Our Essential Guide to Student Insights

From Insights Days to Vacation Schemes to Spring Weeks

Did you know some of the UK’s top companies offer insight schemes to first and second year students? It’s an opportunity to get short-term work experience that fits into your university schedule. Read on to find out more...

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What is a Student Insight?

An insight scheme is a short-term period of work experience designed primarily for first and second year university students. They typically last between one to ten days, and take place during the Easter break.

Insights have various names, for example in the banking sector they are called spring weeks. Spring weeks also take place during the Easter holidays and are offered by some of the biggest international banks. In the legal sector they are called vacation schemes, or 'vac schemes'.

Employers have created insight schemes and spring weeks to give students an introduction to the professional environment and a taste of their company’s culture. Some employers also use insights to scout for future talent and look for candidates for their internship, placement and even graduate programmes.

Typical activities can include:

  • Work shadowing
  • Learning how the business works
  • Integration into teams across the company
  • Short projects
  • Presentations
"54% of graduate hires from companies in RateMyPlacement's Top Undergraduate Employers Table comprised of previous interns, placement and insight students."

Why is Getting Work Experience so Important?

It’s frightfully important - now, more than ever - for students to get work experience while they’re still at university.

Why? Employers have reshaped the way they recruit for their graduate schemes. Last year, 54% of graduate hires from companies in the Top Undergraduate Employers Table comprised of previous interns, placement and insight students.

Employers really do use undergraduate work experience programmes to discover future talent, as the above statistic shows that over half of the graduate intake from 2017 had worked for their employer during their degree, before being hired again as a graduate.

Gaining an insight will drastically increase your chances of securing an internship or placement later on in university, and in turn, getting a graduate job.

The Benefits of Doing a Student Insight

building contacts

Building Contacts

Although you may only have up to ten days within the organisation, it’s a fantastic opportunity to network and make a good impression on full-time employees. You could be working alongside other insight students, interns, placement students and experienced individuals, and the way you work, your enthusiasm and interest in the company will stand you in good stead when you look for work in the future.

Getting Practical Experience

practical experience

We’ve already mentioned the importance of getting work experience for the graduate job hunt. Having relevant and practical experience puts you in an even better position! Insight students don’t make the tea for the person who makes the coffee; while they’re working they shadow experienced professionals and work on short-term projects. They do real work! Doing an insight not only enhances your CV, it’s an opportunity to build skills too.

Career Opportunities

career opportunities

Some of you will be set on a particular career path when you leave university, but there are many career choices to be made at the beginning of your working life. How do you make sure you have made the correct choice? Is it the right career for you? An insight gives you an opportunity to touch upon a number of different business areas in a short space of time. You can see which you prefer, providing you with an idea about where you see your future.

In this short (but dramatic) video, IBM explain how their insight days work, and what students get up to on the day...

Are They Paid?

Are insights paid? The majority of students are paid for their work, or at least have their expenses covered. It really depends on the length of the scheme and the company you’re working for.

For example, if you’re attending an insight day, you’re unlikely to be paid, however you should have your travel fares reimbursed. Sandwiches may also be provided. Schemes that last between a week to ten days are more likely to involve paid work.

The best course of action to take if you want to know if you’ll be paid is to check the information in the job description. You can find this information in the job listing on the RateMyPlacement jobs page, or you can visit the company’s website.

Another resource at your disposal are the reviews. Last year, over 1,200 students submitted reviews about their insight scheme. In each review, students answer ‘Were you paid or reimbursed adequately for this experience?’; search for reviews for the company you’re applying to and you can find out quickly if you’re going to be paid or not.

Read insight reviews

How do I Apply?

Applying for an insight scheme is very similar to applying for an internship, placement or even just a normal job.

You’ll begin by filling out an application form, in which you’ll submit a CV and a cover letter. If your application is successful, you’ll have either a face-to-face, phone or video interview. If you’re applying for an insight day, the process will end there. You’ll wait a few days, perhaps a few weeks before you hear if you were successful.

Insights schemes that last up to ten days might also include an assessment centre as part of the recruitment process.

You can apply for insights in wide-range of industries on our jobs page. To find out which companies offer opportunities for first and second year students, hop over to our Top Undergraduate Employers page. It will let you know what opportunities a company offers, where in the UK they offer opportunities and the sectors they operate in.

View Top Employers

When’s the Best Time to Apply?

The majority of insights are advertised between September and March. It’s a wide window, so it may seem that you have months to apply, but not all companies accept applications through until March.

Insight schemes predominantly take place during the Easter holidays - which will fall in April 2019. Aim to get your applications in before February, or better, before the new year when exams and coursework deadlines loom.

However, the earlier that you begin applying for schemes the better. You might think that September is very early to start applying for work experience, especially if you’ve just arrived at university, but use this time to do some research and work out which insights you want to apply for. That way, when it comes to December and the new year, you’re ready to start applications.


Getting an insight will improve your chances of getting an internship, placement and a graduate job when after you finish you university. Besides that, it’s a valuable opportunity to just get some experience and meet professionals who do the job that you want to do.

You’re at the bottom of the page now, great work! All that’s left is to explore our current opportunities. Go explore and gain an insight!

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