6 steps to pass into Phase 2 of Udacity Scholarships

Udacity scholarships are a great experience to explore a new set of skill. In the scholarship, a large pool of students is selected to participate in a challenge course, known as phase 1. This sample course evaluates whether you are worth receiving a scholarship for a full Nanodegree program. This article presents a few steps that will drastically increase your chance passing into the second phase.

Step #1: Get a head start (Day 1+)

There are only two tasks you need to perform in order to pass to the next phase:

  1. Finish the course

The ultimate criteria for any scholarship challenge is straightforward — finish the material. Without completing the practice challenge you won’t stand a chance to succeed because the applicants are selected from the people who finished this course. Essentially, completion of the course is the proof that you’re able to manage time well prior to the real Nanodegree.

In addition to simple completion of the course aim to move through the content as fast as possible. The challenge course can be completed in a shorter period of time than the actual amount of time provided. This is also the easier criteria to complete. Your first step to receive a scholarship is to finish as much course material as possible in order to save your time for community participation in the future.

Step #2: Keep Notes (Days 1+)

Now that you’ve been admitted to the scholarship, you’re part of the community. This means that you have an opportunity to stand out and brand yourself, in fact, whether you’re selected for the second phase will depend on how helpful were you during the period of the course. In addition to completing course material early, try to keep notes. This is a lovely way to contribute to the community for the second criteria: participation. Notes are the first resource you can create to help people assuming you have no previous knowledge of the challenge content. Nevertheless, notes will also be useful in the future as it shows to other people what you’ve done during the challenge itself.

There are multiple ways to store notes. You may want to create a GitHub repository such that you can share your solution to some coding exercises and obviously the convenience to share with other people. Alternatively, you could use google docs as it will be easier for word & picture explanation of particular concepts. However, make sure that you do not share your solution for any of the major projects for the duration of the challenge.

Step #3: Develop Positive First Impression (Days 7+)

Assuming you followed the previous steps you should now be ahead of many people and have some content in the form of notes. Moreover, the slack channel should also calm down and it’s time for you to step in. Dedicate a time every day to help people, remember people learn best together. As you help people try to focus on quality over quantity, many people will be around to help answer questions. Your goal is to take one question, confirm you understand it and provide a helpful answer. You may also choose to add the question to your notes along with the answer.

This provides you with the benefit of being positively noticed by others and the Udacity team. Remember that being noticed by itself isn’t sufficient because as someone who spams no one will see you as a helping hand. On the contrary, by simply helping one or two people per day yet giving them all your attention, you’re maintaining a positive reputation which shows that you’re a valuable member. Furthermore, helping others will also help you. For example, if you completed lesson x and someone asks for further explanation of a certain concept answering this will give you the benefit of reviewing the previous concepts and maybe digging online to understand the concept better.

Step #4: Participate In Activities You Can Do (Days 7+)

There are three types of activities you’ll see throughout this challenge

  1. Activities that count if you do them good

Some of the activities that count if performed well may include transcripting AMA sessions, being a student leader, etc. Generally these are tasks without much competition involved yet increase your chances. If you have the time to put into these activities it is a best for you to participate. To identify this type of activity, ask yourself whether this activity will give you an opportunity to connect with community managers.

The activities that count based on elite performance are those quick activities/competitions many people enter into. This may include volunteering, writing challenge, participating in an AMA. Generally, many people will participate for the purpose of easy points, but the truth is there isn’t much benefit to just do this. For example, volunteering won’t add value without helping people solve their problems, you would just be another one who does it for the Nanodegree. To decide whether to participate in these activities ask yourself whether you stand a chance to be the best.

The last type of activities is what the Udacity team values the most — creating your own activities. This can go from creating a study group, meetups to hosting a webinar and coming up with suggestions about how to improve the scholarship. Creating your own activity is entirely up to you based on the opportunity you believe exists.

Overall, treat activities as an addition to your profile. A single well-done activity is worth more points than ten half-done ones. Note that I’m not saying you shouldn’t participate in common activities and events at all because you’re still making connections which will pay off eventually, but don’t just do an activity for the sake of doing it.

Step #5: Develop A Side Project (Days 14+)

The project showcase is a special type of activity that counts if you are in the best. This is an opportunity for students who already passed the course to demonstrate their knowledge by creating their own project. The difference is that the winning projects are being presented to the company that sponsors the scholarship. Therefore, starting from early attempt to come up with an exciting idea that will help others using the course material. Work towards your idea and make progress every day to move your idea closer to reality. If you stay consistent, in the end you will have a great project to present. In fact, being selected among the project winners is perhaps the closest to a ticket to phase 2.

Step #6: Create Resources (Days 30+)

In step #2 I suggested keeping notes as your first resource to help, but notes by themselves aren’t going to make a difference. In fact, even if your notes are super useful many people take advantage of them, chances are you won’t get much credit. This is mostly because many people don’t think in terms of “who created this amazing repository” but rather “how do I finish this course ASAP”. Just like in the job field, think in terms of creating a portfolio. Perhaps you can try to write medium articles explaining difficult concepts or tutorials for the projects. Once you have multiple resources feel confident to share them around in the community as resources you created. This is what will truly demonstrate your community involvement.

BONUS: Make Friends

Let’s face it, putting every in this article together is probably highly exaggerated and requires ideal performance and a magnificent amount of time. Conversely, one way to actually get by despite limited time is to make connections. You and your connections can come up with activities together such as meetups, AMA session, study group or working on a project. Networking with people is an amazing and fun way to get through the challenge, so take advantage of it!

Good luck in the challenge!

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I am incoming backend engineer at Circle. I like to research new topics and blog about them. Particularly ones relating to Artificial Intelligence.

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Michael Sheinman

I am incoming backend engineer at Circle. I like to research new topics and blog about them. Particularly ones relating to Artificial Intelligence.