I think it really depends on what you consider side-projects, it is not always about code. If you did something interesting before like international exchange, interesting hobbies that can show some commitment like learning languages (not programming languages) and stuff can help as well, it is kind of side-projects to improve as a person. As a developer when I was a junior people asked me what I did on college, etc. I didn't have much code to show at that time, but I had some of the "side-projects" I mentioned above. It really depends on the person and his/her overall experience, not only in coding, but in life.
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