If you’re hoping to join the work world as an intern this summer, now is the time to get serious about your applications.

Besides résumés and cover letters, many internships — especially at organizations with formal programs — require essays, letters of recommendations, portfolios and more, so the sooner you know what’s expected, the better position you’ll be in.

When you begin to speak with companies — even before the interview process — you want to be prepared. Kristin Sauro, a human resources associate for the public relations agency Burson-Marsteller, recommends you aim to be professional, personable and knowledgeable with each interaction. “Don’t be afraid to show your personality and be yourself, but remain professional and thoughtful in your communication and your answers,” she says.

Think about doing these five things early in the year, and you’ll be ready to apply to the internships you’re interested in come spring.

Research, Research, Research

You likely have some idea where you’ll apply, but you want to make sure your list is well-rounded. The number of companies you apply to will depend on the competitiveness of your field and location — for example, Sauro says Burson-Marsteller receives 300 to 400 applications per year and hires 35 to 40 interns across its nine US offices. To get a sense of how many places you should apply, talk to your high school counselor or interns from previous years. Overall, it’s a lot like applying to college: You want some reaches and safeties mixed in with your targets. Once you finalize your list, find out what is required for each application and start getting those things in order. If you don’t see a set of specific requirements, it’s generally safe to assume that a résumé and cover letter will suffice.

Get Your Résumé Ready for Prime Time

While it may be daunting to create a résumé for a field you have little or no experience in, know that everyone has been in that position. Sauro recommends sharing any related experience — it could be coursework, extracurricular projects or volunteering. If you’ve had an unrelated after-school or summer job, show how your work there demonstrates your responsible nature and accountability rather than focusing on the nitty-gritty details of the job itself. Once you hammer out what you plan to say, find and use a résumé template. A quick Google search will yield tons of free ones, like this roundup of 275 templates, or you can check out Creative Market, Etsy and Envato Market for hundreds of professionally designed options for under $20.

Go Pro on Social

To date, social media has probably been pure fun, but now you want to be more strategic. “Oversharing political opinions, posting too many pictures of yourself out with friends or bashing former employers are all examples of content that would give a potential employer pause,” says Sauro. She recommends making all personal accounts private. Then, create a LinkedIn profile or start a professional social media account (Twitter is a good bet) that speaks to your interest and knowledge in your chosen field.

Hit the Career Fair Circuit

While many employers are hiring for full-time positions at career fairs, plenty are there to recruit interns — and even if they aren’t, it’s a good place to start making connections. Sauro recommends showing up in a professional outfit with crisp copies of your résumé in hand. “First impressions are always important, so dress for the job you want and be professional when introducing yourself and speaking with a potential employer,” she says. “If the representative has a business card or any handouts, take one of everything.”

Always Follow Up

Whether you speak to a potential employer at a career fair, during an interview or through a brief personal introduction, you always want to follow up. In this day and age, email is fine. Sauro recommends a prompt note in which you thank the individual for meeting with you and recap your conversation. Be brief and polite — the point is to make sure they remember you and retain a favorable impression.

Ultimately, more prep now means less panic later, so when spring rolls around, you’ll be poised, polished and ready to go.