of a high school government internship, just think where it could lead!

Where are they now? Michelle Goldberg, Boston City Council

Michelle Goldberg, Boston City Council, Director of Legislative Budget Analysis

We first met Michelle when she was a junior in high school and had enjoyed a school trip to Washington, D.C. Because she expressed a desire to learn more about the American political system, we established an internship for her in a Senator’s office at the MA State House.  Michelle wrote, “Working for the Senator is fascinating. I’m attending hearings and seminars as well as researching issues and legislation. I feel fortunate to have this opportunity.”

Michelle, it’s been wonderful to keep in touch with you and see that you are the Director of Legislative Budget Analysis at the Boston City Council. Tell us about your position and what you find most enjoyable.

As Director of Legislative Budget Analysis, I manage the City Council’s legislative budget review process. Review and approval of the City budget is a power directly granted to the City Council by the Boston City Charter, and I support the Chair of the Council’s Committee on Ways and Means to coordinate the hearings, analysis, and materials to help the City Councilors review the available information in preparation for their votes.

Outside of Budget Season, I support the 13 councilors in their legislative work, including legal and policy research and the drafting and review of legislation.

I am also a team lead for the Council’s Central Staff Legislative Team, for the Council’s Committees on Environment, Resiliency & Parks; Pilot Reform; Post Audit; Public Health; Public Safety & Criminal Justice; Small Business & Workforce Development; and Strong Women, Families & Communities. 

The most enjoyable part of this job is getting to do significant work with so many different people. The issues at hand are different every day, and the context for this work is constantly shifting.

What was your college major? How did you decide to go to law school and then switch to government?

I majored in Psychology at Lehigh University. After graduating I worked at a restaurant while interviewing for jobs in various industries, but never felt that I was finding anything compatible with my skills and interests. After spending time with some of the restaurant’s regulars who worked as attorneys, I realized law school felt like that perfect fit I’d been looking for. I ended up at Boston University School of Law. While there I served as an editor on the Review of Banking and Financial Law, and interned with the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Financial Services through the law school’s Legislative Clinic. While at school and directly after I explored various avenues, with my summer jobs including working for a county probate court, in-house law clerk for a technology firm, research assistant, and summer associate for a law firm. Following graduation, I spent time working for a local consulting firm focused on corporate legal departments, before ending up with the City Council. 

I think an underlying theme through much of my educational and career development has been an interest in exploring as many possibilities as I could, but for some reason, legislative work kept calling me back. It capitalizes on my skills and interests, and I love that legislation is like a puzzle, requiring a fit between the nuances of government rules and lived reality.

Tell us about a Career High Point.

I have been very fortunate over the past few years to be able to work with smart and innovative politicians from different walks of life, especially women. Some career high points have been opportunities to work on local legislation with former Councilor now Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, and with two historic mayoral candidates, Councilors Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell.

Did you have additional internships after high school?

I did. I did a marketing internship for the New England Revolution, a market research internship with Intermon Oxfam in Barcelona, a psychiatric research internship at the MGH Center for Addiction Medicine, and a legal research internship with the Future of Music Coalition. 

Thinking back, have you had anyone who stands out as a professional mentor and role model?

The managing partner of the consulting firm I worked for after law school was an enormous influence on me. He taught me to question and prove myself, and I am a better worker all around due to his mentorship. I think it is important to find mentors you look up to, can invest in your development in real time, and can challenge you to continue to grow.

A recent article in Edtech Review describes why internships are essential for professional development. Do you agree?

I think that the benefits of experience cannot be overstated. My internships helped me learn things like the importance of getting to a job on time and dressing professionally, as well as how to answer a phone in a workplace and make myself useful. They also allowed me to explore my interests and round out my education with practical, real world experience that I could reference back to when applying for jobs down the line, at a time when I wouldn’t have been otherwise able to obtain the same kind of employment.

Finally, now that you’ve had a great deal of career experience, what would you tell your 16-year-old self?

