Do you have some programming experience at the university level? Then, yes, you are good enough! No, you don’t need to be a Computer Science or IT major. Students from all subject areas are successful GSoC students. Have work experience programming but spend your time studying philosophy full-time? Yes, you are good enough to be a GSoC student!
“Although at first I was a little inexperienced in the world of mobile applications and a bit overwhelmed by the challenge, I can positively say that four months later I’ve gradually overcome all the obstacles. I had a great mentor, that’s for sure!”
Evelina Vrabie, Romania, Android Project - GSoC 2010
Every project has a different criteria for selecting students and subsequently different skill level requirements. If you meet the below list of general skills you are likely to find a GSoC project to which you can feel comfortable applying:
The soft skills
You find out where to go for help with technical questions
There are many available resources on the interwebs to go to for help with technical questions, knowing how to use a search engine to begin your search is very important.
You take and respond well to feedback
The community developed software model relies heavily on constructive feedback and the willingness for each contributor to take that criticism and make the code better. You are going to be getting regular feedback from your mentor – not all of it is going to be “this is great” “you are awesome.” Learning from and graciously accepting feedback is a very important trait for a successful GSoC student.
You can work independently
Since you’ll be spending significant amounts of time working alone - not being afraid to face the unknown and start breaking down what may initially seem like insurmountable problems independently is important.
You know when to ask questions
Do you think you already know everything about everything in the world of open source programming? Then you probably aren’t good enough for GSoC!
The technical stuff
You can install and configure software packages on your own
If you don’t know how to download and install packages on your own, you’ll need to figure that out, stat.
You have access to a functioning computer 40 hours a week
If your computer regularly dies, or you don’t have dedicated access to a computer you’ll need to figure that out before you start your project. Also, GSoC should be considered a full-time commitment. Don’t expect an hour or two a day in an internet cafe to be enough!
You’ve got experience using the programming language and operating system of the project
Depending on the project, the skills necessary will range from beginner to expert, but you do need some experience. One of the great things about GSoC is that there is a large variety of organizations and projects to choose from. Chances are very good that you can find a project that meets you at your level. Even if you are a beginner!** **If the project primarily uses Linux for development and distribution, then you need to be comfortable with basic Linux usage. Sometimes, you’ll see projects looking to expand onto other platforms, in which case you may be able to bring in new expertise.
Every project has additional characteristics that they look for when selecting students and projects - however, if you meet the above basic criteria - chances are good that there are GSoC projects and organizations to which you can feel comfortable applying.
Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to apply to projects where you only meet 51% of the listed requirements. Include a section on how you’ll compensate for or learn the missing skills - and demonstrate during the application process that you are working on acquiring those new skills.