How to get into the MLH Fellowship

How many tries?

6 months ago I was getting ready to apply to the MLH Open Source Fellowship, after being beaten down by the admissions twice. I was distraught and humbled, everything I tried had failed, and online advice didn’t help. I felt like I knew nothing. So I did what anyone that doesn’t know jack sht would do: ask for help from someone who knows lots of jack sht.

I reached out to a good friend of mine, (a frontend master in his own right) for some advice. And after some back and forth, we had a (very long) discussion about life, careers, and engineering mastery which completely altered my approach to development for the better and eventually led me to develop the application that saw me through successful code review sessions and interview rounds, into the MLH fellowship with GitLab.

Like they say: the third time is the charm.

The thing about Mastery

The thing about mastery is that it cannot be taught. It can only be gotten through an intense process em years of painstaking labor and effort. Through that process, you get to find hidden gems the average proficient professional would ignore. You develop a sixth sense for the elements of your craft and even better, you emerge with the ability to distill your years of knowledge into actionable insights for the young professionals in your industry.

He has the unique ability to do this. And although many will find it difficult to adhere to the precepts and standards of those ahead of them in the industry. Listening to and executing these principles will most definitely set you apart from your peers.

Getting into the Major League of Hackers

Though the list is not exhaustive, there are a few things in my experience that will help in scaling the admission rounds and getting into the MLH fellowship.

Submit early.

Before you worry about getting in, your aim should be to get an interview. This means you should have a clean and working code sample submitted early. Which would give you a higher chance of having a spot in the interview sessions. Submitting a code sample two months before the deadline is very preferable.

It’s not about you

Many developers worry too much about themselves and what the admissions team would think about them. In reality, the interviewer is probably thinking about his performance review. Your focus should be entirely on the user of your product since your project submission will be used by someone (you first, others later). Ensure that someone can work it seamlessly and you’ll be fine.

Presentation matters

Looking good at interviews will earn you more scoring points than having the perfect code sample. Even if you built the next iPhone, a sh*t presentation will score you badly. Though I would want to work with you on the project (hit me up), I’d feel bad if I were an admissions officer because I have to score you based on the actual presentation. Presenting to yourself a couple of times before the actual interview will help a lot.

  • Do it.

Write like fine wine.

Ah yes, admission essays once again. If you’ve taken the collegeboard exams you’ll be familiar with the over-exaggerated importance of admissions essays. And if you were lucky enough to take them, it means you have some experience under your belt in lying expressing the best parts of yourself, to admissions officers. Your essays should do just that. Help them buy into the idea of having you as part of a cohort of MLH Fellows because they want to have you. You just have to sell yourself.

Pray like it’s May, even if you don't need it.

At the end of the day, there are many variables that facilitate the success of one application and God is one of them. Do not hesitate to solicit his assistance after doing the most. I highly doubt you would regret it.


It would be an absolute joy to hear from you if this article helps you get into the MLH Fellowship or any SWE Program. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me on LinkedIn to share your story, I’d love to hear it.