OMG, I haven’t done an internship yet!!

It’s almost March and more than the rising heat of the impending summer, I know the month by the inevitable questions that come in from concerned 11th grade students: “Is it important that I do an internship this summer?” I will patiently remind them that, as with all things in this process, it is only important that they “do” what they are truly interested in doing. “The Internship”, like community service, has long been thought of as one of those critical areas that students have relegated to the checklist that they think of as a requirement in a good application. As with all things that students do with the intention of just being a bullet point on their resume, getting a letter of recommendation for an internship becomes one of those goals for many students. Lets face it, we are all in love with pieces of paper (and parents keep piles of these certificates from their kids achievements over the years organized neatly in shoe boxes under beds). I always remind students that I can go down to the local notary here in Bangalore and get a certificate that says that I am the Prime Minister for Rs. 100. A piece of paper means nothing, and in fact, most admissions people don’t want extra letters of recommendation or certificates clogging up your already big application file. They want to hear from you! They want to know WHY this internship was important to you.

But everyone in my class is doing an internship!!

So is the internship really that important? Well, it depends. You need to ask yourself a few questions before deciding if and what you want to do. If you don’t, you are likely to find yourself in an Facebook Internship. That is not as good as it sounds. I call the Facebook Internship one in which you are actually going to some office for a week or two, but all that you do is update your status. But if you can find a meaningful internship, yes, it is a great experience to have. Also, since in the UK you do not have that much flexibility to change your major, they are very interested in seeing that you have explored the “real-world” application of what you want to study.

Before rushing into this, ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I want to get out of this internship? Have some specific goals or expectations for the internship. You may end up being wrong about these, but if you have some goals, you will be more focused on actually doing something, and it will provide a better conversation with your supervisor for the internship.

  • Why am I doing this? Maybe you want to get a sense of a particular career path that relates to an area of study that you are considering? Or maybe there are resources at a company that help you explore an area of research that relates to something that you are interested in.
    • What potential “product” or “outcome” could come out of this internship? Having something tangible that you can share with others is far better than a letter of recommendation. See if there is some kind of report that you can produce, or even a small contribution that you can call your own at the end of it.

    Your Supervisor is likely to be very nice, and very clueless!

    Well, he/she is clueless about what to do with you at least. It is the unpleasant side-effect of anti-child labor laws that most organizations will have very little idea of what you are capable of and they typically don’t have people come work in their company for such short periods of time. I think that the most important consideration to think about when approaching an internship is to determine your purpose and potential outcome. Think about the work that the company does, and about your own skills and goals that you defined in the above questions. In the first meeting with the supervisor, or in emails prior to meeting, you could share these thoughts and they may help him/her get a better idea of what you could do. If nothing else, it will show the supervisor that you are there to work. And this will help you avoid the second deadly, yet common internship ~ The Shadow Internship. That is when they put you onto the CEO or some other important person in the organization and say that you will “shadow”, or follow them around for a week. This could be interesting, but it is highly unlikely that you will contribute anything in that kind of internship. I also always suggest when you are looking at internships that you see whether you may be able to break it into two or three times during different vacations in your 11th and 12th grade. It is more likely that over time, you will get a better idea of where you can add value and in the second or third time may really be able to contribute something. I think that this also looks great to admissions, as it shows commitment in consistency of focus over time.

    Brainstorm on the possibilities!

    Right! So, your 16 or 17-years-old and have maybe one month to dedicate to an internship. I hate to break it to you, but most people are not beating the pavement looking for your exact demographic for work. The first place to look is with your own family and family friends. If you have done the discovery process above, it will be easier for others to hone in on opportunities. When you do connect to a possibility, suggest an introduction, but then take it on yourself. Use the introduction as an opportunity to “sell” yourself based on what you are looking for, your goals and expectations. I guarantee that it will impress that “family friend” and lead to a more meaningful role. There are also organizations that help students find internships, one such group that I had a girl attend really helped her explore her interest in Law.1 I had another student who built homes in South Africa and learned intensive second language courses.2 But these programs are not inexpensive. I would also suggest that you check with your seniors in school and counselor to see what previous students have done, as the companies that they have worked with may be more comfortable with hosting high school students. Also, don’t forego your own family business, if that is a possibility. It is easier to believe that your mom or dad allowed you greater access than it is to imagine Ernst and Young really let you get that involved!

    Finally, lets not forget that just the act of some good hard work is a commendable thing. In fact, for most students in the US and UK, internships are not that accessible either. Instead, delivering the newspaper, baby-sitting and mowing lawns will be on their resumes. Nothing wrong with understanding the value of money through the sweat of the brow! I had two brothers that I worked with in the past, their father owned the largest car dealerships in town. They were interested in studying business. He gave them jobs washing cars for the summer. Ask them now and they will tell you that it was a great experience. Ask them then and they moaned.

    Aristotle: Your Personal Essay Coach

    Letting Aristotle Help You Write Your Admissions Essay

    I have been helping students discover their own personal voices since 2002. Before that, I worked in several start-up companies, where I list “Helping others communicate more effectively” most prominently on my resume. This is because I have recognized that most problems in any organization have their roots in poor communication. I start working with my high school students on their essays in March before their 12th grade year. This may seem very early, but there is a very good reason for that. I have found that writing an essay at that time carries less apprehensiveness, and therefore, allows the student’s authentic voice to emerge. When faced with these same admission essay prompts later, the tendency is to write from a place of foreboding that often brings a product that I call the “Mr/Miss World” essay. You know the one, where the writers tell us about how just seeing the smiles on the little orphan’s faces made them recognize how they have taken their own lives for granted and that these little underprivileged children gave them so much more than the hours of service the writers devoted. You probably just threw up in your mouth a little as well. So, lets travel back in time and ask Aristotle for some help through his identification of Ethos, Pathos and Logos in persuasive writing.


