Internships are the core of the UCDC Program. A student’s internship experience not only involves the majority of his/her time, but also helps define and enrich the academic components of the program.
If you are selected to participate in the UCDC Program, you will need to secure your own internship (working a minimum of 32 hours/week) before beginning your term in D.C. While applying for internships is your responsibility, the UCDC staff is available to assist you in this process.
Recently, our students have interned at:
- Brookings Institution
- Cato Institute
- Center for American Progress (CAP)
- Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL)
- Children's Defense Fund (CDF)
- Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
- Justice Policy Institute
- Middle East Institute (MEI)
- Museum of Cultures and Heritages of America (MOCHA)
- National Museum of American History
- National Public Radio (NPR)
- Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP)
- Voto Latino
- White House
When should I apply?
Your internship should be secured and approved by the UCDC Program office before you begin your term in D.C. You can apply to the program without having secured an internship.
Some students begin applying to internships even before being accepted into the program. While this is allowed, it is not necessary—unless you intend to intern with the State Department, Department of Defense, or any other government department where a multi-month security clearance is required.
Please note that securing an internship does not assure acceptance to the program. Furthermore, the UCDC Program office must approve your internship before you accept an offer.
Again, it is your responsibility to apply for internships and secure one in time for your term. For more specific instructions about applying for internships, please read the following section, Applying for Internships.
Applying for Internships
To find the right internship for your term in Washington, D.C., you should expect to:
- Research possible internship sites
- Apply to at least 10 internships
- Seek approval from the UCDC Program office
- And, finally, secure your internship
Following the seven steps listed below, as well as seeking assistance from the UCDC Program staff, can help to ensure that you find the right internship at the right time.
Step 1: Determine your goals.
What type of internship experience are you looking for? The questions below can help you narrow your vision:
- What is my mission/purpose for seeking this internship?
- What do I hope to gain from this experience? (connections, a future position, insight into what a job in this field is really like, etc.)
- Do I want to learn something related to my intended career?
- Do I want my internship to be related to my major?
- Do I prefer to work in the private sector, government, non-profit, etc.?
- Would a bigger or smaller organization be best for me?
- Do I want a company with a formal mentoring program?
Step 2: Research internship sites that align with your goals.
It is wise to use as many resources as possible when conducting your internship search. One helpful resource in particular is the Internship Websites section in the dropdown menu above. This page contains dozens of links to D.C.-area organizations, arranged by discipline.
Step 3: Identify the application processes for 10 or more internship sites.
In researching internship application processes, there are generally two scenarios that you may encounter:
- The organization provides clear information about how and when to apply to the internship. If this is the case, skip to Step 4 below.
- Something about the application process is unclear (e.g.: you do not know if the organization is accepting applications, are not sure of what materials to submit, do not know the deadline, etc.). If this is the case, you should contact the site directly using the techniques described below.
Make a spreadsheet of all required materials and contact information for each internship for which you plan to apply. We have created an example with basic categories:
Keep a record of the conversations you have had with each site and the name of each person with whom you have spoken so you will know when you should follow up with each one.
Step 4: Prepare your application materials and apply.
Each internship site will require different application materials. Listed below are some common application elements and tips about submitting them:
- Cover letter – Be sure to state that you are a UC Santa Barbara UCDC participant and include your participation dates.
- Resume – As much as possible, tailor your resume (and your cover letter) to each organization. Highlight the experiences most relevant to each internship. See more on resumes here.
- Writing Sample – Carefully follow the internship site’s instructions. Some sites make very specific writing sample requests, while others simply want to verify that you can write well. For example, you may use your UCDC essay or a research paper you have written for a class as your writing sample.
- Letter(s) of Recommendation – Some sites may want more than one letter of recommendation, so you may need to obtain letters beyond the ones you used for your UCDC application. If you want to use your UCDC letters of recommendation for an internship application, send an email to the campus Program Coordinator at ucdc@Ltsc.ucsb.edu. Please include the relevant contact person’s name and email address, and we will email your letters for you.
When applying, you may use any of the materials (writing sample, letters of recommendation, etc.) that you submitted to UCDC. If you plan to submit your application materials via email, remember to convert your documents to PDFs in order to preserve formatting. Finally, proofread everything carefully (don‘t just spell check)!
