10 Top Terms to Decode Your Internship Application

When I started my university-level internship applications, little did I know I’d soon be learning another language alongside Spanish!

Internships and applications have their own terminology to refer to a variety of steps in the process – some of which are pretty obvious, others completely unfamiliar. It’s useful to know the basics when you’re new to the game, so you can figure out what you want to pursue.

So, welcome to University Internships 101!


The following 10 terms are all commonly referred to in a variety of industries and opportunities. Read on for an explanation of what they are and why they’re important to you:

Assessment Centre/’AC’: An assessment day set up by the company as part of their recruitment process, often at their offices. Candidates will have to participate in a variety of activities as further testing for the position. This can include, but is not limited to, numerical/non-verbal/critical reasoning tests, group exercises, case studies, individual exercises and interviews. ACs can lead to an offer or an interview, depending on the company and position.

Case Study: A business teaching/assessment tool where candidates are presented with a fictional scenario and asked to develop an appropriate solution based on the situation. For example, a candidate may be given information about a company’s performance and be asked how to best improve it. This is often used as part of an interview process, especially in consultancy.

Convert/Conversion: With some internships, there is the opportunity to leverage that internship into a future opportunity – for example, doing a Spring internship and being fast-tracked onto a future summer internship, or completing a summer internship and being offered a future full-time offer upon graduation. Some companies will offer this, some not – and not ‘converting’ an internship is not a failure!

Cover Letter: A letter, usually sent alongside a CV, which explains a candidate’s motivations for applying for a position and more detail about their application.

Insight Day: A day-long event hosted by the company, where candidates can find out more about the company and industry. Insight days are useful to give you an idea of what areas or organisations you are interested in.

Fast-track: Sometimes recruiters will speed certain applications through the application process, such as certain candidates not having to complete the initial application stages. This will usually happen in cases where the candidate has been shown to have particular strengths eg. attendance of a highly exclusive event, previous experience with the company.

Online Tests: More and more, companies will ask candidates to complete online exams/tests as part of the application process. These will usually be a combination of a few of the following: numerical, non-numerical, personality test, situational judgement, critical analysis, diagrammatic, game-based.

Placement/Year in Industry: Longer-term experiences of working within a company, usually 3 months, 6 months or a year long. These are usually targeted at students who wish to do a year in industry as part of their academic studies, taking a year out to work in a relevant field of interest. This allows you to gain practical experience in your industry and apply what you’ve learned.

Spring Week/’Spring’: An internship/multiple-day insight during the Easter period. These tend to be between 2 days to a week long, and are often a first look into an industry. These placements are most commonly aimed at first year students, or second years on a 4 year course. Some spring internships are paid, some not.

Summer Internship/’Summer’: An internship during the university summer break between academic years. These can be anywhere from several weeks to several months long, with most being 8 to 12 weeks in duration. These are a great opportunity to get a developed insight into an industry/company, often providing a taste of what a position in that company would entail. Some summer internships are paid, some not.

These are just a couple of the general elements, with different career paths having their own specific processes and terms. Don’t be put off by the formality of it all – these terms just help to add structure to the process and classify the great opportunities out there.

Feeling confident? Start to have a look at what’s available for your year group in your sector. The most common opportunities for different years are:

First Year: insight days, spring weeks
Second Year: insight days, spring weeks, summer internships (penultimate year students)
Third Year (year in industry or year abroad): insight days, placement, summer internships
Final Year: insight days, summer internships, graduate programmes

Unsure how to start? Here are our tips on how to find your next great opportunity.

Use the terms above to start your search and start writing your own story!

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