I spoke with a recruiter who said that it's better to wait until closer to my graduation date (this May) to apply for full time programming jobs because she's afraid that because I can't work right away due to being in school, if I apply now then my application will get lost in their system. Is this true? If so, when should I start applying?
No, do not wait! Three months is not too soon - begin applying now. To directly answer your question, there is no such thing as your application being "lost in their system." Every application is associated directly with the position to which it is submitted. So, you should apply to any and all positions of interest - you are not capped at one application after which your application is "lost in the system."
Finding a job is a full-time job itself, and it can take weeks just to start hearing back from companies. Here is the worst-case scenario if you apply now, along with some common scenarios that are more likely.
Worst-case Scenario: You apply now, and the company reaches out soon. You are honest and discuss timelines. A good Recruiter would bring it up, but you should ask if they don't and alert them to your situation. If your timeline is unrealistic, they will let you know. You should use that opportunity to let them know you are interested in their company in the future, and ask the Recruiter for any insights into future openings, other types of positions that might be a good fit for your background, and any career advice they might have.
RESULT: You have now gained additional insight into the process, a connection at the company you are interested in, and even the possibility that the Recruiter reaches back out to you for their next opening!
- Many hiring managers emphasize finding the right fit over small logistical challenges like an extended timeline. The value of hiring the right person (and opportunity cost of hiring the wrong person) far exceeds any value from hiring someone else a couple of weeks sooner.
- Many positions have flexible start dates and can work around the candidate's timeline.
- The hiring process can often take weeks or even months to go through.
- They could have another of the same position opening coming in the future and decide to pull from the original recruiting package instead of re-posting, thus neglecting to apply now could cause you to miss that future opportunity.
RESULT: Applying now has no negative impact, but it could be the positive difference-maker in landing a job there.
When in school you want to concern yourself with getting the best marks and attendance possible since this will be something that affects your future.
One month before you are expected to finish you'll have a better idea of what your marks will be and may receive leads from the school or visitors to your graduating class.
It's OK to look around and compile leads but 3 months ahead of time is early, unless you picked a career where it's tough to find a job (which wouldn't have been good planning).
There might be extra modules or something you missed that you'll want to retake (if possible), in some courses (if the market is slow) there's extra courses for additional credits you might want to consider.
The school ought to have a councillor that you can visit outside class hours that can give advice specific to your location and vocation. Don't forget the alumni association which helps you after you've completed, if there's anywhere to visit 'too soon' it's those places since they'll be swamped if several classes finish at the same time.
You have a whole life of work ahead, don't shortchange your schooling.
Also once you've finished be wary of employers looking for cheap student labor and in some cases might know less than you. If you've got great marks and attendance and the school's going the extra mile to give a great reference take advantage of that.