As impossible as it is to believe, summer isn’t all that far away. Well, summer vacation, anyway. Which means that it’s the perfect time to start considering – applying for – your STEM internships.

There are a few things that you should line up when applying to internships. Make sure you understand how to send out a transcript, and know how long it takes so that you give yourself enough time before a deadline. Guidance counselors can help you sort out the technicalities if you’ve never had to do this before. It’s a good idea to have an unofficial version for yourself; that way, you know exactly what your program will see. In addition to a transcript, start thinking about your extracurriculars. Be creative, and include both STEM and non-STEM activities. Maybe you’ve been doing a certain community service for years with your family – that’s great. Science fairs, clubs and contests should also be included – make sure your application reflects your passion for your field of interest.

Next, consider teachers who can provide you a good letter of recommendation. This is something you certainly need to decide in advance, as teachers often need a few weeks of warning in order to complete an adequate and thoughtful letter. Let the area of your internship influence your choice of teacher. After all, your chemistry teacher would know best how well you’d do interning in a chemistry lab. Teachers will usually keep these letters on file, so if you contact him or her early, the letter can be sent as needed to as many internships as you apply to.

So, how to find these internships. Start by narrowing your interests. Do you want to spend your summer in a hospital, at a university, inside a lab, on a boat, with computers, in a museum, with the military, in the woods, or at a learning institute? And do you want to stay local or travel? Nationally targeted programs like university internships and government internships are more competitive given sizable applicant pools, but they have immense resources. Meanwhile, local internships, say at a small company or with a local school, can offer you personalized attention.

To get started, check out these lists from Rochester Institute for Technology and Pathways to Science. But before you only apply to large programs, talk to your parents/family members/friends about any personal connections you may have. Setting up your own internship with a contact can be a rewarding first step into a STEM field. No matter where you end up, try to foster relationships that may support a future university application, job hunt, or just having someone to talk to in your field of interest. Internships really are about learning, so choose ones that genuinely interest you and that you can see yourself pursuing.