Internships: creating high impact practices

Offering high impact internships takes intentional planning and implementation but increases intern engagement, learning, and desire to stay with an organization long-term. Integrating a few of the ideas below could lead to a more productive experience for both your interns and your organization.


Interns are expected to fully engage:

  • Co-create learning goals
  • Be challenged
  • Work on projects important to the organization
  • Produce work samples they can add to their professional portfolios
  • Contribute to organizational decision-making
  • Have a safe opportunity


Interns are exposed to diversity:

  • Ways of thinking and solving problems
  • Strategies for prioritizing and managing work
  • Methods of communication
  • Projects and tasks
  • People, teams, and organizational levels


Interns build substantive connections with:

  • Interns and coworkers in immediate work team
  • Interns and staff members in other teams
  • Supervisors and other mentors committed to helping interns succeed
  • Individuals who might become important networking contacts


Interns are asked to reflect on:

  • Progress towards stated learning goals
  • What they still need to learn
  • What they value
  • Who they are
  • Who they want to become
  • Career development goals and next steps


Interns receive rich performance feedback:

  • Regularly scheduled informal check-in meetings
  • Periodic formal performance evaluations
  • From both supervisors and peers
  • Focused on what they are doing well and how they could improve

Tangible ideas

  • Ask interns what they want to learn and create or modify projects accordingly.
  • Assign both individual and team projects.
  • Plan social activities for interns.
  • Have executives share career advice.
  • Ask interns to write meeting agendas.
  • Allow time for informational interviews with various employees.
  • Require interns to write learning logs or field journals.
  • Have interns present on their projects.
  • Provide professionalism training.
  • For examples of how employers have implemented high impact practices, read NACE’s article on Internship issues, solutions, best practices.

Reference: High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, & Why They Matter by George Kuh (2008).