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What Do Interns Really Want?
By Bonnie Johnson,

As you are developing plans for your summer interns, we want to provide some recommendations straight from students on what they really want from an internship! Over the years, important themes have emerged from our work with students interning in the agricultural industry. Here are the top five internship experiences that students really want:


  1. “Take me to your leader.” Interns crave the opportunity to meet and interact with upper-level management and executives. Ask the owner to provide a welcome message at orientation, or invite VPs to socialize with interns at a mixer. Meeting upper-level management shows interns the importance the company places on them and gives interns a chance to network.

  2. “Keep it real.” Interns desire real responsibility, not just busy work. Students appreciate structured to-do lists and projects that contribute to the company as a whole. Projects like these provide real world experience that is challenging to obtain in the classroom setting. Completion of valuable projects provides a greater feeling of accomplishment and are terrific resume builders for interns.

  3. “Show me every nook and cranny.” Students want to experience every aspect of the company, not just the area they are working in. Interns frequently cite visits to other locations or facilities as one of the most positive benefits of an internship with an organization. Let them travel and see everything your company has to offer. Create opportunities for interns to work on inter-departmental efforts.

  4. “Let me make a difference.” Interns appreciate chances to give back. Provide students with opportunities to do humanitarian work during the summer, like a planned habitat for humanity day or work at a soup kitchen. If you are in a smaller company you could coordinate this with other small organizations in your area to allow your interns to develop camaraderie.

  5. “Keep me in the loop.” More than half of internships in the agricultural industry are filled between November and January. However, most interns don’t start until late May. Students want to know you haven’t forgotten about them, so keep the communication lines open while they are waiting. You could send information about housing, introduce them to mentors and other interns, send a care package during exam week, and include them if you make an additional spring campus visit. Taking an internship is a big step; communicating early and often helps students make the transition.

Every summer conducts the Internship Benchmark Survey. This survey provides a company with a student evaluation of the internship program in an industry benchmarking format. The analysis provides positive and constructive feedback, in an anonymous form, from interns both at the beginning and after their experience. If you are interested in participating, contact Ashley Collins at

Need help establishing the building blocks for a successful internship program, advice for coaching intern managers, and tips for leveraging an intern program for maximum return on investment? Join us for the Internship Programs that Yield Results Workshop on, April 20-21 in Ankeny, Iowa. Find out more and register now: Internship Programs that Yield Results.