You will come across this term a lot during your student internship applications.
Penultimate is not a special pen... it means second last year of your degree (i.e. before you graduate!). Many companies often require applicants to be in your penultimate year.
What do I do if I'm not eligible for a student internship yet?
Many companies provide pre-internship, mini-internships so anyone who is switched on can get ahead of the crowd.
These are usually held in August - October, with applications opening in May- July, so if you have not progressed in your degree enough to qualify for a vacationer position, have a Google around April to get the exact application dates.
Student challenges & development days
Some companies also run student challenges and development days which are great to participate in, show initiative and look great on a CV before applying for any internship or grad position.
For example, the financial services company, Deloitte only opens their vacationer program to penultimate year students and they don’t accept any first year or graduating year students.
However, they do run a development day - which is basically an “intern for a day” kind of deal for students who are two years away from graduating. If you complete this development day and impress your supervisor, you’ll be streamlined into a vacationer role with them for the following year.
Make your own internship! There are plenty of online short courses that offer programs as coding, video-editing, digital marketing that can you can take up to expand your skills set and CV. It shows that future employers that you're keen to learn and using your time wisely even though it's not an "official" internship. Check out short courses such on Skillshare and General Assembly.