College Internship Search Recap

Brandon Lam • 13 minute read • 10/13/2023

2022-2023 - Freshman Year

As a preface, I want to say that I am not a genius, I am not a prodigy, and I am not trying to brag. I'm just a regular guy who works hard and I want to share my journey.
2022 was my first year in college, even though I did technically have two years of PSEO at the University of Minnesota, it finally felt as if I was a real college student since I had just graduated high school. I decided to major in Computer Science, as I had really enjoyed taking CSCI 1133 and CSCI 1933 and frankly, I’m not smart enough for any other engineering major 💀. I had heard from a friend that CS students should do internships because it was a good way to get experience, so I figured I should try to get one.
That being said, my first everresume was an absolute tragedy, and I needed a lot of help. Despite my resume looking like that, I somehow got some interviews at some local companies.
During my interviews, it is an understatement to say that I was completely embarrassed in them. I had only had two CS classes at the time and my first ever interview was system design interview where when asked what type of database I would use, I said, “We would use a database in our department because it’s safe.”
It was a rough time, I was getting online assessments from companies and simply closing out of them because I had no clue how to start coding up the solutions. Is CS the correct major for me? Should I swap majors? Will I be able to get an internship? Imposter syndrome was hitting hard, but I decided to stick with it.
I heard about the CSE Mentor program during orientation and figured I should try it out since I’d been struggling so much. I ended up getting matched with a SWE at Google named Noah Park. During one of our first meetings, I asked Noah what to do to get an internship and he told me, “Stop going to class and start LeetCoding and making projects” so what did I do? Exactly that. Jokes aside, Noah provided me lots of career advice and mock interviews which helped me a lot through the recruitment process.
(My LeetCode stats after Noah told me to stop going to class)
At the time as well, my friend Samyok wanted us to attend a hackathon in Iowa called HackUIowa. I had no clue what a hackathon was and thought it was some type of competition where you hack into people’s computers. After getting some frontend workshops from Samyok, we embarked on the 5 hour drive to Iowa.
To be honest, he carried pretty hard at the hackathon as the rest of us were struggling to center a div, but we ended up creating Annote, a note-taking app that transcribes your lectures as well and won first place.
It was really cool to me getting to spend the 24 hours with my friends and see a product come to life in the span of 24 hours. From there, we’ve traveled to places like California and New York to compete in hackathons. (shoutout to MiniHacks)
At this point, I was starting to get pretty decent at interviewing and making some good projects. I ended up receiving my first offer in December at UnitedHealth Group and did a co-op with them.
Working as a software engineer intern and getting experience was nice, it had felt much different than class and I was actually enjoying the work I did and getting challenged. A couple of months of work go by and all of a sudden, I received an email from someone at NASA.
NASA?!?!?! That was my dream to work for them as a kid! The email was from a project manager at NASA named Nancy Hall, she was interested in my background and wanted to know more about me. The interview for the role was one of the most unusual processes I’ve ever had.
She asked me if I was available to help judge for NASA Hunch, NASA’s high school STEM competition and asked if I was available the next day. So the next day, I ended up being “sick” and skipped school and work. I get to the competition and I figure there’s going to be me, a couple of other college students, and some NASA mentors to judge the competition, but after I get there and greet myself I find out the only judges are me and three NASA employees.
Judging the competition was incredible, I got to meet some incredibly smart middle school and high school students that were creating very innovative solutions for NASA. After the judging, I just spent a good hour talking to the NASA employees about life and I ended up getting an offer and having one of the most incredible summers of my life.
It’s wild to think though, how in that one year, I started off not knowing what LeetCode was, or having any personal projects. It really has been a wild ride and I’m proud of myself.
(2022-2023 stats, I actually got 5 offers and applied to 300)

