Tips for a GSoC (or any other) application

About a year ago, I was given the great opportunity of becoming a Google Summer of Code mentor with Systers. The experience was amazing, leading a student through contributing to Open Source over the summer. However, the experience started before. As a mentor, I also helped evaluating student applications to Systers’ projects. During the last year, I have also reviewed applications for the LAtINiTY conference scholarships and for “Learn IT, Girl”. I want to share some tips from the perspective of a reviewer, so you can hopefully outstand with your GSoC (or any other) application.

Read the instructions

I know this tip may sound obvious, but you would be surprised by how many people don’t follow the simplest instructions when applying. Some organizations have a set of questions that you have to answer in your application. Is your organization one of these? Research them and make sure you don’t leave anything out. Make sure you read every question twice. GSoC has a very special process where you get feedback throughout the application process, but don’t wait for reviewers to tell you the obvious. Show them you can do your part! 🙂

Get to know the organization

Google Summer of Code has 180 organizations accepted this year and there are many projects to choose from. If you get selected, you will be working hand-in-hand with some of the organization members, building something that is of importance for it. You want to show that you know what the organization does (and all it takes is a Google search). Reviewers will want to know why the organization’s mission is important to you. Show your true motivation and you’ll shine!

Take your time

You would be surprised about how many applications are written right before the deadline everywhere. If you do this, there is a high chance you won’t read all the instructions and forget something. Don’t do this, please! Take your time, plan your application, write it carefully and re-read it. Let reviewers see you’ve put effort and time into it 🙂

Don’t do your minimum. Do your best

This goes along with taking your time. I am going to tell you a secret: when something is written quickly, wanting to finish as fast as possible, it shows. If you are applying to a program or opportunity with limited spots, doing the very minimum will unfortunately not work. Make sure you make an effort and do your best. The way you approach your application lets reviewers know how you will approach work if you get accepted, so make sure to show your best.

Be honest

This is probably the single most important thing and yet the most difficult to find when reviewing. Many applicants describe themselves as nearly perfect. And this is understandable! Who would want to let others know about their defects? Well, you may want to. Reviewers know you are not perfect; no one is. If you get accepted into GSoC, your mentor will be working with you during the summer, helping you learn more. So, be honest. Admit what you don’t know. Wanting to learn is fine! Mentioning a past experience? Talk about what went wrong and what you would do differently next time! This shows your ability to continuously improve. Let reviewers see who you really are and your application will look honest and real.

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