P`s Blog


7 tips to ace your Outreachy application 2021

August 29, 2020 • ☕️☕️ 10 min read

In this blog post you will find lessons and tips on how you can improve your Outreachy internship 2021 application.

What is Outreachy internship 2021

Outreachy supports diversity in open source & free software and provides 3 months paid remote internships. Interns are paid a stipend of $6000 USD.

In 2017, I was one of the 39 participants selected for Outreachy’s summer internship. You can read my excitement here and all the Outreachy blog post series here.

Since then, I get a lot of direct messages on Twitter from prospect applicants when a new round of Outreachy has opened and I thought I will jot it down as a blogpost so that it can serve many.

Not every Outreachy internship attempt is successful

For those who have reached out to me in the past asking why they weren’t chosen or what they could have done better, then they would also be familiar with my story that I wasn’t chosen in my first attempt.

In 2015, I had heard about Outreachy for the first time at a local meetup in Bangalore, India. I was keen on contributing to opensource and this internship seemed just about right. The fact that it was a paid internship made it more appealing. With no prior opensource contribution experience, I was excited in applying for this internship. But when the results were announced I wasn’t selected. Here’s why and how I learned from my failed attempt and succeeded the second time.

There is always a second chance!

Why did I fail in my first attempt for the Outreachy internship?

When I applied for the first time in 2015, the application was due in ~3 weeks time. I applied without doing any homework, i.e. I had no idea about the participating organisations or the type of projects involved. Hence, I lost most of the initial time in scouting through the projects list. Also, if you are late to apply, then you will most likely see the following message from some organisations:

This project already has many applicants applying!

Since I was late to apply and some of the projects which I was interested in were appealing to others too, I settled with a project which was out of my comfort zone. I applied for Ignition Robotics which was from Open Robotics. The initial work involved working with C++ and Node.js. Back then, I was not comfortable to ask questions to strangers on the internet and chose to do most of the preparatory work myself and when I had a working prototype I contacted the project’s mentor and emailed them my solution. I was happy that I did a fair job in attempting to work with C++ and find a solution for D3.js visualisation with Node.js but when the results were announced I was not accepted.

Following are the lessons learned from my first failed attempt for the Outreachy internship:

Give yourself ample time for the preparatory work

I had applied almost last minute, and didn’t have enough time to prepare or learn more about the project.

Pick a project that matches your skill set

It’s ok to apply the last minute, but then it’s better to pick a project where you can make contributions faster

7 tips for improving your Outreachy application 2021

The following is a compilation of the FAQs I receive on Twitter and my tips and suggestions for improving the Outreachy application.

  • What are the chances of getting into the internship?
  • How to ensure my application is selected?

    • This depends with an individual and their application itself, it’s like clearing an interview and securing your job.
    • It is always good to do some homework and have an idea about the participating organisations and their projects so that it will save you time from choosing the right project.
    • Outreachy’s initial round has 6 weeks for you to apply where you are expected to make some initial contributions to the project.
    • Every project and it’s mentors are different.
    • Making many contributions to one project usually helps the mentors to assess your skills.
    • You can also pick 2,3 projects based on your interests and skills, and always contribute to more than one project.
    • I prefer the former approach; making multiple contributions to one project. When there are too many applicants for one specific project of your interest, then the latter approach helps.

1. Start talking to the mentors early

Each project will have many applicants, so it’s better you let the project’s mentor know that you are interested too. Discuss how you plan to apply, ask questions while making the initial contributions, or propose some enhancements to the initial expected contribution.

Be specific with your question to the mentor. Do respect their time, becuase they would be receiving queries from many applicants. Following is a bad example because it shows a lazy behaviour.

Hey, I am interested to apply, can you please help me.

Following is a good example because it shows you have researched about the project and are genuinely interested in contributing.

Hi, I learned about your project and keen to apply for Outreachy internship. However, when trying to clone the repository and running the initial command, I did not manage to setup my local environment. I am running on <EXAMPLE OS>, <EXAMPLE BROWSER> etc. Could you please help me out? I also tried to search on the internet for the said issue, and found this <LINK> but it did not help..

  • What if you’re a beginner and really finding it difficult to find a simple project to contribute to?
  • Is Outreachy beginner friendly?
  • How can I select a project?

Selecting a project itself will depend on your interests + skills. As I mentioned earlier, it also helps to do the homework in advance so that you can save time in choosing the right project when the applications are due. In terms of the nature of the projects, not all of them involve coding. There are documentation related projects too! For projects involving coding work, a general experience with working in open source, remote teams is nice to have along with a baic knowledge of git commands.

2. Do not be overwhelmed but learn as much as you can

If you are overwhelmed by the no. of participating organisations or projects, then you can use this time to learn and understand the process and be well prepared when the next round of applications are due again in 6 months.

  • It is mentioned that we need to contribute to some open source project during the six week application period. I am new to open source, how to find projects to contribute to?

If this is your first-time contributing to opensource, I can totally relate to the feeling of being overwhelmed. When I applied for Outreachy the second time in 2017, it took me ~3 months to learn about a project and take the courage to submit my first PR in February 2017. When the internship applications were due in March, I was much more confident than the initial attempt from 2015.

3. Know in advance what it is to work in the open

Find an opensource project to contribute to well in advance so that you get a feel of what it is like to work in the open!

  • During the initial stage of the appplication, how do you answer the question related to discrimination because I havent faced any yet?
  • Is it necessary to write something big in the essay type questions of the application which asks you to describe how you were underrepresented in technology sector? I only see economic factor for me.
  • In the initial application I wrote one to two lines for the essay questions, maybe that’s why I got rejected?

Be specific to the point while filling out your application. Don’t write long stories if you have nothing to explain. Be legit, that’s the most important part.

4. Be honest in what you share

Highlight your work, ideas, and write more details why should you be considered. Demonstrate volunteering experience (if any) related to opensource or coding, lessons learned from attending a specific meetup or reading someone’s technical blog post. Share something that you deeply care about and is relevant to the project!

5. Age is never a barrier

It’s never late to start your first open source contribution. When I applied, I did have ~6 years of software engineering experience but never contributed to open source. So Outreachy does accept diverse backgrounds.

6. Ask yourself why do you need this internship

Be clear to yourself and how this internship will align with your personal goals.

7. Find peers and mentors on social media

You can find a lot of Outreachy alumni like me on Twitter and reach out to them about their past experiences 😊. Please respect their time and keep the communication respectful.

You can DM me on Twitter and I would be happy to review your applications. I wish you all the best!

If you find this article useful please share it with others.