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Outreachy Applicant Guide

Table of Contents

What is Outreachy?
What is free software and open source?
Eligibility
Am I experienced enough?
Do I have to be a programmer to apply?
Do you have the type of project I'm interested in?
Outreachy schedule
Application period overview
Initial application
Legal names in Outreachy
Preparing for the contribution period
Finding a Mentor and an Internship Project
Making Contributions
How are contributions evaluated?
Estimated number of interns
Final application
Intern announcement
Internship


What is Outreachy?

Outreachy is a paid, remote internship program. Outreachy's goal is to support people from groups underrepresented in tech. We help newcomers to free software and open source make their first contributions.

Outreachy provides internships to work open source. People apply from all around the world. Interns work remotely, and are not required to move. Interns are paid a stipend of $6,000 USD for the three month internship.

Interns work with experienced mentors from open source communities. Outreachy internship projects may include programming, user experience, documentation, illustration, graphical design, or data science. Interns often find employment after their internship with Outreachy sponsors or in jobs that use the skills they learned during their internship.

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What is free software and open source?

Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is software that gives the user the freedom to use, copy, study, change, and improve it. We encourage you to read an introduction article about open source software.

Open source projects are built collaboratively. Open source contributors work together publicly. Working publicly creates a fun collaborative community around a project. It allows anyone to make innovative changes that reach many people.

Open source contributors work on a lot of different things! You can contribute by developing software. Or you might want to improve user experience by contributing design work. You can help with documentation, community management, marketing, identifying issues and reporting bugs, helping users, event organization, graphic design, and translations.

Sometimes people work on open source in their spare time. Many contributors are employed by companies and non-profit organizations to work on open source. That includes the companies that are sponsoring Outreachy! Experience with open source is highly valuable in the professional world. Your contributions to open source provide a public portfolio for you. Employers can see your history of public collaboration, which will give them confidence when making hiring decisions.

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Eligibility

cc-by 2.0 WOCinTech-Chat

Photo CC BY 2.0 WOCinTech Chat

Outreachy is open to applicants around the world.

We invite people to apply who face systemic bias or discrimination in the technology industry of their country.

Outreachy expressly invites applicants who are women (both cis and trans), trans men, non-binary people, and genderqueer people to apply.

We also expressly invite applications who are residents and nationals of the United States of America of any gender who are Black/African American, Hispanic/Latin@, Native American/American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander.

Past Outreachy interns are:

  • 92% women
  • 4% transgender, genderqueer, or non-binary people
  • 64% people of color
  • 12% people from a historically disadvantaged caste or tribe

Statistics are based on responses to the 2019 longitudinal study of Outreachy alums.

Outreachy Eligibility Rules

These eligibility rules apply to the December 2021 to March 2022 Outreachy internships round. Dates may change for future rounds.

Outreachy is open to applicants around the world. You will need to meet the following requirements:

Outreachy internships run twice a year, May to August and December to March. We have some rules around which internship round you can apply to:

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Am I experienced enough?

Outreachy organizers often get questions from applicants like:

"I'm a second year university student. I have done some projects in X programming language. Am I experienced enough for this internship?"

"I'm learning Y through online courses. But I haven't worked on a big project with those skills. Am I experienced enough for this internship?"

The answer is "You should fill out an initial application, regardless of your experience level."

Outreachy has many different internship projects. Each project will have different skill requirements. It is likely there will be at least one project that fits your skills.

Project skill preferences

Each project will list the required, preferred, and bonus skills:

Required Mentors will only select you as an intern if you have this skill
Preferred Mentors prefer to select an intern who has this skill, but they may select you if you don't have this skill
Nice to have Mentors will select you, even if you don't have this skill

When deciding whether to apply to a project, you should focus on looking at the required skills. If you have experience in at least 1 or 2 required skills for a project, you are welcome to apply to it. If you do not have the preferred or bonus skills, it is okay to apply. However, if another applicant has the preferred skills, they may be selected over you.

Applicants show mentors they have the required project skills by completing project tasks during the contribution period. You are more likely to be accepted as an intern if you make high-quality contributions.

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Do I have to be a programmer to apply?

No, you do not need to be a programmer to apply to Outreachy. Some Outreachy projects are focused on non-programming work. Those projects may involve design, documentation, user experience, marketing, or event planning.

