Understanding the difference between spring weeks and summer internships
28 February 2022

Are you a first or second-year undergraduate student currently dealing with the emotions that comes with not securing a spring week or summer internship? Guess what, you are not alone! In this post, I’ll walk you through the practical steps you could take to have a valuable experience that will impress any recruiter and prospective employer. Here at WBS CareersPlus, we can help you develop your strategy for online applications and how to manage this alongside other academic or extracurricular activities.

Before we begin, let’s unpack the differences between a spring week and a summer internship.

What is a spring week and summer internship?

A spring week often occurs in the spring (usually around Easter holidays) and is a week-long taster or insight experience designed to introduce you to the company. In the UK, this experience is usually available to first and second-year (on a four-year course) students. They are most commonly provided by the big-name financial and accountancy firms; JPMorgan Chase, Credit Suisse, Citi Group, and Goldman Sachs to name a few. If you want to find out more, this list is a good place to start. However, with the current Covid-19 restrictions, you might find many of these opportunities would be remote and/or available in other big cities such as Manchester or Birmingham. A summer internship, in contrast, is a paid 4-12-week experience in the summer and is offered to penultimate students (2nd year on a 3-year course or 3rd year on a 4-year course).

What is the application process and deadline?

Applications open in late August or early September and most close in December or early January. The application typically consists of a CV, cover letter/application questions, psychometric/ immersive tests, video interview, assessment centre, and final interview. For help with any of these, please check out our resources on my.wbs or book an appointment with a UG Careers Coach to discuss further. It’s worth noting that the application process is quite competitive; for example, a popular firm can get several thousand applications for just 50-60 places. Therefore, you should aim to apply as early as possible and research your options well. Again, we are here to support you with this and you can access all our exclusive resources as a WBS student.

Why are these experiences so important?

Spring week is a great way to gain a deeper insight into the organisation you are perhaps interested in working for in the future. Throughout the experience, you’ll likely get to ask questions, attend talks, network, and possibly find out if it’s the right path for you. Similarly, the summer internship provides the same benefits but with added responsibilities. You may get a sense of doing ‘a real job’ and adding value to your immediate team or the company itself.  One of the major advantages of a spring week is its ability to help secure a summer internship or even a graduate role. Many employers often use spring week to identify talent early and to kick-start their summer internship application process. Therefore, they might offer you an internship at the end of your spring week. Similarly, for the summer internship, you could be offered a graduate role afterward (especially if you demonstrate initiative and actively go above and beyond their expectations).

Top tips for a successful spring week or internship application

  • Accentuate your academic achievements. Having good A-Level grades (or equivalent) and high performance in your degree so far is a good starting point.
  • Highlight your specific motivations for the company and experience. Start by researching the sector and completing a SWOT analysis. In your CV and covering letters, you should clearly articulate what attracted you and what you hope to learn from the role.  You can refer back to this information as you progress to the interview stage.
  • Include extracurricular activities that make you stand out. Active involvement in campus societies, sports, or running a business will impress any prospective employer.
  • Triple-check everything. Any spelling, grammar, or formatting mistakes could reduce your chances of being shortlisted.
  • Book an appointment with a Careers Coach to receive bespoke support and coaching.

Bonus tips:

  • To stand out from the competition you need to be well-prepared. Start with some self-evaluation – what are your strengths and USPs? Are there any weak spots or skills missing from your CV that you need to be able to explain?
  • Prepare and practice for the interview and assessment centres as much as you can. Mock interviews are a great way to practice and calm any interview nerves. You’ll be expected to talk about yourself confidently and answer behavioural, competency, and/or strengths-based questions. These are questions that often start with ‘tell me about a time when you … collaborated as part of a successful team / overcame a problem etc.’

I’ve missed out on spring week – do I have any chance of a summer internship?

If you didn’t know about spring weeks, have left it too late to apply, or your applications weren’t successful, you have other options. Firstly, you should sharpen your networking skills and take advantage of any upcoming events. The Bright Network has a calendar of networking events you might find helpful. Look out for companies that attend campus careers fairs or run networking events both online and in person. Our Employer Relations team here at WBS also organise employer events throughout the year including alumni panels and sector/industry insights as well as virtual employer engagement days. Current students can find out more here

Secondly, improve and tailor your CV for future applications. Your CV should demonstrate that you are interested in and committed to the sector/ role you’re applying to. Other related work experience or evidence of an active role in a relevant society will help you stand out even more. Remember, with a great CV and proactive networking skills, it is still possible to secure an internship or graduate role afterward.

Alternative work experience to consider

As an undergraduate, gaining valuable work experience is a key element in your career planning and would enable you to:

  • apply your academic learning to solve real-world problems or work on impactful projects
  • be assertive and increase your confidence in the workplace
  • build your commercial awareness and deepen your technical skills
  • develop and enhance your networking skills
  • make informed long- or short-term career decisions
  • secure the right experience after graduation

The following list provides alternative work experience to spring week and summer internships

  • Active participation in extracurricular activities- you can join a current society or start your own. This can help you demonstrate your creativity, leadership, teamwork, conflict management skills which are part of the Top Employability Skills employers seek.
  • Group projects where you played a dynamic role. The more unique the project is, the better. Ensure you use the STAR technique when reflecting on this in your application
  • Online courses that enhance your technical and interpersonal skills
  • Personal projects or businesses that show your ability to excel in a graduate role
  • Virtual internships - use the forage website to get started
  • Volunteering- this can be tailored to suit the sector you’re interested in
  • Work shadowing? Maybe - many companies are open to offering a shadowing experience especially if you have a personal connection there and they have the resources. However, some organisations due to GDPR laws and other factors may not be able to provide this.

Check out this resource on my.wbs to find out more.

I hope this post has been useful in reminding you that your current situation is not hopeless. You can still make the most of the remainder of this academic year and increase your chances of securing the next experience that will propel you forward in your career journey.

Remember that for current WBS students, we in the WBS Careers team are here to support you. If you’d like to book an appointment with us you can do so here.

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