How to Write an Internship Cover Letter: 9 Tips (+ Examples)

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

A strong cover letter can get you noticed when applying for an internship. Find out how to craft a standout cover letter today.

[Featured Image]:  A woman wearing a brown sweater, is sitting at a desk, working on her cover letter.

You’ve found an internship, and it’s the opportunity you’ve been looking for to put you on the path to your dream job. However, the internship application requires you to send a cover letter.

Cover letters give you space to contextualise how your previous work experience and relevant skills make you a good fit for the position. They expand on your resume meaningfully, grabbing a hiring manager’s attention and demonstrating why you’re undeniably the right person for the internship. 

In this article, you will learn how to put your best foot forward with nine tips for your internship cover letter. You will also find examples alongside each tip and a cover letter template to help you compose your own. Whether you’re a high school student, recent college graduate or career switcher looking to start a new path, these tips are for you. 

Internship cover letters: Why you need one

Cover letters provide hiring managers insight into applicants' experience, skills, and aspirations. As a result, cover letters benefit early-career seekers applying for internships because they provide a more detailed picture of their backgrounds than their resumes might. 

Whether a job description asks for a cover letter or not, sending a unique resume to each internship you apply to is wise. Adding a cover letter can sometimes be the difference between landing the internship or not. 

Research conducted by ResumeGo between 2019 and 2020 found that cover letters can have a positive impact on how applications are interpreted by hiring managers. Among their many findings, the researchers found that [1]: 

  • 87% of hiring managers said they read cover letters. 

  • 65% of hiring managers said cover letters influence their hiring decisions. 

  • 81% of hiring managers valued cover letters tailored to a specific position over generic ones. 

  • 78% of hiring managers said it was easy to tell when a cover letter was generic. 

These statistics suggest both the impact a cover letter can have when applying for an internship and the importance of crafting one that speaks directly to the position. One thing is clear: cover letters matter. 

How to write a cover letter for an internship 

A cover letter is your chance to stand out from the crowded applicant pool. In this section, you’ll learn nine high-impact tips to help you craft a cover letter highlighting your professionalism, aspirations, and qualifications. 

1. Properly format your cover letter.

Proper formatting helps hiring managers quickly scan your cover letter for key information, such as your contact information and skills, and conveys your professionalism. From top to bottom, your cover letter should have the following elements: 

  • Keep to one page only: Your cover letter should be only one page. This will keep it focused, impactful, and easily scannable for hiring managers.  

  • Header at the top: Include your contact information so hiring managers can easily contact you. 

  • Greetings: Open with a greeting to the hiring manager. This is a formality that makes your letter more personal. 

  • Intro: Include a brief introduction that describes who you are, what you are applying for and your key qualifications. 

  • Body: The body of your cover letter is where you detail your experience, skills, and education. 

  • Conclusion/Call to action: Include a call to action that encourages your reader to contact you. 

  • Salutations: Finally, you want to leave the reader with a good impression by including a formal greeting followed by your full name. This conveys a sense of professionalism and friendliness. 

In the following tips, you will learn more about handling each of these parts of your resume to make them as impactful as possible. 

2. Use a professional email address.

The header of your cover letter is where you include your contact information, full name, phone number, and email address. 

While it may seem insignificant, one of the most important things you can do in your header is to include a professional-sounding email address. In this instance, the simpler the email address, the better. Create an email address that is a simple variant of your name with a standard free email provider, such as Gmail. 


Professional email variations

3. Personalise your greeting. 

While many cover letters are addressed 'to whom it may concern', a more impactful way to catch a hiring manager’s attention is by addressing them by name directly. 

In addition to making your cover letter more personal, this tactic highlights that you’ve researched and created a job-specific cover letter rather than sending a generic one. This can positively impact how a hiring manager views your resume and cover letter. 

You can find out who the hiring manager is by doing some straightforward research online. Some job descriptions will instruct you to email a specific person. In other cases, you might need to visit the organisation’s website and see if you can identify the person who heads their internship or hiring efforts. 

If this doesn't work, you can also reach out to the organisation directly by either email or phone to see if they can give the name of the hiring manager who will be looking at internship applications. Let them know that you are applying for the specific internship and would like to address the hiring manager directly in your application. 

If you cannot learn the hiring manager's name, don’t worry—your application likely won’t be penalised for a common, courteous greeting.