However, the majority of Outreachy projects will require that you have some programming skills. You will need experience programming to apply for those projects.

Sometimes mentors are willing to teach you a new programming language if you know at least one other programming language. Check the project skills list for an experience level listing of '1 - No knowledge required'.

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Do you have the type of project I'm interested in?

Some applicants are looking for a specific type of project. They may want to find a project that fits their current skills. Or they may want to find a project that will challenge them to learn new skills.

Outreachy organizers often get asked:

"I'm interested in internships involving X. Will you have internship projects involving X?"

"I know Y programming language. Will you have Y internship projects?"

The answer is "You should fill out an initial application, regardless of whether you see a project you're interested in."

Some applicants want to wait until a project appears on the project list before they fill out an initial application. However, mentors often list their project after the initial application deadline. It's important you fill out an initial application, even if you don't see a project you're interested in.

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Outreachy yearly schedule

Outreachy internships run twice a year. Here is our general schedule for each year:

Important Round Dates Mid-year Internships End of year Internships
Call for mentoring communities opens early January early August
Initial applications open early February late August
Initial applications due end of February early September
Contribution period opens mid March early October
Contribution period ends mid April end of October
Interns announced mid May late November
Internships start May December
Internships end August March

December 2021 to March 2022 Outreachy internships round schedule

Aug. 9, 2021 at 4pm UTCInitial applications open
Aug. 23, 2021, 4 p.m. UTC#OutreachyChat on Twitter
Sept. 3, 2021 at 4pm UTCInitial application deadline
Oct. 15, 2021Project list finalized
Oct. 8, 2021 to Nov. 5, 2021Contribute to projects
Nov. 5, 2021
at 4pm UTC
Final application deadline
Nov. 22, 2021 at 4pm UTCAccepted interns announced
Dec. 6, 2021
to March 4, 2022
Internships period

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Application period overview

There are three parts to the Outreachy application process:

  1. Initial application period
  2. Contribution period
  3. Intern selection period

Initial application period:

Application results will be available on Oct. 8, 2021 at 4pm UTC. Accepted applicants will be notified via email. Applicants who are not accepted will not receive an email. You can check your initial application status on the eligibility results page.

Projects will be added to the project list until Oct. 8, 2021. Outreachy typically has over 60 projects to choose from. Applicants will not be able to see the full details of the projects until the contribution period opens.

Contribution period:

Intern selection period:

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Initial Application

The initial application has many pages of questions. Some questions determine whether you meet our eligibility criteria. It's important to take your time.

You cannot save your initial application. You have to fill it out all at once. Make sure you have a stable internet connection.

Before you fill out your application, please have the following information:

Before you fill out the initial application, write answers to the essay questions.

Essay questions

The initial application includes four essay questions:

  1. What country will you be living in from December 06, 2021 to March 04, 2022? If you will be living in multiple countries, list the country you will spend the most time in.

  2. Are you part of an underrepresented group (in the technology industry of the country listed above)? How are you underrepresented?

    Think about the technology industry in the country listed above.

    Are there few people who share your identity or background in that technology industry?

    Please tell us which underrepresented groups you are a part of. You may want to consider your:

    • age
    • body size
    • caste
    • disabilities
    • ethnicity
    • gender identity and expression
    • socio-economic status
    • nationality
    • personal appearance
    • race
    • religion
    • sexual identity and orientation

  3. What systemic bias or discrimination would you face if you applied for a job in the technology industry of your country? Think about when you have applied for a job in the technology industry of your country. Do you think you have faced discrimination on the basis of your background or identity? If you have not applied for a job yet, do you think you may be discriminated against on the basis of your background or identity? Please provide specific examples and (optionally) statistics. Outreachy Organizers strongly encourage you to write your personal stories. We want you to know that we won't judge your writing style, grammar or spelling.

  4. Does your learning environment have few people who share your identity or background? Please provide details. Contributing to free and open source software takes some skill. You may have already learned some basic skills through university or college classes, specialized schools, online classes, online resources, or with a mentor, friend, family member or co-worker. Does any of your learning environments have few people who share your identity or background? How did your identity or background differ from the majority of people in this learning environment? Outreachy Organizers strongly encourage you to write your personal stories. We want you to know that we won't judge your writing style, grammar or spelling.

