College internship 101: Tips for a successful first day

Congratulations on scoring an internship! You made it through what was likely a nerve-wracking interview process, and now you get to intern at a great company where you’ll no doubt learn a lot about the field you hope to enter following graduation. But if you’re like many interns, you might not know exactly what to wear or how to act on your first day. Read on for a few tricks to help alleviate first-day jitters and make the start of your internship as smooth as possible.

Avoid wardrobe malfunctions

One of the trickiest decisions you’ll have to make is what to wear on your first day. The best rule of thumb is to dress in a way that reflects how you want to be treated. Hopefully you took note of what other people were wearing in the office during your interview, but if not it might be helpful to check out the company website to see if there are any photos of employees on the job.

If you’re still not sure what to wear, here are a few quick tips for men and women.


If you’re not sure the level of dress at your new workplace, err on the side of dressier rather than more casual. Even if you only wear it on your first day, a suit and tie and a nice pair of leather dress shoes will never do you wrong. You don’t want to be remembered as the intern who showed up in a Hawaiian shirt on day one, do you?


 Again, err on the side of caution and dress up instead of down. It’s best to avoid plunging necklines or skirt hems above the knee, and on your first day be sure to wear pantyhose or some other conservative leg covering until you get a better feel for what’s appropriate at your office. Skip the stiletto heels and wear flats or a low one- to two-inch, walkable heel.

What to bring

Bring a new notebook and a few writing utensils for note-taking during meetings. A conservative briefcase in a neutral color is appropriate for both genders. Ladies, leave that enormous handbag that holds your entire life at home, and instead switch it out for a smaller purse that won’t overwhelm you and will fit neatly in a desk drawer. And don’t forget to pack a lunch; your first day might be busy, and you don’t want to go hungry all day if there’s no time to run out for a bite to eat.

Time it right

Timing is everything on your first day. Get up extra early and allow plenty of time for your commute; try to arrive 5 or 10 minutes early to make a solid first impression. It’s also important to show up for meetings in a timely fashion and to ask questions at the appropriate moment; don’t interrupt, and in a group meeting, save your questions for the end when there will likely be a question-and-answer period. If you’re afraid you’ll forget your question, write it down in that trusty notebook you brought along.

Your first day will go smoothly if you prepare for it beforehand. You may still make a mistake or two, but going in fully prepared will give you the confidence you need to succeed on day one and beyond.

First day of your college internship

Do you feel prepared? 

Posted in

Matt Herndon

Matt Herndon is a dad and husband who loves to write about almost anything, especially leadership development and family. He won't write about cats or politics. Connect with Matt.


Pin It on Pinterest