Tell me about the hackNY experience:

HackNY is a summer program in New York city where 30 students live together and work at start ups across NYC. You can find more details on the hackNY blog.

My most vivid memory of hackNY was my first evening. We went out for group dinner by Union Square — we’d all just moved in that afternoon. One guy pointed out a curly haired man at a table across from ours and mentioned he made 4Chan. We went over to introduce ourselves and ended up having a great conversation about the best places to find Pearl Milk Tea with Chris Poole! After dinner, we took a stroll through Union Square. Chris Wiggins pointed the companies in the area - the tech companies we’d soon be joining. He told us, “we haven’t really made specific plans for the events this summer because we’d like to know who you want to meet.” We threw out names of VC like Fred Wilson, well known bloggers like Whitney Hess, and start up founders. We ended up meeting over half the names we threw out that night!

Why should I go to hackNY over Google, Microsoft, Facebook, etc?

hackNY is a program whose mission is to connect exciting students to each other and introduce them to mentors, big ideas and interesting people in New York City. Internships at big companies are training and recruiting programs where you might run into exciting students, mentors, big ideas, and interesting people as a byproduct. I don’t think you can go wrong with either choice. You also have multiple summers so you don’t really have to choose.

Personally, hackNY was special because they saw potential in me that I didn’t think I had and encouraged me to fulfill that. It’s not just the talks from famous people and networking but also going to a hackathon and not giving up because a friend from hackNY trudged over at 4am to help you debug your code. It’s not just the great demos and that entry on your resume at the end but knowing how much it means after all the evenings you spent talking about your dreams and polishing your projects together.

But Kathy, [big company] will pay me so much money!

Premature optimization is the root of all evil! If you got an offer from hackNY and [big company], you will earn plenty of money upon graduation. Unless a couple thousand dollars will make a meaningful difference in your quality of life, it’s a little illogical to water down a whole summer’s experience for what amounts to a week or two’s worth of income when you graduate.

Also, keep in mind, you’ll be getting months of housing in one of the best locations in NYC worth several thousand dollars.

I really want to do hackNY but also [super sexy start up] in NYC. What do you think is the better option?

Email hackNY! HackNY is a summer fellowship program that has an internship component. You might well be able to work at your start up and still do hackNY.

Can you give me some advice on applying to hackNY?

We’re looking for technical ability — we want to see potential, your ability to learn quickly, and that you’ll be able to have something to give back to the community.

In terms of culture fit, try to help us understand how hackNY can further your goals in life and how you can contribute to the hackNY community.

Try to be crisp. At the end of each application, we form an impression of each applicant and jot a some notes down. If you write about too many trivial things, you run the risk of cluttering out the important things.

Personal opinions regarding applications I review:

If you include a github, make sure it has code!

Make a brief video demo of your project — we don’t need professional quality product but volunteers review each application by hand and your code might not be easy for us run. It would be unfortunate if your awesome application wasn’t seen in the best light it could be.

Apply early — this will help us give your application the time it needs

Certain subject make for better applications than others. I’d recommend avoid overly boastful essays — if you’re really great, we will see it in your work but accidentally coming off as arrogant makes us feel like you won’t be a great person to have live with all summer. Certain subjects like the architecture of each of your apps can also be hard to pull off because they can be hard to connect to. Try to tell a good story where we understand why it matters.