  5. What systemic bias or discrimination have you faced while building your skills? Outreachy projects often require applicants to know some basic skills. Those skills might include programming, user experience, documentation, illustration and graphical design, or data science. You may have already learned some basic skills through university or college classes, specialized schools, online classes, online resources, or with a mentor, friend, family member or co-worker. In these settings, have you faced systemic bias or discrimination? Have you been discouraged from accessing these resources because of your identity or background? Please provide specific examples and (optionally) statistics. Outreachy Organizers strongly encourage you to write your personal stories. We want you to know that we won't judge your writing style, grammar or spelling.

  6. (Optional) Content warnings. Some essays may talk about very harsh or hard things. That's okay. There's no need to change your essay. It can help us to know what harsh or hard topics are in your essay. These are called "content warnings". Content warnings can be one or two words. Examples include: "violence", "sexual assault", or "war". Content warnings help reviewers mentally prepare to read your essay. Thank you for your help! If you do you not talk about harsh or hard things in your essays, leave this field blank.

Essay tips

Please review the essay questions carefully. Make sure to review the help text below the question.

Essay length

Applicants often ask, "How much should I write?" You should write enough to answer the essay question. We prefer essays with detailed examples or stories from your life.

Essay answers are limited to 1000 characters. 1000 characters is about 200 words.

Applicants who are accepted usually write around 500 to 900 characters per essay.

Essay content

One question asks about discrimination in your learning environment.

We are not asking you to provide details about your completed classes, your educational background, or what skills you have. We are asking you to talk about about the discrimination you face in your learning environment or while building your skills.

One essay question refers to "the technology industry of your country". We want to know about the technology industry in the country you will be living in during the internship. Talk about the discrimination you face in that country's technology industry. Do not talk about the discrimination you will face in the international technology industry.

Assume readers live in a different culture

When talking about the discrimination you face, assume the reader lives in a different culture than you. Provide background about your culture. You may need to include links to statistics, articles, or blogs posts.

If you mention that you face discrimination, say which marginalized group(s) you are a part of. You may need to mention the university, town, region, or country where you live or went to school. You may need to provide statistics about why your group is in the minority in that area.

Unclear: "I face religious discrimination"
Clear: "I am a Muslim in France. Muslims make up less than 2.3% of France's population. I face religious discrimination."

Provide specific examples of the discrimination you have faced. Provide a short summary of what happened. Talk about how the discrimination you faced impacts your education or career. Talk about how discrimination impacts you in the past and today. Talk about how you fear discrimination will impact you in the future.

Talking about violence

Some applicants may have experienced violence. It may be hard for them to talk about their experiences.

You do not need to share detailed descriptions of violence, such as:

Instead, say that you face this type of violence. Tell us how it impacts your education or career.

If you talk about violence, please include a content warning in the last field. This helps our applicant reviewers mentally prepare to read your essay.

No resumes or references

Please do not put personal contact information in your essays. We do not require reference contact information. We will not follow up with references.

Please do not put links to your resume in your essays. We do not read resumes.

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Outreachy interns must fill out three forms:

  1. Outreachy Code of Conduct
  2. W-9 or W8-BEN tax form
  3. Payment information

Interns must put their legal names on these forms. Some interns may be worried about using their legal name. Outreachy organizers understand your worries. Outreachy supports transgender and non-binary people. Outreachy supports domestic violence survivors. Outreachy supports people who wish to avoid using their legal name on the internet.

Outreachy supports intern privacy. Mentors and coordinators will not know your legal name. Forms that require your legal name will not be shared with mentors and coordinators.

The Outreachy website account preferences will allow you to set a "public name". This public name will be displayed to mentors and coordinators. It will also be displayed on the alums page if you are selected as an intern. You can set your "public name" to a shortened name, a pseudonym, or your name that affirms your gender identity.

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Preparing for the contribution period

You can read about what it's like to apply to Outreachy:

Outreachy recommends the following resources for learning about contributing to free and open source software projects:

You may want to brush up on your skills for contributing to free and open source software communities. Each project will use a different set of skills, and some mentors may be willing to teach you skills. Projects and the skills they use change each round. The most common skills used in projects last round were:

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Finding a Mentor and an Internship Project

Once your initial application is approved, the contribution period will open. The next step in the Outreachy application process is to look through the list of participating communities and internship projects. Pick one or two projects that look interesting to you.