2023-2024 - Sophomore year

After wrapping up my internship at NASA, I was feeling pretty confident about the next year of recruiting. I had landed myself a return offer 3 weeks into the internship (like how whattt) which took a lot of pressure off of me. I had spent the past months grinding leetcode and projects and it was time to see if it would pay off. This was the resume I was applying with.
The companies I received interviews from: Meta, Tesla, Riot Games, Citadel, SIG, Palantir, Atlassian, Capital One, BNY Mellon, and Amazon
From that list, the companies I fumbled were Riot Games, Citadel, SIG, Palantir, BNY Mellon, and Amazon.
SIG was my first ever technical interview and the fact that it was a quant firm was terrifying. I ended up getting an object-oriented design question and I thought my approach was good, but two of the test cases failed despite the interviewers saying it should work.
Citadel was a bit crazy because I didn't think I would ever pass their resume screen. I remember finishing their OA in like 20 minutes but getting rejected like a week later but a recruiter hit me up one day and I got unrejected. During my interview it was a bit of resume discussion and a LC Medium-Hard question that I had to solve with follow ups in 20 minutes. I ended up solving the question optimally and in time but was rejected.
Palantir I just didn't get team matched so I was rejected after the phone screen because I'm a python one trick and I fumbled the Amazon OA because I'm a bot.
BNY Mellon was pretty funny though, I applied to it for fun just for interview practice but after I opened their OA, I got bored and closed out of it without solving a single question because it had 5 questions and I wanted to go to sleep. I ended up somehow making it to the final and then on the day of my final, I wait in the call for like 15 minutes and then I'm like, "What the heck where are my interviewers???" I then check the email and I found out that my interview was scheduled for yesterday 💀.
Riot Games however, was one of the biggest fumbles ever. For a little context, Riot Games was my dream company and their game, Teamfight Tactics, has played a huge role in my life. I have spent countless hours playing the game even reaching top 100 in their game, and it was also the reason I got into coding. I was able to make it all the way to the final interview but I was rejected after the final interview with the hiring manager. I was pretty devastated after that but at the end of the day the role was solely in C++ and I have not written a line of C++ in my life. That being said, I went through their interview process for 4 months so that was miserable. I'm hoping I can get it next year.
As for the other companies, I was able to get offers from Meta, Tesla, Atlassian, and Capital One. I ended up accepting Tesla for Winter 2024 and Meta for Summer 2024. I'm super thankful for the opportunities and I'm really glad all of my hard work paid off.
Capital One's process was a bit weird. They didn't send me an OA because I did one last year so I tried to reapply on an alt email to get the OA and then my account got flagged for applying twice. The funny thing is I never did the OA and I randomly got an invitation to schedule my final interview in late September. It was a 3-hour long interview with 3 different interviews consisting of behavioral, technical, and case. None of the interviews were too difficult and I ended up getting an offer.
Atlassian was very standard. I got the OA then had to wait like 2 months before I got the phone screen which was leetcode. I ended up getting the most tagged question on leetcode and I was able to solve it pretty fast then I got scheduled for the final which was solely behavioral. During the behavioral, I ended up vibing hard with my interviewer and talking about TFT with him so I got the offer.
Tesla was a bit of a mess. I had actually been rejected for a previous Tesla internship after doing the phone screen and my hopes were pretty low. After doing the OA, I got scheduled for the phone screen where I got two leetcode questions, two mediums where I had to solve in 30 mins and then I got database trivia. After I passed that, I got scheduled for the final interview which was with the hiring manager. There, he realized I was capping on my resume so that was super awkward and he called me out on that. I also had to do a leetcode question and he told me my time complexity was wrong a couple of times and I kept telling him my answer was correct and he wouldn't believe me even after my explanation. So after the interview, I go by for 3 weeks and just assume I'm rejected and all of a sudden I get an offer. I actually ended up declining the offer but then I laid in bed staring at the ceiling for 5 or so hours and realized I fumbled the bag and begged my recruiter for the offer back. Spoiler alert: I got the offer back.
Finally, Meta was super unexpected. I was already settled down with my Atlassian offer for summer and very content with it and all of a sudden I got a message from a Meta recruiter asking if I was interested in interviewing for a role. It only consisted of two rounds OA and final. I was able to pass the OA and make it to the final round which was two leetcode hards you had to solve in 40 min. I was able to solve both of them and I got the offer. It feels kind of fraudulent because I honestly think Meta's process was so fast and so easy but it's by far the best offer I got.
Overall, I'm super happy with the offers I got and I'm super proud of myself for getting this far in the span of two years. I went into college having already tried swapping my major 4 times and CS was my fifth attempt at something and look at where we are today :)
(2023-2024 stats)
site last updated 4/4/2024
easter egg!!