Applying for internships is a daunting task, and for most college students, it is a unique challenge. If you meet the base requirements I’d encourage any interested students to apply. Despite the perception that NASA is full of rocket scientists, NASA needs people from every discipline: this includes lawyers, communicators, psychologists, biologists, accountants, and more! The application (including essays) should only take 1-2 hours – a small commitment for a life-changing paid experience.
Apply early as most positions have rolling admissions!
The NASA internships website (circa 2019) is probably one of the most streamlined internship application forms for STEM fields. In order to ensure consideration, it is best to apply before the official deadline. Many positions are rolling in admissions meaning mentors procedurally select interns before the listed deadline.
From my understanding, there is a filtering algorithm that selects a pool of the “most qualified” applicants for the mentors. This system is inherently subjective, but is a necessary evil considering there may be hundreds of applicants for each position.
Based on interns I’ve talked to, GPAs above ~3.6 are the most competitive.
If you make it this far, you probably beat out 99% of the application pool.
At this point, you are probably only interviewing against one or two other candidates for the position.
In my experience, the phone interviews are relatively non-technical and more resume/personality based. My best advice would be to fully cover your NASA application and be prepared to answer common interview questions such as “what is your greatest weakness/strength,” “what was your hardest class,” “name a role model and way,” etc.
After this stage, it really depends on how your prospective mentor wants to gauge you. In terms of software engineering internships, don’t expect coding challenges or anything like that. I’d expect topical software development questions which should be somewhat easy depending on your previous coursework.
Couple questions off the top of my head:
- What is unit testing?
- Explain object-oriented programing
- How would you search for a file using command line …
Tips and Tricks:
Spring and fall are less competitive than summer: sometimes double for the same position in summer
People get knocked out for some of the following reasons:
- Listed university information incorrectly
- Didn’t keep “computer” and “technical” skills boxes in depth enough
- Attached resume doesn’t correspond to that.
Obviously, the process I outlined above is distinct to my own experience and shouldn’t be seen as a “cookie cutter” template for an internship. There are so many external factors that can influence selection. Regardless, I advise EVERY interested individual to apply.