Sending your Application Materials You should contact each internship site around the time that you apply. Some students choose to call sites before sending in the materials, and others will do so shortly after applying. In both cases, you should always contact a site within a day or two of applying to make sure your materials have been received.
Step 5: Follow up.
It is critical that you remain proactive with your internship search and record the dates you expect to hear back from each internship site. If you have not heard from a site by the time specified, you must follow up to check your application status and/or set up an interview time (if necessary). Continue to keep track of any information you receive about a new time frame, and continue to follow-up, if needed. If an internship site is not getting back to you in a prompt fashion (allow at least one week for them to respond), you may need to apply to another internship site.
Step 6: Participate in interviews.
Most internship sites will want to conduct a phone interview with you. If you need assistance in preparing for an interview, UCSB Career Services is a fantastic campus resource. Be sure to conduct your phone interview in a quiet place without music or roommate interruptions. Send a thank you note or email within 48 hours of your interview.
Step 7: Secure and commit to a placement.
Once you are offered a position, you should make a decision promptly (generally within two weeks of receiving an offer).
If your departure is approaching (within 3 weeks), and you still have not secured an internship, contact the UCDC office for help.
Once you are ready to accept an internship placement, notify the UCDC Program office of your internship offer so that you can obtain official approval. Be sure to communicate the name of your internship site.
IMPORTANT: DO NOT accept an internship if you are not sure that you want it. It reflects poorly on you and the UCDC Program if you commit to a position, only to decline after accepting it.
How can I begin searching for internships?
Please visit the UCDC Finding an Internship page for a large listing of DC-area organizations.
How many internships should I apply for?
You are encouraged to apply for at least 7-10 internships.
Are there many paid internships in DC?
There are some paid internships in DC. Some of the best and most rewarding internships are unpaid, while many paid internships are menial. For those internships that are paid, wages or stipends can range from $70 a month (just enough to cover your Metro pass) to $1500 a month. The compensation will depend upon the particular field in which you will be working.
The deadline has already passed for an internship I want. Should I still apply?
Some internship sites are strict about deadlines, while others are flexible. If a deadline has passed, contact the organization directly to ask if applications are still being accepted.
The internship start and end dates listed on the organization’s website are different than our school’s quarter dates. Is this a problem?
Not usually. Most organizations are more familiar with semester students and, therefore, list their internship opportunities as starting and ending according to those dates. Most of the time, however, they are open to quarter students’ schedules as well.
Some organizations are asking for confirmation that I am receiving academic credit for my internship. How do I obtain this?
There are many different forms of verification. Please consult with our office, and we will provide you with the appropriate method of verification.
A potential internship site has asked me for a writing sample. What should I provide?
Sometimes the organization will be specific about what type of writing sample is needed, although this is not always the case. If not specified, provide an abstract of a well-written paper or something similar. Most organizations ask for writing samples between 2 and 3 pages in length.
How many hours per week am I required to work at my internship?
During the academic year (fall, winter, spring), you must work at least 32 hours per week in order to earn the required 8 P/NP internship units. In summer, there are different options for units. You will take a minimum of 4 internship units (24 hours/week for 10 weeks), and you have the option to take 6 internship units (28 hours/week for 10 weeks).
What should I do if an organization offers me an internship but I am still waiting to hear from other organizations with whom I would rather work?
Organizations in DC know that internship applicants are applying to multiple organizations. If you get an offer and you are still awaiting a reply from a more preferable site, simply ask the organization if you can have a week or two to consider the offer. Or, find out the latest possible date that the organization will need a response.
My internship site needs to know the dates of my first and last day of work. How do I determine this?
All of the session dates for each quarter are listed in the Calendar/Deadlines section. Generally, you are encouraged to begin working the day after your Orientations in DC. As for your last day of work, be sure to leave yourself adequate time to pack and check out at the end of your term. You will be working up against strict move-out dates and will need to be on-time for your return flight, so a sufficient time cushion will be important.
If I arrive in DC and end up disliking my internship, what should I do?
If you are displeased with your internship, you should contact Chantal Quintero, the Program Administor in DC, for advice. She can discuss communication methods for you to talk to your supervisor about ways to improve your internship experience or, if it comes to it, assist you in finding another internship. Finding another internship on such short notice can be difficult, but it is not impossible. Please note that it is not acceptable to quit an internship without first notifying Chantal and discussing your dissatisfaction with your supervisor.