    Ethos is essentially your credibility, or trustworthiness. An appeal to the reader through ethos is to establish that people should believe what you are saying because you know a good deal about this topic. For instance, in my introduction I established how long I have been reading personal essays, as well as extensive experience in the business world with effective communication. While you may not have the years of experience, or the degrees and titles to flaunt your credibility, you are “experts” in some areas, and one particular area that an admissions person is most interested in ~ YOU! Aristotle actually made great pains to point out that ethos is not the outer appearances, as much as it is in the language that the writer uses to show credibility. Consider for instance how one might list being in a leadership role in an essay. Simply telling the reader that you had this position does not help much. The reader does not know how that role is picked, whether by popularity or some partiality. But if the writer were to indicate a particular “learning” in that role, then the reader could recognize the quality as authentic. For instance: “Remembering the conflict that I caused by not allowing all of my team members their opinions from the last football match, I calmed the student counsel down and suggested that we pass my gavel around and let everyone have one minute to share their perspectives uninterrupted.”


    Pathos is making an emotional connection, but not in the way our Mr/Miss World speech has attempted above. I think that the more effective way of doing this requires the writer to get in touch with his/her own feelings and motivations first. If you look at the things that you wish to communicate (brag) about in the application, try to identify your emotional connection and motivation for doing those things. You will initially just respond that “you enjoy” the activity, or “you are good” at it. But if you search more, you will likely find some more intrinsic rewards that you receive from these. Those feelings and motivations will be what you want to share with the reader. The effect of this is that the reader can empathize with you in a broader sense and even imagine how you would excel in similar activities on their campus.


    This is where the writer makes and appeal to the readers reason, hence the derivative of the word-Logic. There are ways to do this in your personal essay, but I think that Logos most comes into play when you are telling the college “why” you want to go to their school. Many of these essays tend to be blatant flirtations, with adjective filled sentences telling the admissions people several things that they already know about their school. Instead, focus on you first. List the areas that you feel proud of having achieved some expertise (from your Ethos areas), then think of some aspects of your personality as they relate to your environment that are important to you (this may have been some of the things that you communicated in your Pathos area), now think of some of the areas that you “aspire” to do, but for whatever reason you have not had resources (time, money, facilities). Only then should you research the school that you have targeted and try to make connections between one of those three areas of you, and how those areas are represented or available at that school. This can be an effective way to make a strong logical (Logos) connection between you and that school.

    A focus on any one of these areas would make for a more effective and persuasive essay, but I point them out here more to direct the writer to the process before you even sit down to write. These can be effective ways to learn more about yourself and what makes you who you are. Once you have a good understanding of who you are, you will be more effective in communicating that to others.

    Note: I have based this article on another interesting article on Harvard Business Review by Scott Edinger: Three Elements of Great Communication. You can read that article here:

    New Essay Prompts on the Common Application!

    Class of 2017 has the historic honor of being the first class to have new Essay prompts on the Common Application main essay in over eight years! There are several other changes, like the word limit is now 650 words (before 500) and will be strictly enforced. The system is also going completely online this year (read: inevitable problems looming).

    I for one am very happy with these changes as I found the old topics quite stale and invoking equally stale responses. I have always appreciated the Topic of Your Choice option over the cheesy "Miss World" like response from the old Diversity prompt or the Issue of National importance (sorry, almost fell asleep again writing that!). Oh, another change, the Topic of you Choice no longer an option!

    Without further adeiu, here are the new Prompts:

    • "Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story."
    • "Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?"
    • "Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?"
    • "Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?"
    • "Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family."

    For the full Announcement Download This

    Personal Branding - The Secret to Success in Admissions

    Ever considered yourself as a brand? Well, its time you started considering yourself as a brand… a Personal Brand.

    A Personal Brand is co-related with the values, abilities, and personality traits that each person is associated with.

    The Personal Branding Phenomenon is all about taking control, whether you're an ambitious professional, a student or an entrepreneur. It becomes essential to look at how and why Personal Branding works - and how to leverage it to your advantage. Personal Branding is the intersection of three facts, namely what the person is, what he wants to be and what his organization/ customers/ college want him to be. Personal branding highlights certain skills and special talents in a person that other people value.

    Personal branding is creating a revolution in the way one manages their careers or businesses. It's a way of clarifying and communicating what makes them different and special. Using these qualities one can separate themselves from their peers so that they can greatly expand their success. Personal branding is the strategy behind the world's most successful people. People like Oprah, Madonna, Richard Branson and Bill Gates. It is the difference between an ordinary career or business and an exceptional one.

    Today’s market place has become overcrowded and increasingly sophisticated. In such a situation it becomes essential to stand out and be noticed. Personal Branding is for people who want to take charge of their lives, who want to develop a strong sense of identity and purpose and for people who want to raise their profile and positively influence the way others perceive them.

    A trend that is setting in is identifying Personal Branding in the early stages of choosing the right career and aiding students procure admissions in colleges of their choice. After all, Personal branding is more than personal marketing. It is an ideal method to communicate the optimal delta of personal skills with entities that value these skills highly. Education consultancy firms such as, Vector Performance not only assist students in university admissions, but also lay special emphasis on the concept of personal branding. We feel that it is very relevant for students and Professionals who want to proactively manage their career path.

    Together, we develop a brand to differentiate you from peers, and capitalize on the uniqueness discovered. Through the consistent expression of a student’s Personal Brand, we help you to stand out and achieve your professional goals.

    In the end, The Personal Branding is an authoritative guide to the art and science of managing personal identity.