Are you a first-year computer science student looking for an internship? It can be challenging to find one, but don’t worry—it’s not impossible. With the right strategy and resources, you can find an internship that will give you the hands-on experience and skills needed to succeed in your field.
In this article, we’ll discuss how to find internships for first-year computer science students so that you can get ahead of the competition.
We’ll cover topics such as why it’s important to get an internship early on, how difficult it is to get a position as a freshman, when you should start applying, where to look for positions, and how to increase your chances of getting accepted. Read on to learn how to land the perfect internship as a first-year computer science student!
Why It’s a Good Idea to Do an Internship as a Computer Science Freshman
Is it necessary to get an internship the first summer after starting your degree? Can’t you wait and get more theoretical knowledge from your classes before you apply for summer positions?
You certainly don’t HAVE TO apply for internships as a freshman, as you may understandably have doubts about your competence and ability to carry out useful programming work.
However, there are many benefits to starting out early on and getting your first internship experience as early as in your first year of college. Let’s review some of these remarkable benefits of doing an internship.
1. Start Getting Work Experience
By starting early and getting an internship as a freshman, you can start getting real-world work experience as a developer right away.
It gives you an edge in the job market by showing employers that you have a working understanding of development processes and techniques, even beyond what you learn in a classroom.
Since having actual industry experience is very different from learning concepts in class, getting an internship will add immense value to your abilities as a software engineer.
2. Make It Easier to Get Internships in Later Years
The number one factor that determines your chances of getting an internship as a college student is, somewhat paradoxically, the presence of internships in your past working history.
In other words, having done an internship in your earlier years in college increases your chances of getting internships later on.
You should thus aim to gain as much internship experience as you can, and do so as early as you can.
3. Prepare for a Full-Time Job
When the time comes for you to graduate from your computer science program, one of the most important factors helping you to get your first programming job will be your job experience, even for an entry-level job.
As a student, you get work experience by doing internships, which later on serve as evidence of your readiness for real-world jobs. Thus, it is a great idea to start getting that internship experience accumulating as early as possible.
4. Earn Extra Money
Full-time college students often have no income and have to pay a significant amount for college tuition and living expenses. Anything that can help reduce their monetary burden helps.
Did you know that software engineering interns get paid $30 per hour on average in the United States? Over the summer, this could amount to as much as $15,000 in earnings. Isn’t that time well spent as a first-year computer science college student?
5. Start Building Your Network
As a college student, you are just starting to build your professional network. Internships are a great way to start doing this by meeting other software engineers, experienced mentors, and potential employers.
Having a strong network of connections in the software engineering industry will be beneficial for you even after you graduate, as you can use it to get advice or job opportunities.
Is it Hard to Get an Internship as a First-Year Computer Science Student?
It is relatively harder to get an internship as a freshman in college. This is mostly due to the fact that you lack the experience and knowledge of more advanced students.
In order to get an internship as a first-year computer science student, you need to start applying as soon as a few months into your degree program. This means you will largely have minimal knowledge and experience in programming by the time you will need to begin your application process.
And since internship applications require the demonstration of your coding skills in the form of a portfolio of personal projects and the ability to complete programming challenges in a technical interview, it makes it hard for a starting freshman to clear these with minimal experience.
On the other hand, hiring companies are usually easier on freshmen than they are on upperclassmen when it comes to internships. As such, they require less proficiency in coding and accept emptier resumes from first-year CS students. They are also less demanding during technical interviews.
When You Should Start Applying for Internships as a Freshman
Application to software engineering internships is a lengthy process. Vacancies for the summer positions open as early as August/September of the previous year.
This means first-year students are just starting their university journey when they need to start getting ready for internship applications for the upcoming summer.
Does this mean you need to start worrying about internships as soon as you start your degree program instead of focusing on adapting to university life and trying to start on track with your lessons?
Not necessarily. While many companies post their internship openings as early as the start of the Fall semester, they often don’t fill up before winter or even spring. Smaller companies and non-tech companies actually open their internship vacancies later on, some only during the Spring semester.
Thus, if you are really fast at adapting and already have some coding knowledge and personal projects to show early in your school year, you can feel free to start researching internship positions early during the Fall semester. However, if you are new to programming and want to focus on your studies and your portfolio first, there is certainly plenty of time for you to take it slow and get some of the necessary coding skills before beginning your application process.
Where to Search for Internships for First-Year Computer Science Students
So what are some places you can start your internship searching process from? There are actually plenty of routes you can take to find internship opportunities.
1. Career Fairs
As a computer science university student, you will be invited to and informed about career fairs happening on-campus regularly. Career fairs are a great place for first-year students to start looking for potential internships.
