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I'm an undergraduate in Computer Science who's has just completed his 2nd year. However I could not get an internship for the summer leaving me extremely tense about the future since there would be only one summer left (i.e., the summer of 2015 since I graduate in 2016).

I intend to apply to graduate schools in North America and Europe after my UG. However since I will have only one internship under my belt (assuming I bag one in summer 2015) will it put a damper on my prospects? Or is it the place of and quality of work done in my internship (coupled with good recommendation letters—which I doubt I will get) that would be far better than the number of internships under my belt?

I'm in the process of building a portfolio of real-life projects to demonstrate my skills and capabilities. I am also contributing code to open-source organisations in the next two months à la Google Summer of Code (however without the formal recognition) on a totally voluntary basis. Will that help in overcoming lack of an internship between my second and third year? What else can I do that can help me build a better application for graduate school?

  • What kind of graduate school are you applying to - MS or PhD? – ff524 May 7 '14 at 14:11
  • @ff524 So far my research suggests a mix bag of graduate schools i.e. both MS and PhD. However a PhD schools are more in number than MS. – suv May 7 '14 at 15:13
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    A terminal masters (e.g., MSCS) and a PhD in computer science are two very different degrees with very different profiles of admitted students and with very different post-graduation paths. You should decide what you want to get out of graduate school and then look for schools that can provide that. – Benjamin Mako Hill Sep 24 '14 at 3:26
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The short answer is a lack of internships is not a problem.

The long answer has two cases:

  1. MSCS programs in the United States are profit makers for universities. It is much easier to get into an MSCS program at a top university than the PhD program at the same university. Research experience is a plus, but I don't think industry experience matters. Grades and recommendations from professors are most important.

  2. CS PhD programs in the United States almost exclusively admit students that they are willing to fund, so they are much harder to get into. In addition to strong grades and letters of recommendation, schools want to see that you are capable of working independently at research. The best way to do this, as Leon palafox answered, is to have research experience, including a thesis and/or publications. Next best is to have completed projects not required for any class. That shows you are capable of doing a project without its being broken down into lots of steps with intermediate deadlines. I'd say Summer of Code-like experience is at least as valuable as an industry internship. It shows passion and the ability to work independently. Incorporate that into your essay, and get a letter of recommendation from someone on the project (or from a professor at your institute if one is nominally supervising your work for internship or independent study credit).

I am not knowledgeable about admission into programs outside of the United States.

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If you are applying to a PhD, that portfolio of real life projects might not matter much.

In Graduate programs, they are very interested in proof that the student is capable of pursuing research, which is usually proven via a BS Thesis or a couple of Publications. Here in the US, many take a year off to work in some lab to get both a letter of recommendation and at least a publication in some conference.

I'm evaluating having a Grad student right now, and I would certainly would be more interested in him/her having proof that they know what grad school is all about rather than showing that they are good programmers.

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