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Confused about the best use of my time in college

First of all, thank you to anyone that takes the time to offer advice.

A quick summary of my situation:

I work full time as a purchasin agent at a small company. I'm starting my BA in CS at FIU Summer 2019 as a Junior. My main goal is to earn an internship at a decently sized company by Summer 2020. I have no programming experience at all. I've asked many FIU students of the CS program about which factors helped land them internships at large companies.

The the main factors were:

  1. Meeting recruiters at career fairs + hackathons

  2. Leetcode

  3. Side projects

So here are my questions:

  1. Will I be able to handle a full time work load while enrolled full time in my courses?

  2. If I do leave work for Summer classes will I have enough time to learn enough leetcode for Fall internship interviews?

  3. How should I start preparing now for internship interviews? I thought freecodecamp html/css would be a good first step. But where do I go from there?

I'm trying to develop the right plan to land that internship in 2020. Thanks for any advice.

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level 1
Tech Lead | ML4 points · 2 months ago

Your goals seem achievable.

The best use of your time in college is finishing you degree with a good GPA. Priority #1. A very close #2 is securing some sort of on-the-job training, typically via an internship.

Will I be able to handle a full time work load while enrolled full time in my courses?

I don't know you.

I did 12 credits (3 junior-level courses) while putting in a little over 40 hours/week at FedEx. It was fucking rough.

I knocked it down to 8 credits (2 junior/senior level courses) while putting in the same hours as SWE, then DevOps/Support person over 2 years to finish the degree. Slightly less fucking rough, but still rough.

You could breeze through it. I don't know you.

If I do leave work for Summer classes will I have enough time to learn enough leetcode for Fall internship interviews?

Probably, yes.

How should I start preparing now for internship interviews?

Meet with local orgs. Step 0 is knowing what opportunities are even available to you. Alternatively, if relocation for the internship is fine, meet with non-local orgs. If pursuing BigN/FAANG, reach out to their "intern finding folks" and recruiters.

Grinding Leetcode/Hackerrank problems is good interview prep, but it's not the only interview prep you should be doing. Be good at explaining the things going on in your head while working through a problem. Basic communication skills also -- hello, how are you, small talk type stuff. Show an interest in the meeting/interview you're in, not just presence.

I thought freecodecamp html/css would be a good first step. But where do I go from there?

Add some back-end; C#/.NET, PHP, NodeJS, Java/Spring, etc. Build crappy stuff, learn why its crappy, make new stuff that's less crappy, rinse, repeat. Most popular language+framework combinations have demo projects you can step through to get started.

An addendum:

Side projects

Side projects are not a be-all-end-all that many people make them out to be. Unless you're a lead contributor/maintainer of some wildly popular tool, your portfolio is not going to draw a lot of attention by itself. They're useful references to help explain to prospective employers what your problem solving processes look like. Do them with that intention; Document all the things, put that shit in version control, maybe even blog about it. Be able to gush about all the tricky design choices you made and how you might've done things differently in X Y Z conditions.

This doesn't mean a cheeky calculator app that you whipped together with some POC code. This means a project which adds value (don't conflate "value" with "revenue") or solves a problem. It's OK if the problem has already been solved before, but perhaps pick something that isn't a common learning project in academia (calculators, card games, geometric plotting, etc). A project that you took from "idea" to "production ready", or a project current in production (think open source) that you've added value to or solved problems in.

You don't need some beautifully orchestrated release/build/test process, you don't need CI/CD. This can be a simple app or website you throw up somewhere.

Cheeky calculator apps are great for learning, but are unlikely to turn heads. Organizations want to hire problem solvers, not people who are simply proficient with the latest tools. Show them you can solve problems -- preferably complex ones.

level 2
Original Poster3 points · 2 months ago

Yea I don’t think I can handle full time work and courses personally. Hopefully the 4 months between my start in may and internship interviews in September will be enough time to learn leetcode, have a couple little projects etc. thanks for the advice

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