I would say that it’s okay to not know exactly what you want to do – at any age. The important thing is to just do something. I think that again speaks to the importance of internships in terms of continuing to move yourself forward, even when you’re not totally sure where you’re going to end up……. I’d also tell her to give up the images of running around in high-heeled shoes all day. We’re wearing flats.

Mahima’s Pre-College Internship at the Harvard Innovation Lab

Mahima at the Harvard Innovation Lab

Many parents ask us how we establish internships, considering it’s especially difficult to do for high school students. It really requires extensive research, visiting work sites and creating relationships, which we’ve been doing over the last 15 years. Pictured this past summer at the iLab is Mahima, a sophomore at a public high school that is ranked #2 in MA.

 

Dr. Jabbawy visiting the iLab

We Create Relationships in the Workplace

During the school year, especially in the fall, we visit with potential mentors and workplaces in order to identify the best career match for our students’ interests. We look for mentors who can assign specific tasks and projects for each student to work on. Many mentors have been interns themselves at some point in their career and are happy to mentor a student with shared interests.

After Dr. Jabbawy attended a startup pitch at the iLab in order to identify potential mentors for summer internships, we met a very personable CEO who was very open to the idea of hosting an intern.

Sean Eldrige, CEO of Gain Life

Sean Eldridge: Co-founder & Chief Executive Officer of Gain Life

With an MBA from Harvard Business School, Sean spent his 15-year career in the health behavior change space at Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and Weight Watchers. He co-founded Gain Life that provides solutions in the employer wellness market.

In Mahima’s letter of recommendation, Sean wrote:

“Mahima worked for our Harvard Innovation Labs startup, Gain Life, during the 2019 summer. While reporting to me, Gain Life’s CEO, Mahima led a variety of projects where she:

  • Researched and synthesized state-specific insurance regulations
  • Edited privacy and terms and conditions documents for a new product
  • Sourced and conducted consumer research interviews
  • Found and reported bugs in native and web-based applications
  • Built a research presentation for a large, blue chip, company

My team and I found Mahima to be friendly, diligent, and capable of delivering quality work with little direction. Mahima is mature beyond her years. I’d gladly offer her another position with our company at a later date. I happily recommend Mahima without hesitation.”

How this marketing internship affirmed Ella’s career interests.

What happens when your interests run in different directions? You excel at more than just one thing and that’s great. But how about honing in on the academic interest that can turn into a career one day?

Ella ran into this scenario. Together we brainstormed and pinpointed which of her interests could turn into more than a hobby. Social media was her answer. Based on what Ella had accomplished thus far and how she wanted to expand her skill set we matched her with our friends at Her Campus, the #1 media site for college women.

Ella spent her summer internship getting familiar with key influencers on different social media platforms and analyzing their messaging and audience in order to ultimately increase their visibility across the board. We had a chance to regroup with Ella at the end of her time at Her Campus and she let us know that ” I love the work environment. Everyone is very nice, the office is fun and relaxed. I like being in Boston, being able to walk to get lunch and see the city. My favorite part has been hearing from my supervisors about what their job entails, it affirms that I want to work in marketing.” What Ella learned at Her Campus was that marketing, more specifically social media, was something that both interests and challenges her. Two key ingredients for a promising career.

So… which of your many interests do you think could be the right path for you?

Applying to MIT? Better not list more than four activities.

 

Thank you MIT. How refreshing!

In our school-to-career program, we have seen stressed out high school sophomores show us resume drafts that are 3 pages long. We ask ourselves, what is driving this insanity? Is it worried parents or the students themselves?

More, more, more is not the answer. Who are you? What are you passionate about? These are the questions we ask students when we meet them.

Here is what MIT says…

Please use our form, not a resume, to list your activities. There is only enough space to list four things—please choose the four that mean the most to you and tell us a bit about them. This will tell us more about you than any “laundry list” of everything you’ve ever done in high school.

Finally, one of the better articles by the National Educational Association on the worsening dilemma of anxiety in teens:

http://neatoday.org/2018/03/28/the-epidemic-of-student-anxiety/

 

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