You can get to know and interact with industry professionals and learn information about companies you want to apply for internships in. The recruiters are usually quite receptive to first-year students, especially for internships.
2. Online Platforms
There are a lot of online platforms like Indeed, Linkedin, and Glassdoor that post internship opportunities for all levels of computer science students.
These platforms provide a comprehensive list of internships, ranging from entry-level to experienced ones. As a first-year student, you can filter out the ones that best suit your needs and apply for them.
3. Personal Network
It is always a smart idea to make use of your personal network when you are looking for internships.
Talk to your family and friends about what internship opportunities they know of or have heard of in the past. Make some connections on LinkedIn or ask upperclassmen with previous internship experience to put in a word for you.
No matter how small your network is, they may have information regarding internships that could be of help to you.
4. Company Websites
Finally, you should check out company websites directly. Many tech companies have dedicated pages for internships and other university programs.
If you have a favorite tech company you would like to work for, check out their website and see what kind of internships they are offering. Also, feel free to email them directly to express your interest and inquire about internship opportunities.
How to Prepare for Internship Applications as a CS Freshman
Getting an internship as a freshman in a computer science program is no easy task. You have to work hard, even more so than students in the upper classes, to prepare a solid application package that a potential employer would get impressed by.
So what do you need to work on to get ready for the internship application season?
- Maintain a high GPA – if you start applying after you have finished your first (Fall) semester in college, you want to make sure your grades are on par; makes sure your GPA is higher than 3 to look good in the employer’s eyes.
- Attend career fairs and company events – you want to increase the surface area of your interactions with potential employers and get some new connections as starting points for communications with recruiters.
- Work on your resume – put everything you have accomplished so far, along with the classes you are taking and projects you have been involved in; try to show the recruiters you have enough coding skills to be useful as an intern.
- Build a coding portfolio – since you don’t have relevant work experience as a freshman, your coding portfolio is what you will use to prove to employers that you can work on real-world projects from start to finish; you can use your homework assignments from programming classes as your projects as well.
- Grind LeetCode and prepare for interviews – technical interviews might be particularly difficult for a first-year CS student; practice LeetCode questions to get ready for your coding assignments.
Alternatives of Doing an Internship for First-Year Computer Science Students
What happens if you can’t or don’t want to get an internship during your first year as a computer science student? After all, it’s quite hard to get an internship as a freshman, especially in today’s economy.
There are actually quite a few things you could do in your first summer after college if you wanted to spend your break productively.
1. Research Assistantship
Many professors in computer science departments need a research assistant for their projects and would be more than happy to accept freshmen for the job. It will give you valuable experience in research and you will also be able to learn from the professor.
You may get paid as a research assistant and also get involved in interesting research projects that could impress your future employers next time you decide to apply for developer positions.
2. Teaching Assistantship
Similar to research assistantship, you can also get a teaching assistantship for professors and help them out in their lecture classes. You will be able to stay in touch with the material and also get experience as a teacher.
Teaching assistantships are also usually paid, so you will be able to earn a few bucks as well as get some work experience under your belt.
3. Freelancing Projects
If you want to become a software developer, freelancing is a great way to gain experience in coding and working on real-world projects. You can search for freelance gigs online or contact small businesses and start-ups in your area and offer to help them out with software development tasks.
With freelancing, you can choose the type of projects you want to work on and how much you get paid; it’s a great way to gain experience and also make some money in the process.
4. Summer classes
If all else fails and you are unable to gain work experience in your first summer, why not take a few extra classes that will count towards your final degree? This may even open up some free space for you later down the line to squeeze in an extra internship during the Fall or Spring semester.
Getting an internship as a first-year computer science student is relatively hard and there are no guarantees. However, if you dedicate some time and effort, you can increase your chances of success.
Consider your options carefully, work on your resume and portfolio, and be persistent with applications. Reaching out to professionals, attending career fairs, and making sure your profile is visible on job search websites are all great ways to get your first internship.
Lastly, do not be discouraged if you do not land an internship right away – every experience is valuable and can help you grow as a computer science student. You will certainly get more chances in your later year.
Now, good luck and get on it!
Elmar Mammadov is a software developer, tech startup founder, and computer science career specialist. He is the founder of CS Careerline and a true career changer who has previously pursued careers in medicine and neuroscience.
Due to his interest in programming and years of past personal experience in coding, he decided to break into the tech industry by attending a Master’s in Computer Science for career changers at University of Pennsylvania. Elmar passionately writes and coaches about breaking into the tech industry and computer science in general.