We don't recommend applying to more than two projects.

Many people want to increase their chances of getting accepted. They see some communities that are accepting many interns, and some communities that are accepting one or two interns. Their instinct is to apply to the communities that are accepting more interns. However, when all the applicants think that way, it means projects that are only accepting one intern don't get a lot of applicants. It might be better to apply to a community who is accepting a small number of interns.

Projects will list the skills they want applicants to have. Project skills are listed with two different indicators: how much experience you need in a skill, and whether you are required to have that skill in order to apply. Please see the project skills key on the project list for more information.

Many people get overwhelmed with the list of projects and don't know how to choose a project! Our advice is to pick a community that has a mission that you're passionate about.

Once you've narrowed down your list of projects, you can decide whether the project is right for you by:

You'll need to contact the project mentor. All applicants need to be the first one to reach out to mentors. Mentors will not be assigned to you.

The mentors listed on the project will be the mentors who you are working with during the internship period. Mentors will evaluate applicants on their communication skills and the quality of the contributions they make during the contribution period. They'll pick the strongest applicant as their intern. Therefore, it's important that you reach out to mentors early during the contribution period.

Applicants ask all sorts of questions of their mentors! Mentors are friendly and patient, and it's okay to ask questions multiple times, or multiple times a day! Read the project description, and ask your mentor questions about anything that's unclear. Ask you mentor if you get stuck setting up your contribution environment. Look for a list of project tasks under the 'Project Contribution Information' and ask questions if you have trouble getting started on your contributions. If you're stuck for more than a couple of hours at any time, reach out to your mentor for help.

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Making Contributions

What is a Contribution?

To 'contribute' means 'To give to a common cause, often along with other people'. In free software and open source, we talk about 'contributing' to a project or community. That means people working together to improve an open source project. People who regularly work on open source are often called 'open source contributors'.

Outreachy applicants will become open source contributors during the contribution period! When you work on an Outreachy project task, you're making a 'contribution' to that project. A contribution can be something small, like a bug fix or a documentation improvement.

Applicants are required to make a contribution.

Outreachy applicants are required to make at least one contribution to an Outreachy project. Only applicants who make a contribution will be eligible to be selected as an intern. Applicants are required to record their contributions in the Outreachy website. You can't submit a final application until you record a contribution.

Start your contributions early! Many applicants under-estimate the time it will take to complete a contribution. Most applicants take 5 to 10 days to complete their first contribution.

Some project mentors find that they have many promising applicants. They may choose to close their project to new applicants. If you wait too long to start, your project may be closed to new applicants.

Don't try to make a big, last minute contribution. Keep in contact with your mentors throughout the whole contribution period. Ask questions and send contributions at a steady pace.

Start with a smaller contribution. Then try a more complex contribution. The end goal is to show you have the skills to be a successful intern.

How do I find a contribution to work on?

Project mentors have a list of tasks for applicants to work on. You can find the task list in the project details page, which is linked from the project selection page. The project description should include a section called 'Project Contribution Information'. That should have information about how to find a contribution to work on.

Some projects, like the Linux Kernel, want people to contribute in a specific way. They may have a tutorial for setting up your environment and creating your first contribution. The project description or community description should mention a tutorial.

Some mentors have each applicant work on different tasks. Other mentors have each applicant complete the same task.

Some project issue trackers have a tagging system. Mentors may tag tasks that are good for newcomers to the project. Some common tag names are "first patch" or "newcomers welcome" or "newcomer friendly".

When in doubt, ask the project mentor! It's good to ask for suggestions when looking for a suitable contribution. Make sure to describe what your skills are and what you want to learn more about.

Recording your contributions

Applicants are required to record their contributions in the Outreachy website. Only applicants who have recorded a contribution will be allowed to submit a final application.

You can record a contribution as soon as you start working on it. You can go back and edit your recorded contribution at any time.

You can find a link to record a contribution on the project details page. Go to the Outreachy project list, and click the link for your project. On the page with project details, you should see a link to 'record your contributions and create a final application'.

