If you’re a Penn State World Campus student looking for a virtual internship, you might want to consider a federal program that offers valuable internship opportunities: the Virtual Student Federal Service (VSFS). Recently, we asked Megan Kuhn, VSFS representative, and Rajiv Thummala, a VSFS alumnus, to share information about the program. We’re including some of their insights here, and you can also hear more from them in our video series linked near the end of this post.
What is the VSFS?
The VSFS is a program that provides completely virtual unpaid internship experiences offered through the U.S. federal government. Kuhn said, “it really runs the gamut, the types of projects and the types of opportunities available.” In a typical year, there are more than 2,000 students in the VSFS program working on more than 800 projects, and some offices have dedicated VSFS intern teams.
VSFS internships begin in September and are completed by May of the following year.
Who can participate in the VSFS?
Students from all majors can participate in the VSFS. You can participate in VSFS at any point during your program and can do more than one VSFS internship during your college career. While not required, it helps to have some prior work or leadership experience. Because the program is fully virtual, Kuhn notes that you can participate even while you are studying abroad.
To apply to participate in the VSFS program, you must meet the following criteria:
- U.S. citizen
- full-time or part-time student at the undergraduate or graduate level
- remain a student through the entire duration of the internship
Benefits of participating in a VSFS internship include:
- all opportunities are virtual
- projects are meant to build your résumé, even for career changers and veterans
- commitments are approximately 10 hours per week
- flexible hours
- employers include dozens of federal offices, representing all fields of the U.S. government
- possibly fulfilling a required internship (check with your program/department to confirm)
Preparing to apply
You can only apply for the VSFS during the month of July. You should start preparing early because the application process is fairly long. To apply, you will need to create a profile in USAJOBS and write a statement of interest for each project to which you are applying.
For your résumé, you’ll want to list all work and volunteer experience — it’s all worth including. Kuhn said, “if you have a class project that relates to the internship you’re applying to, include it.” Thummala was on a selection committee during his VSFS internship and said that when reviewing applications from those without internship experience, he always looked for mentions of class projects.
Spend time carefully crafting the statement of interest. That is your opportunity to communicate directly with the project mentor about your passion for a project and why you would be a good fit.
How to find VSFS opportunities
In early July, visit the VSFS site to view projects and decide which opportunities you want to pursue. Start with the “all projects” button; you can filter opportunities from there. You will then build your government résumé and apply at the USAJOBS website.
Seek opportunities that match your interests
Regardless of your major, you should focus on opportunities that involve doing something you would enjoy or that would provide you with valuable experience. Thummala said, “Keep in mind that the name of your major does not really mean much; as long as you’re choosing something that you want to do, that’s all that matters.”
He added that although the internship is unpaid, it can provide valuable experience. “This internship will set you on a trajectory to pretty much accomplish any goal that you want following. It’s just such a great opportunity, so don’t miss out.”
Application process and timeline
To apply for VSFS internships, follow these steps:
- Visit the VSFS site on or after July 1 to view opportunities
- Identify projects that interest you
- Narrow down your choices — you can submit applications for up to three opportunities
- Apply to projects by July 28 using USAJOBS
You will be notified in August if you are selected for an internship. Internships begin in September.
Assistance is available
As a Penn State World Campus student, you can get help from a career professional as you develop your résumé or personal statement. Find out how to contact World Campus Career Services. You can also visit Nittany Lion Careers, Penn State’s career management system, to schedule a meeting with a career counselor.
Watch our VSFS video series
We’ve created a series of videos to help you learn more about the VSFS and get tips on finding and applying for opportunities.
Watch the first video in the VSFS series:
Other recommended resources
- Video Series: Advice from a World Campus Graduate Now Working in Higher Education — this video series shares career tips and insights from a World Campus alumnus who now works for Penn State
- Explore Networking and Alumni Connections with LionLink — this blog post reviews the benefits of LionLink, the professional networking program offered by the Penn State Alumni Association