I am a current high school student (senior year) with approximately 5 years of programming experience in full-stack web development, game development, and general scripting (C#, Python, JS, Java). I have a fairly reasonable resume with some awards (5th place at HPE Codewars International) and prior experience (full-stack development and leadership roles at two non-profits). The thing I am really struggling with is finding actual internships since most of them state that they are looking for college students.

I live in Texas and I am allowed to work part-time so that shouldn't be much of an issue, it's just finding opportunities that are a limiting factor. A lot of answers on this forum and in general mention leveraging your connections to land one of these positions, but I don't really have any so what is the best way to go about networking? I've been considering reaching out to recruiters and employees on Linkedin/email but I'm not entirely sure if that would be appropriate. Any advice is appreciated.

  • 4
    Did you try applying for the college ones? Worst you can hear is no.
    – Aida Paul
    Aug 16, 2023 at 14:33
  • 3
    Is your purpose to earn money or would you be willing to donate your time for experience? There may be other avenues to just get experience than internships.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 16, 2023 at 14:46
  • 1
    Ideally, I would like to earn money, but if needed, I'm willing to forego that for the experience. Aug 16, 2023 at 15:29
  • Who were your employers for the last 5 years ? List them on your resume and apply for jobs if your employers are authentic. If you only worked on your own projects for the last 5 years, then list and describe your projects on your resume, and apply. Aug 16, 2023 at 17:10
  • Have you asked your school's guidance counselors if they know of opportunities? Asking friends to ask their parents can also generate leads.
    – keshlam
    Aug 16, 2023 at 17:10

3 Answers 3


If I was reviewing potential applications and I read yours, the first thing I would do is chuck it in the bin.

And I suspect this is part of your problem.

You say you have 5 years experience. If you are in High School, I'm going to say this without fear of being corrected: You do not. You may have been doing personal projects for 5 years, but that is not the same as working for a company. Unless you were working 8 hours a day, Mon-Fri on those personal Projects for 5 years solid, then it's not equivalent. There's other reasons why, even if that were the case, I would not consider it equivalent.

Same goes for saying you have leadership roles. There's a difference between being a 'team lead' at a charity working with other teenagers and being an actual Team Lead in a business environment managing other adults.

Why am I pointing this out: Well, There is rarely anything stopping you from applying for internships, even if they specify they want College Students. You can still apply - So, someone reviews your application - sees '5 years experience' and 'High school' and thinks 'This person is massively inflating what they've done - NEXT!'.

As per the comments - you can list your projects that you've worked on, provide links to your GIT repos etc. List the non-profits you've worked with (although I'd be cautious about saying 'Team Lead').

The last line, however, There is absolutely nothing wrong to reaching out to Recruiters, Companies, finding out who the HR person is at a company via Linkedin and sending them a message directly, walking into a reception and asking to speak with the Hiring Manager/Intern Manager and saying your willing to wait.

In fact, showing a level of initiative and proactiveness is often viewed very favorably and may result in someone looking past that you are a high school student and not a college student or at least, give you the time of day to look at your GIT projects and see the quality of your work.


Since your goal is to earn some money, there are several ways to go. One is to go door to door talking to small businesses in your area. These will never take on an intern but will be willing to give you projects. (99% will say no but the 1% is good money.) Another way is to get into college and look for college jobs. There are a lot of opportunities on campus to get work experience where you can work around your class schedule. Finally, most jobs are found via friends and family referrals. 90% of all jobs never get listed anywhere. They are filled from referrals and people walking in the door at the right time. Ask everyone you know.

Those are all suggestions on how to find work. Before you do that, it can help to sit down and figure out what kind of work you want. Some people want to simply be writing new code. Others want to work with more senior people to learn things that senior people know (and you might not). Others are comfortable working on "support" which means fixing bugs in other people's code. You can learn a lot by finding out what makes code hard to fix or easy to fix. Others want to learn how to be part of a larger team and learn "DevOps". Each of these will be a different style of looking for work.


Let me provide my two cents on this, having just been in a similar situation to yours (in EU though, so your mileage may vary on some points).

If I could say one thing to the past me looking for internships without personal connections, it would be to keep applying to what you can find while not getting discouraged.

You can leverage:

  • High School/University Job boards (in your area, some institutions other than yours might have some of their offerings published)
  • Online job websites (LinkedIn or whatever is common in your area, create a profile and vet it, it might also help you later).
  • Companies you know of or would like to work at: Look around their website, maybe they have established processes or offers for internships you can apply to.

And if they don't, just send them an email. The worst thing they can do is say no.

And don't get this wrong: 90% will. It's easy to get discouraged after a rejection, after five or after fifty. But in the end all you need is one company to work at. Everything beyond that gives you choices.

Also don't take job postings too seriously in this case. It's understandable for a company to ask for only 'University students with 3+ years of work experience that are graduating next year'. They'll reach for the sky in these, but you can still reach out if you don't 100% meet those expectations.

You might want to create a spreadsheet of which companies you've applied to for what position, who's answered and what your preferences are to keep an overview of the status.

Also, keep working on your application, CV, etc. Run them by people you know or someone at your school. Get feedback on them and adapt them accordingly.

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