The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday September 26th

Column: 'Tis the season for finding a computer science internship

DTH Photo Illustration. Female computer science majors at UNC Chapel Hill turn to each other for support as they navigate being in a male-dominated department.
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. Female computer science majors at UNC Chapel Hill turn to each other for support as they navigate being in a male-dominated department.

Most college students are no strangers to the search for a summer internship. They’ve all endured the long, grueling months of applying to hundreds of companies and, oftentimes, getting rejected by just as many. These months can take an emotional and mental toll on students as they have to continuously apply to programs. 

This past year, COVID-19 has drastically changed the internship scene, making the application and hiring process even more foreign and demanding. The widespread economic implications of COVID-19 have left 26.4 million Americans out of work. 

At the same time, student internships are also getting canceled, and for many, obtaining new offers has been difficult. A survey found that 64 percent of student internship offers that were revoked did not provide any alternative offer. This leaves students no choice but to enter the internship search once again, and hope that they can acquire a new position during a time of economic turmoil. 

Although the internship market is arguably harder to navigate and master now, for computer science students, there hasn't been a massive change in how the interviewing process and internships are operating. In a field where almost everything is done online, transitioning to a virtual environment is less of an inconvenience than it is for most others.

For aspiring programmers, there are multiple parts to the extensive interview process, and the main change is that every part is now completed virtually.  

Usually, students have to pass more than one technical interview, one with coding challenges they’re expected to complete on their own time and one under the supervision of an interviewer. Companies find the latter necessary to assess how well a student is able to communicate the algorithms and thought processes they use while solving the problems. 

In addition to the technical part of the interview, there’s also a behavioral aspect, where interviewees are asked to describe situations that illustrate their strengths and weaknesses or to detail how they would respond to specific scenarios. 

Although COVID-19 hasn’t affected the structural basics of programming interviews, the pandemic has certainly exacerbated an already intricately difficult process. 

On top of the multi-part interview, students have to deal with technical difficulties, an inability to create an intimate, personal connection with their interviewers and more. Not to mention, COVID-19 has also restricted the market for computer science jobs and internships, leaving the same amount of students vying for fewer positions.

The entirety of the interview journey for a single internship prospect is already convoluted and lengthy as is. Multiplied by however many internships a student applies for, the combined pressure and stress of all these applications become taxing. 

The programming world was a competitive industry to begin with, and the emergence of COVID-19 has only fueled the sense of urgency students feel to obtain an internship.  

During these difficult times, it’s important to remember that if you’re struggling to obtain an internship, you’re not alone in your frustration. 

Your efforts thus far are commendable, and hopefully soon enough, you’ll see the light at the end of your internship search tunnel.

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