Applying for Research Internships at IITs, IIMs, NITs, and Foreign Universities
A 22 year old Product Manager, Techie, and a Writer.
I interned at the Industrial Design Centre, IIT Bombay under Prof. Anirudha Joshi during my second year of undergrad. There I chose to work on project titled: Chorded Keyboard.
Applying to professors for a summer internship can often be a confusing and daunting task, more when you don’t have anyone to guide you through the process. The process is easy but fairly long and time-consuming. I am jotting down some points which I followed and which helped me in getting selected.
The same application procedure applies to all the other academic institutions as well.
Step 1: Start Early, Start Right!
Mostly the Professors start receiving emails from students in the month of January which continues up till late February. The final selection of interns is done latest by March/April since usually, the internship duration is from May till July.
A good first step here would be to narrow down on your research area of interest:
- What topics would you like to work on?
- What are your learning goals?
- How can you contribute to a Professor's ongoing research or to new research work?
Next step would be to look for professors working in research areas similar to your interests. Narrow down on the ones whose projects excite you and start reaching out to them.
Now the question that arises is as to What, When and How should one reach out to a professor?
Fret not the next steps will get you there!
Step 2: Make your CV/Resume.
I can’t stress enough on this one. After your cover letter, the only thing that is going to get you noticed and hence selected is how you present your work in a precise and concise manner in your CV.
The hyperlink above will lead you to few actual CVs of some of the top academic students from different departments at IIT Bombay which was shared with me by a fellow senior student there. I used these as a reference while working on structuring my own CV.
By looking at these you can get an idea as to what all important points you should mention in your resume and which ones to leave out!
Tip: Align your previous projects and interests in such a way so that the professor you're applying to will find your profile cut fit for the role. Ideally, your CV should be a one-pager with minimal white spaces and everything should be mentioned in bullet points to reduce the word count.
Make your CV using LaTeX
I found this site super useful and handy. Since we all know that making a CV is a never-ending process that requires constant updates and iterations. On this particular site, you can use the existing templates to begin with, and then make changes to generate your own CV which you can always go back and edit. The best part is that you can share the editing link with someone else, allowing them to view and make changes to your CV in real-time.
Step 3: Prepare your Cover Letter
A good cover letter increases your chances of getting selected by manifolds. Since most renowned Professors have many students wanting to work under them, a good cover letter will help you in getting noticed among the lot.
Since many Professors don’t have the time to go through long e-mails so try to keep the cover letter short. A word count of 150–200 would suffice.
Always remember that you have to sell yourself in the best possible way as you can, also it shouldn't feel like you’re boasting. Your cover letter must not look like a copy-paste from somewhere else.
I would encourage reading about the professor’s work ( why not? After all, you want to work under him!) and write your cover letter along the lines stating as to how his ongoing project interests you and how you think you can contribute to it further.
Mention only selected projects and skills of yours in a line or two which you think are related to the professor’s area of interest.
You can find a few sample cover letters Here
PRO TIP: Never send your CV as an e-mail attachment.
Usually, the professors don’t have the time to download the CVs and it’s highly probable that once after downloading and reading he might lose the file and later forget.
Instead, Upload your CV on Google Drive and get the shareable link to generate a hyperlink for CV in the mail body. Adding the link to an online portfolio site like Behance, Dribble, GitHub, LinkedIn profile, or any online platform which validates your projects and shows your online presence would help.
and SHOOT that mail!
Step 4: The Follow-up
Once you’ve mailed the professor it’s important to wait for at least 7–10 days till you get a reply. Since most professors usually have a busy inbox you can send a reminder mail like the one I sent, shown below.
After sending a reminder email, wait for few days and if the professor doesn’t reply then you can send a reminder mail again.
TIP: Never email Professors of the same department and institution at the same time because it doesn’t look professional but, You can mail Professors of different institutions and departments simultaneously.
Make sure that not many students from your college/course are mailing the same professor at the same time. Otherwise, chances are high that you won’t get a reply and the professor will end up marking it as spam.
Step 5: Repeat!
If you don’t get any reply or acceptance for a particular application (which is highly likely to happen!) email the next professor on your list, until you get a confirmation.
In my case, I wanted to work under Prof. Anirudha Joshi. Hence, I never applied to any other professor rather I invested my time to align my CV and Cover Letter after going through his research work.
I send out a newsletter every month answering your questions on any topic — sign up here. Thank you so much for reading till here :)
Previously published at https://medium.com/@simranpandey97/how-to-get-a-summer-internship-at-iits-iims-nits-or-at-foreign-universities-6772f361fc05
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