Frequently Asked Questions: Externship Program

Below you will find answers to some of the frequently asked questions about the CLS Externship Program. Click on each question to view the answer.

General FAQs

An externship is a short-term job-shadow experience to gain insight about a particular career field, work environment, organization type, and more. It is also a great opportunity to develop a professional network.

Externships are short-term job-shadow experiences and are unpaid (though for in-person experiences, some funding to support travel costs may be available through CLS). Externships may include observing work, attending meetings, networking with professionals and even hands-on sample projects or research.

Internships are longer term (a semester or a summer, usually a minimum of 6 weeks), may involve pay or academic credit, and involve engaging in work that supports an organization’s daily operations.

Externships take place over a portion of the Grinnell College Spring Break. How many and which days of the break varies by externship host.

Students must submit all components of an externship application via the online application by the deadline. Instructions on submitting an application are available on the Externship Program Application Information page. It is the responsibility of the student applying to ensure their externship application is submitted in its entirety. Only completed applications will be considered for acceptance into the program. The application will include uploading a résumé.

An externship is a great way to “test out” an interest in a particular career field or work environment, learn about the day-to-day work life of a professional in that setting, and begin developing a professional network in that field. Externships are designed to support “exploratory” students, meaning students currently engaging in career exploration and who will benefit from learning more about a particular field.

Externship hosts include Grinnell College alums as well as potentially parents of Grinnell College students who work in a variety of career fields and professional settings.

Students complete an application for the program that includes identifying and ranking three externship host opportunities. The hosts will then rank the extern applications in return, and staff from both CLS (Center for Careers, Life & Service) and DAR (Development and Alumni Relations) will compile the final matches. Externships can be virtual or in-person and take place over a portion of the Spring Break period. Externs will observe the day-to-day professional life of the host, meet and begin networking with professionals in the field, and can even engage in sample projects and activities. In-person externships often include a homestay with a host.

This program is open to all first through third year students regardless of international and/or visa status and there is no GPA requirement. Students who are on Off-Campus Study during Spring semester or are traveling as part of another CLS or college-sponsored trip will not be eligible to participate in the Externship Program.

In-person externship locations take place wherever the hosts live and work, and in past years have been spread widely throughout the U.S. with a small number of externship host placements in international locations. Hosts and host locations vary every year as this is a volunteer program for our hosts. Any student who selects a non-U.S. externship as one of their three choices should already have a valid passport, and should do some initial research on Visa requirements (e.g.,

Yes! With the rise in virtual work spaces and supportive technology, CLS is excited to support virtual externship experiences. Virtual externships are, like in-person externships, a valuable opportunity to gain insight into a field of work, develop connections with professionals, test out interests and meeting learning goals, but without the requirements of travel or a homestay.

When completing the externship application you will be able to indicate if you are applying for in-person externships, virtual externships, or both.

You will be able to indicate up to three externship experiences within one application. You cannot submit more than one application.

All externship experiences include meeting individually with the externship host and shadowing the day to day responsibilities of the host and may include attending departmental or organization meetings, hands-on experience with a sample work task or case study, networking with additional professionals, and more. In-person externships usually also include a homestay experience.

You can contact your CLS adviser or email

We have a variety of valuable resources available to you to make your résumé and application the best it can be! We have resources and guides on our Résumé & Cover Letter Writing pages. There will also be a résumé writing workshop and résumé open review sessions available prior to the application deadline, and attendance is strongly encouraged.

All program requirements are outlined on the Externship Program Requirements Information page.

Additionally, externs are expected to meet all expectations of the host work locations in regards to policies, procedures and professional behavior. This may include professional dress, punctuality for meetings, confidentiality agreements, and more.

After you have submitted your application, your résumé and the portions of your application relevant to each individual externship experience you ranked will be shared with the potential hosts. The hosts will then rank the extern applications in return, and staff from both CLS (Center for Careers, Life & Service) and DAR (Development and Alumni Relations) will compile the final matches. Students will be notified if they will be offered an externship placement after the college has re-opened during winter break; please read the Externship Program Spring 2023 timeline for more information. Students offered an externship placement will be given more information at that time.

No; if you accept a position on a CLS or College-sponsored program during spring break, you will not be able to participate in the CLS Externship Program over the same break.

Yes! Externships are a job-shadow opportunity, and do not include engaging in any work for an individual or organization. The Externship Program is open to all first through third year students. For in-person externships at international locations, students with an F-1 Student Visa will want to research whether they would be able to travel to a particular location prior to ranking it on their application; the Office of International Student Affairs (OISA) is a valuable resource.

Virtual Experience FAQs

The virtual meeting technology used will depend on the extern, host, and availability at the host’s place of work, but may include Webex, Teams, Skype, or Zoom. Virtual externships will take place over video with other methods of communication (phone, email, etc.) utilized depending on the specific externship’s structure.

Virtual externships are held to the same expectations for professionalism as in-person externships, including punctuality and professional dress and will have the same program requirements for completion, as outlined in the program requirements. Virtual externships are not eligible for travel-related funding support from CLS, and will not be required to complete travel-related forms.

Virtual externships are not eligible for CLS externship funding as there are not associated travel or other expenses.

In-Person Experience FAQs

It is the responsibility of the student extern to secure transportation to and from the externship site. Travel logistics and planning will be discussed during the required externship orientations.

In the case of in-person externships, a limited amount of funding is set aside by CLS to support travel expenses. All students who accept an in-person externship placement are welcome to apply for funding, but the amount of funding a student receives will be determined by their financial need level and location of the externship (see Externship Program Application Information for more details on funding). Information on how to apply for funding will be available after the offer of an externship placement has been extended and accepted. CLS funding is not guaranteed.

Most in-person externships include a homestay at the host’s home or at the home of another Grinnell alum or close friend of the college. Externships local to Grinnell or the surrounding area have the option of commuting from the student’s current housing. Students are not required to stay with the host if a homestay is offered, however if a student declines the available homestay, it is their responsibility to secure lodging and cover related costs for the duration of the externship. In the uncommon event that an in-person externship does not offer a homestay, accommodations will be arranged by the host.