Generic greetingPersonal greeting
To whom it may concern,Dear Ms Angelou,

4. Include key information in the intro.

Your cover letter should include a short introduction that immediately identifies the specific internship position you are applying for and the key background information relevant to the position. Ideally, keep your introduction to only a few sentences, making sure to stay within four. 

Much like a thesis statement in a school paper, the introduction of your cover letter helps the reader understand your purpose for writing and the qualifications that make you ideal for the position. 


‘Dear Ms Angelou, 

I am writing to apply for the editorial assistant internship position at Little House Publishing. An avid reader since I first played Grimm’s (macabre) Fairy tales as a five-year-old, I have made storytelling my personal and professional calling. As an English major at the University of Delhi, I have been an editor of our school’s literary magazine for three years, brought two theatre productions to life as dramaturgs, and taught reading and writing to countless middle schoolers.’ 

5. Show how you and the internship are a perfect match. 

The key aim of your cover letter is to demonstrate to the hiring manager why you and the internship are a perfect match for one another. 

As a result, you should craft your letter to emphasise how your skill set and experience have prepared you for the position and why it can help you achieve your professional aims. Remember, an internship is as much an educational opportunity as a work experience, so don’t be afraid to note what the internship offers you and what you offer the internship. 

To identify how you and the internship are a good match for one another, do the following: 

  1. Read through the job description and identify the skills and experience you possess. 

  2. Identify what experience, skills, or understanding you will gain from the internship.

  3. Include these points in your cover letter. 


'After studying Python for the last two years, IBM’s data science internship will finally allow me to see programming at work in the real world. Throughout high school, I’ve spent hours combing through data, creating visualisations, and posing questions to data big and small all by myself. At IBM, I will be a part of a community that takes data seriously, contributing to projects but learning even more.' 

6. Emphasise your education and extracurriculars.

While most jobs require relevant work experience, most internships typically expect applicants to have little or none. This is particularly true for internships geared towards secondary school and college students. 

If you’re a student without much (or any) relevant work experience, then you should emphasise your education and extracurricular activities. You’ll be able to highlight your skills, interests, and concrete achievements for hiring managers as much as previous work experience would allow you to do. 


'As a computer science student, I have taken advanced courses on machine learning and programming data structures, achieving top grades in both. Later, I used these skills in the AI club when I taught a machine to recognise different hand gestures visually.’

7. Use active language and note concrete outcomes. 

One of the key ways to create impactful writing is to use active language that shows the reader how you achieved concrete outcomes. This method will help your reader fully comprehend what you have done and what you have ultimately achieved. 

Active language (also known as active voice) is when the subject of a sentence acts upon an object rather than the object being acted upon by an object. For example, consider the chart below: 

The woman programmed a computer.The computer was programmed by the woman.

In the first sentence, the emphasis is on the woman (the subject) doing an action ('programming') on the computer (the object). Meanwhile, the second sentence emphasises the computer rather than the action performed by the subject (the woman). Focusing on the action, the first sentence highlights the woman’s work and keeps the sentence shorter. 

Using active language that clearly describes how you accomplished a specific result will keep the attention on you and what you can do.  


'As a writing tutor, I taught middle schoolers how to write in the active voice to help them articulate themselves with impact. To do this, I analysed sentences on the blackboard, edited essays live, and reinforced concepts week to week.  Our results spoke for themselves: test scores improved by 78 per cent in just two months.'

8. Consider using a bulleted list to highlight your technical skills. 

To make it more scannable, consider including a bullet point list of your relevant skills in the body of your cover letter. This technique helps readers catch important skills that you possess that help you stand out from the applicant pool. 


'Throughout my education and extracurriculars, I have improved many skills relevant to the internship, including: 

  • Python

  • Java

  • C++

  • Collaboration

  • Problem-solving

9. Include a call to action and salutation at the end of the letter. 

Your cover letter should leave the hiring manager wanting to reach out to you and a good picture of you. To leave them wanting to hear more from you, end the cover letter with a brief statement about your desire to speak more about the role soon and close with a professional salutation, such as 'sincerely'.


'I look forward to talking soon about how I can contribute to the team this summer. Thank you for the opportunity, time, and consideration.


Abraham Lincoln'

Next steps

Landing an internship can help you start your career. To ensure you’re ready for that first day on the job, you might consider taking an online course or gaining a Professional Certificate in data science, project management, or social media marketing

Article sources

  1. Resume Go. “Cover Letters: Just How Important Are They?,” Accessed January 1, 2024. 

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