5 AM on a Friday. Eyes half closed. Cup of coffee in hand as I walked into the production plant of the company where I interned. I was one of a few people from the office who had volunteered for the dreaded yearly inventory. How exactly did I get here, again?

Okay, rewind a bit. This is me talking about an internship -- and while 5 AM sounds like an awful time to be awake, this internship was definitely worth it.

“College should culminate with something that will be a huge part of your life: a career.”

The journey through college is one filled with memories, experiences, and friends that will last a lifetime. But remember, your college journey should culminate with something that will be a huge part of your life: a career.

Although thinking about how you will end up in your future career can be intimidating and overwhelming, fear not. College provides some wonderful opportunities to find what you are passionate about. One of the most important opportunities is an internship.

You know why it’s important to have an internship, but the next question is: how do you actually get one?

Read: 6 Reasons You Really Need a College Internship

Here are 5 things you should do to get an awesome internship, and you can start doing them the very first day of classes.

1) Use Your School’s Career Services

This should be the first place you check once you decide to look for an internship. Career Services offices are usually connected with a wide range of organizations looking for students like you to fill available opportunities.

They’ll tell you about career fairs and other less-formal channels, like alumni meet-and-greet events. Even if they can’t directly provide you with the specific internship you are looking for, they can provide guidance that points you in the right direction.

2) Use Online Resources

Look to see if organizations you are interested in post internship opportunities on their websites. Along those same lines, there are various websites that try and match students to internships.

Warning: you should never have to pay to use any of these services! There are plenty of free resources out there.

3) Leverage Your Connections

Tap into the connections you make through your college journey. Classmates can be excellent references to opportunities, especially if they’ve already completed internships themselves.

Also make sure to get advice from your favorite professors! Chances are they know people within your field of study or what the best way to approach the search is.

And don’t forget about your family! Mom and dad can be pretty helpful resources here, but so can aunts, uncles, and family friends.

The real key is to make sure you’re telling everyone who might be able to help that you’re looking for an internship. The more specific you can be about what you want to do, the better.

4) Apply!

It sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often this part gets messed up. Make sure to double-check your resume and cover letter before you submit. There’s a bunch of excellent resume writing advice out on the web, so make sure to research it first if you haven’t written a resume before.

Here’s a tip that’s incredibly important: make sure your cover letter is actually written for the position you want. I know it’s tempting to send out the same generic cover letter to every place, especially if you’re applying to a lot of opportunities.

But here’s the thing, if it’s not worth your time to write about why you want an internship there, do you really want an internship there?

5) Nail Your Interview

If you’ve gotten this far, you should be getting a couple requests for an interview soon. This can be the most nerve-wracking part for sure, but the basics of nailing an interview are the same for everyone.

Dress for success, be just a little early, research the company before you show up, and make sure you’ve got some good questions for the interviewer.

Most importantly, be yourself!

Read: 7 Tips for a Spectacular College Interview

Congratulations! Simply follow these easy steps and you’ll be well on your way to landing the perfect college internship.

Whether it’s a paid or unpaid internship, you should make sure to get the most out of it. That’s what I did, which is why after I graduated, my internship turned into a full time job at an amazing company (and no, I don’t have to get up at 5am quite so often anymore). But before you can get the job, you’ve got to get the internship.

What are your best tips to get an internship? Share with me in the comments, I’d love to hear them!

Authored by Carlos Garcia

Carlos studied as an American Honors student at Ivy Tech Community College before transferring to Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). He writes about career preparation, internships, and succeeding at college.