Last night I received an email from a student asking if it was too late to secure a summer internship. For those of you not part of the UCF community, today begins our spring semester Finals Week and summer term begins in three weeks. Does any of this matter? NO!

It depends on what you want the internship to accomplish. Internships serve three purposes. First (and most important) they provide you with working applications of the information you learn in class. So instead of talking about brand promotion, you may be involved in the promotion of company participation in an event. For example, the Corporate 5K was this weekend. Facebook was full of pictures of company teams in their running gear at Lake Eola. I’d be willing to bet that there are a lot of “social media interns” posting pics on Facebook as a way to promote their employer’s brand identity. In this sense internships also connect you to working professionals who can be the beginning of a professional network outside of school.

Second, you can use an internship for elective credit, provided it meets certain criteria set by your department. That’s a decision up to them and it’s best to check with the internship coordinator in your academic department.

Finally, if the internship is paid it can put some coin in your pocket. It’s nice when it works out that way, kinda like your roommate also becoming your best friend. But internships can also be very transactional (I work for you, you give me awesome experience for my resume that helps me get a job).

My advice is for students to focus on the first advantage of an internship and worry about the other two working themselves out! Be a good consumer. Find out exactly what the employer wants you to do and do your homework on the company and person (gotta love LinkedIn and Google, where were you when I was in college??) There are dirtbags in the world who see interns as free labor just like there are dirtbags in the world who want to sell you a wrecked car. Be a smart consumer.

So, given the purpose that internships serve, it is never too late to find a summer internship just like it’s never too late to get a date to prom. Just understand that the really desirable ones probably already have dates. For the most part, lots of uber-groovy or high demand internships with big time employers have already been filled. Companies will start the process to recruit in the late Fall or early Spring. However, there are always smaller and/or local companies that continue to look, not everyone works on the university’s calendar.

Look for postings on LinkedIn and Indeed or visit our office and talk to your Career Coach. Just be sure to have a copy of your resume with you and an idea of what you’d like to do. Good luck with Finals!