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Google Summer of Code (GSoC)— When and How to start GSoC

Google Summer of Code (GSoC)— All That a Student Needs to Know.

If you’re a part-time, or a full time student and if you’re interested in Computer Science and OpenSource, this article is for you! Every year, Google conducts a fascinating program open to all students who LOVE to code. In this article I will introduce you to the program in detail and explain on how and when to apply.

About GSoC

This program is intended to support the Open Source communities by helping them hire a few students to work on their projects over American summers. Various organisations participate in GSoC, and guide the students through the dos and don’ts of FOSS. The program goes on for 4 months — May till August and the program ends with a Mentor Summit hosted in the Google Office, Sunnyvale around October.

Since its inception in 2005, the program has brought together 13,000+ student participants and 11,000+ mentors from over 118 countries worldwide. Google Summer of Code has produced 30,000,000+ lines of code for 607 open source organizations.

Why should you apply?

Exposure to the Awesome world of Open Source

If you still haven’t created an account on GitHub, stop reading, create one, and come back! Open Source means FREE software, Free code! Open Source is like a government with the cleanest Right To Information act, Open Source is the beautiful chance to work on projects at all levels of complexity, even if you’re a beginner, and Open Source is the platform anyone can point fingers at anyone else in an argument to write better code! Github is where most of the Open Source Projects are stored, and one thing leading to another, you will find yourself looking at the source code of some really cool projects.

All the learning that follows

Its not just about being able to contribute to huge projects. Its about understanding how the projects were written, and how different modules work. Different projects use different technologies and follow their own methods of development. Through the program, we have the chance to learn many new technologies, how the projects with large teams work, how the code is evaluated, and many more things.

And of course, the goodies and the stipend!

For all the effort you put in to the program, Google will honor you with great goodies and a handsome stipend. The stipend varies from country to country but it sure helps to spend a lavish summer 😉

When should you Apply?

The applications open in early march every year. The list of organisations with their projects will be up on the website around 3 weeks before the application period. Students can talk to the mentors from all organisations regarding the projects on respective IRC channels or email threads. The application period will be for 3–4 weeks and students can get their drafts reviewed by the mentors before final submissions.

Suggestion here -> If you can draft your proposals by the time the application period starts, you can get them reviewed early by leaving good amount of time to make changes and having a chance to get them reviewed again.

But most of your chances into the program depend on your activity before the application period, or lets say from the time the official announcement is released(even better if you start earlier). Since there are about 150 organisations with around 1700 projects and at least 10 times the number of applications that come in every year, I would say, the sooner you start contributing to the projects, the better. If you start looking into organisations and their projects in early September(Sep’17 if you’re aiming for GSoC’18), you can not only look through the code but also can get in touch with students who worked on the projects that summer.

How to Apply ?

This involves certain steps —

  1. Look through the list of organisations. Look into their projects, technologies used, community pages, everything you can get your hands on.
  2. Select a few organisations you’d like to contribute to, best if they’re one or two.
  3. Look through their projects, and pen down those you find most interesting. Don’t worry too much if you don’t know the language they’re using, or if you don’t understand a few modules. You will always be welcome to learn while you’re doing, that’s one of the many things why Open Source is awesome. Even the mentors would love to help you out anytime.
  4. Clone the projects and try to run them locally. Complex projects take time but its your first achievement when you run it the first time! Now start looking through the code, and understand how everything is working.
  5. Check if there are any open issues on Github so that you can select one and start working on it. Try to start with a small task, because its easier for you to make changes according to the review for your pull requests.
  6. Keep solving issues, maybe create a few if you think they will help. This will help you get in touch with the mentors and admins of the organisation. In the same time, make sure you are active on the organisation’s communication channels — IRCs, slack or email threads. Let them know you’re a GSoC aspirant and ask them any number of legit questions that you have during the time.
  7. Thats all! By the time the application period starts, you have already contributed a good amount of code to the projects and your organisation knows that you’re capable of working with them. Its a win-win 😀

I will write another article on How to write good proposals soon.

I am hoping that this article helped you. I was a GSoC’ 16 student with Systers, An Anita Borg Institute Community, and a GSoC’ 17 mentor for the same organisation. I am also attending the Mentor Summit this October and I am more than just excited about it!