Contributing to open source is a great way to hone your skills while working on real world projects. But, for new developers, this process can seem daunting.

After all, when you create a pull request, you are opening up your code for people to give feedback and criticize.

This is where open source mentorship programs like Google Summer of Code (GSoC) come in and bridge the gap between new developers and large open-source codebases.

What is Google Summer of Code (GSoC)?

GSoC is an annual program from Google focusing on bringing students and new developers into to open source.

Each summer, participating students or mentees, get to work on open source projects from the hundreds of organizations that participate in GSoC. The participating mentees are paired with mentors from the participating organizations and are also paid a stipend during their period of mentorship.

Here is a quick summary of the program before we dive deep into the details.

DurationTimelineStipendEligibility
12 Weeks, ˜3 Months (Could be increased up to 22 weeks )Dates coming soon!$1500 - $3300Anyone about 18 years of age

Stick around till the end to learn more on how you can get selected and my tips as a GSoC mentor.

Why Should I Participate in GSoC?

According to Linux Foundation’s 2021 Open Source Jobs Report , 92% of employers say finding people with open source skills is difficult.

Open source skills are in demand and there is definitely a lack of supply.

Participating in programs like GSoC helps you:

  • Gain real world experience
  • Build your network
  • Boost your career
  • Get a stable stipend

The goal of GSoC is to enable mentees to be good open source stewards. Successfully completing GSoC can open doors for you and could even lead to a career in open source .

Am I Eligible to Participate?

With the new rules for 2022 , everyone over the age of 18 is eligible to participate.

You should also have a strong desire to contribute to open source and help the community of course!

When does GSoC Start?

The 2022 timeline for GSoC has not yet been published.

But generally, the program starts from January when the organizations start applying.

The mentees can start applying around March - April.

How Long is the Program?

This time around, mentors and mentees can extend the period of GSoC up to 22 weeks instead of the mandatory 12 weeks as in previous years.

The dates of each program milestones are yet to be announced for 2022.

How do I Apply?

You can apply on the GSoC website when it opens next year.

The application process is mainly these 3 steps:

  1. Selecting an organization
  2. Selecting a project
  3. Preparing a project proposal

How do I Select an Organization?

GSoC has hundreds of participating organizations each year. Mentees can apply to any of these organizations, but filtering through them and deciding which to contribute to can be difficult without a proper plan.

So, to be in the best position when the application process starts, you have to be prepared.

You can find organizations to contribute to even before they are officially announced. I would suggest following the steps below.

  1. Write down what skills/ tech stack you know currently
  2. Write down the skills/ tech stack you want to learn
  3. Filter organizations based on these two criteria
  4. Look through the projects in the organization to find what interests you
  5. List down multiple projects across organizations that fit this criteria

How do I Select a Project?

You would have now narrowed down to a couple of projects under the same or different organizations. How do you go from here? How do you know which project to submit a proposal to?

The key here is homework. You need to learn more about the projects.

Here’s what I suggest doing:

  1. Start by using the project and see how it works (Is it cool?)
  2. Go through the project’s documentation and contributing guidelines (Are there well documented processes?)
  3. Join the project’s community channel (Slack, Discord, mailing lists) (Are they active and welcoming?)
  4. Pick up a “good first issue” and try to fix it (Is it doable? Do you get support from the mentors/maintainers?)
  5. Ask clarifying questions about the project on the communication channels (Do you get answers?)

If the answer to all these questions is a solid “yes”, then you need to ask yourself the golden question.

“Do I want to contribute to this project?”.

You know what to do next.

How do I Submit a Proposal?

Now that you have a project(s) chosen, it is time for the biggest step yet. Submitting a proposal.

Like other open source mentorship programs, GSoC can also get competitive. You have to make your proposal stand out to get accepted.

GSoC’s official guides outline what is expected in a proposal and also shows some examples of good proposals .

It is important that you communicate with your potential mentors prior to submitting a proposal to make sure that you have the right idea. Clarify the deliverables and establish a realistic deadline before you start writing the proposal.

If you already have prior contributions before you submit the proposal, it would definitely put your application in front.

How will I Get Selected?

Once you submit the proposal, the mentors will go through each submission and will let you know if you get selected or not.

If you get selected, it’s time to celebrate!

What if I don’t get Selected?

Don’t stop contributing!

GSoC is highly competitive and it is difficult to get selected. But you don’t have to be a GSoC mentee to contribute to open source. You can do it independently!

The spirit of GSoC is open source and open collaboration. If you keep contributing, you will learn a lot and will have a head start for the next year’s program.

If your project participates in any other open source internship programs , you can apply for it.

I’m in GSoC!

The first three weeks of the program will be a community bonding period. You can use this time to get a feel of the community before you start engaging.

You will get to code in the next weeks. A part of the stipend will be provided once you complete one of the two evaluations.

And as mentioned before, the timeline for 2022 is pretty flexible.

Ending Notes

I personally believe GSoC is a great program. It has and will continue to help attract students and new developers to work in open source.

The goal for this program is to not make some money (money is important) but to foster open source software.

The impact such programs have on the community is incredible. And as GSoC mentees, you inherit the responsibility to pay it forward.

So, don’t stop contributing after GSoC ends. Be a mentor next time. Help others in the community.

Best of luck on your GSoC application!