Summer Internships: How to Write a Winning Cover Letter


Summer internships and jobs are important parts of your high school and college experience. Whether directly related to your desired field of study or not, every internship and job will help you narrow down what you want to do with your career while building up your transferable skills.

As you start looking for summer opportunities, you’ll notice that applications usually require a cover letter.  In the dozens or even hundreds of applications employers have to sift through, your cover letter is your opportunity to spell out exactly why you are the right candidate for the role. Since resumes often don’t tell the whole story, writing a cover letter allows you to expand upon what’s listed on your resume and demonstrate your genuine interest in the position and employer.

How to prepare for writing your cover letter

You may have heard friends and family members complain about cover letters when applying for jobs (“A different one for EVERY job?! Is that really necessary?”). Even with formatting examples, it can be tough to figure out where to start.

Luckily, there’s a way to simplify the process. Here are the steps to help you brainstorm and structure your cover letter:

1. Start by looking at the requirements and qualifications in the job description. As you skim, think about the skills and experiences you know you have. It can be helpful to copy-paste this section into a Word document, and then go through one by one and bold the skills and experiences you have. Whether that’s multi-tasking skills or excellent interpersonal abilities, highlight or bold them so you can see just how great of a fit you are for this job.

2. Choose your top 2-4 skills and list out when you’ve demonstrated these skills. Did you learn communication skills while volunteering with the Multicultural Club? Did you learn how to work in a team through your end of year school project? List out some ideas as a foundation for your cover letter.

Tip: Even if you don’t end up using each of these anecdotes in the final draft of your cover letter, be sure to save these anecdotes. These could be useful for another cover letter in the future. Or even to help you prepare for your college or job interview with specific examples.

3. Select the skills you feel are most relevant to this particular job posting. Did the employer mention words like teamwork, collaboration, group projects throughout the posting, while only mentioning analytical skills as a preferred qualification? Focus on the skills you have the strongest experiences AND that are the most relevant to the posting.

How to Format your Cover Letter

Remember, less is more in a cover letter. With all of the applications employers are sorting through, you want to structure your cover letter to have a good amount of whitespace, ultimately making it easier on the employer to scan for keywords.

A cover letter is a lot like your high school English essay format; it involves an introduction, a few supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion. But, the difference is that you are keeping things short and to the point.

Tip: Even when the cover letter isn’t required, include one! It will improve your chances of standing out.

1. Greeting: Try to find the contact name of the person who will be reading your cover letter.

2. Introduction: Tell the employer who you are, how you found out about them, and why you are interested in this role. Be sure to research facts about the target company and include some of what you find in the introduction. End the introduction listing out the skills you’ll bring to the team.

3. Body Paragraph(s): In the paragraphs that follow your introduction, write about projects, experiences, and/or accomplishments that show your skills.

4. Conclusion: Reiterate your excitement for the role and let the employer know the best way to contact you. Another trick is to sprinkle in one last skill while summarizing the rest of the letter: “My communication and teamwork skills, along with my Spanish-speaking abilities, will be an asset to [Company Name].”

Additional Cover Letter Tips

1. Avoid starting Sentences with “I.” Just like when you’re writing for your sophomore English class, you want to avoid starting sentences with “I.” Notice the difference between “I believe my communication skills will make me a great addition to the team” and “My communication skills will make me a strong addition to the team.” Keeping “I” statements to a minimum will strengthen your cover letter.

2. Address Gaps on the Resume It can be easy to doubt yourself when you’re applying to jobs and internships. The requirements may ask for a year of work experience, and you might think, “I’ve never worked before. I can’t possibly apply here!” Your cover letter is a chance for you to make it clear exactly how you are prepared for the position. Maybe the job asks for 2 years of office experience, and you’ve spent time volunteering for a nonprofit by providing support with office procedures. Or, maybe the job asks for experience in a computer program, such as Publisher, but you’ve only worked with InDesign. In the cover letter, you have the opportunity to address the missing program and explain that you are confident your experience in InDesign has prepared you for Publisher.

3. Start applying today! Internships help you narrow down what you want to study in college or start to choose your career trajectory. Even if you already know what you want to do, internships will not only validate the direction you’re headed, but also give you tangible experiences that will prepare you for your next steps.