Getting help on a contribution

Working on contributions can be confusing at times! It is expected and perfectly normal to have questions. Mentors are here to help.

If you get stuck for more than a couple hours, ask the project mentors or community for help. If you ask for help privately and don't get an answer, try asking on the public community channels as well. If you ask for help publicly and don't get an answer, try emailing the mentor.

Contributions to open source communities are submitted and reviewed in the public. That can feel intimidating at first, but remember that mentors are here to help you!

Contribution review and revisions

After you submit a contribution, your mentor or another community member will review it. They will often have feedback and changes you'll need to make. This is not a criticism of your work or skills. You should view it as a chance to learn something new and improve your skills.

Please be sure to follow up on the reviewer's feedback. You may need to submit your contribution several times. Keep working on it with your mentor until it is ready to be included in the project. It's best to allocate time over several weeks for this process. Try to start you contributions as soon as possible.

How Much Should I Contribute?

Applicants are only required to make one contribution. However, we find that the strongest applicants make multiple contributions. Start with a small contribution and work your way up to more complex contributions. The strongest applicants are consistent about working on the project. They communicate regularly with their mentor to discuss what they're working on.

Applicants are encouraged, but not required, to contribute after the contribution period ends.

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How are contributions evaluated?

Each Outreachy mentor will evaluate contributions in a different way. It depends on what skills the applicant needs to be successful for their project. A programming project might want applicants to add code. A design project might want applicants to create graphics or art.

This applicant guide will generalize for all projects. When in doubt, ask your mentor how they evaluate contributions. Ask your mentor how they decide which applicant to accept as an intern. Any guidance your mentor provides should be followed, even if it differs from the Outreachy applicant guide.

Here are some example questions that mentors may use to evaluate your contributions:

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Estimated number of interns

On the project list, each community has an estimate of the number of interns it expects to accept. The estimated number of interns is the total number of interns that will be accepted for the whole community. It is not the number of interns per project.

The estimated number of interns is based on the amount of sponsorship for the community and the number of mentors a community has.

The number of interns per community is an estimate, not a hard-and-fast rule. It may increase or decrease during the intern selection period. The reasons for changing are community-specific.

Communities accepting more interns

Some communities will accept more interns than they estimated. This typically means the community has found more funding to pay intern stipends, and has enough mentors to support additional interns.

Some times communities find additional sponsors, or they ask current sponsors for more money. Other times communities request funding from the Outreachy general fund.

Communities accepting less interns

Some communities may accept less interns than they expected. Some communities may accept no interns at all.

Some times communities accept less interns because of a change in mentor free time. Mentors may decide they do not have enough free time during the internship. This could be because of personal reasons, like burn out, a medical condition, or a death in the family. Or mentors could find they simply over-estimated the amount of free time they have.

Some times project mentors evaluated the contributions and decided not to accept any applicants.

Some times community coordinators make decisions about which applicants to accept. They may prioritize a stronger applicant for one project over a weaker applicant for a different project.

Please show mentors respect who decide not to accept an intern. Mentors may not have time to provide individual feedback to all applicants who were not accepted, although some do. You are welcome to ask a mentor for feedback to improve your contributions next time. Please make sure you are asking for feedback in a constructive manner, and not trying to appeal the decision.

Please don't ask Outreachy organizers why you were not accepted as an intern. They do not work directly with applicants, and often do not know why mentors did not accept an intern.

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Final application

Applicants are required to create a final application for each Outreachy project they apply to. Only applicants that record a contribution to a project will be able to create a final application for that project.

We encourage applicants to submit their final application at least a day before the deadline (Nov. 5, 2021 at 4pm UTC). You can edit your final application until the deadline.

You will need to submit your final application through the Outreachy website. Go to the Outreachy project list, and click the link for your project. On the page with project details, you should see a link to 'record your contributions and create a final application'.

The final application asks four questions:

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Intern announcement

Intern selections are not shared with applicants until interns are announced on Nov. 22, 2021 at 4pm UTC.

If you want more details about the internship, please read our Internship guide.

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Internship

Applicants are encouraged to read the Internship Guide. The Internship Guide talks about what we expect from interns. It also talks about what interns can expect of mentors and what to expect in terms of career development opportunities.