Getting an internship at NASA can be difficult, but it is not impossible. As someone who has gone through the process, I’m here to help and show you how I managed to get an internship offer for the summer:
Before Application Season:
1. Work on Space Projects
I think this is often overlooked which is why I put it at the top of the list. It is important to show initiative and interest in space through your projects. What do you spend your free time on? Only showing proficiency in coding isn’t sufficient, because there are thousands of other applicants are proficient in it, too. You need to demonstrate your passion for space. I recommend working on space-related projects that relate to your field, whether that’s software engineering or data science.
2. Take Applicable Classes and Excel in Them
If you’re applying to a technical position, it is imperative that you have completed fundamental computer science classes with good grades; NASA requires a 3.0 GPA. Additionally, if you can, take classes on astrophysics or astronomy. It will likely give you an edge, and they’re fascinating classes that you should explore in college if you have the opportunity!
3. Be Active on Campus
Take leadership roles in tech clubs or organizations on campus. Showing you are a leader and team player serves you well when applying to any position. At NASA, you will likely be working on a project with multiple engineers, mentors, and other interns, so the ability to take initiative and work collaboratively will take you a long way.
4. Attend Job Fairs that NASA is At
No matter how busy your schedule is at school, I promise you won’t want to miss the career fairs. First impressions do matter. I was fortunate enough to meet a recruiter at one of these events, and after asking questions and conversing, she told me to email her once I applied. This helped move my application along the pipeline.
1. Apply Early
Even though the application is open for a few months, it is important to complete yours well in advance. Deadlines only indicate the last possible day you can apply to a project, but mentors often interview most applicants or fill the spots before that day.
2. Apply to As Many Positions As You Can
Take advantage of the fact that you can apply to up 15 projects on OSSI. You have a higher chance of being selected that way, but remember to only select ones that genuinely interest you.
3. Apply During the Spring/Fall
Summer internships are more competitive, so I would suggest applying during the spring or fall when there are less applicants and the stakes aren’t as high. You may be able to work out an arrangement with your mentor to work around school hours, so don’t be afraid to apply during the academic season.
4. Get Multiple Letters of Recommendation
One letter of recommendation is required by the application, but I would suggest getting more. I applied with four letters of recommendation from my former professors and TA’s. You can ask for them from “professors, teaching assistants, academic advisers, faculty from an institution previously attended, teachers from high school (if recent enough), employers/supervisors,” so make sure to build good relationships. These recommendations give recruiters a glimpse of your work ethic and character. Make sure to ask for letters of recommendation in advance, inform your mentor about the specific position you will be applying to, and let them know specific characteristics you’d like them to highlight.
PS: Do not forget to thank the people who write your letters of recommendation!
5. Reach Out to Recruiters
Lastly, try to contact recruiters at the center you’re applying to via LinkedIn, Twitter, or a cold email. Introduce yourself and attach your resume, state what you’re applying for, and list the ways you’ll be able to contribute to the organization. This is critical because they sift through thousands of applicants and often overlook candidates, but please remember to only reach out if their information is publicly available.
I hope these tips were helpful and I wish you luck in the upcoming application season. Do not get discouraged if you aren’t selected on the first round, there is always another semester. Stay optimistic and work hard. Please don’t be afraid ask any questions in the comment section. Good luck!