Hacking the hackathon application

Hack the North
5 min readJul 16, 2019


Applications for Hack the North 2021 are now open! ⚙️ Sometimes it’s hard to approach hacker applications because it’s difficult to really know what’s going to set your application apart from the others. Worried? Don’t fret, we’ve got you covered! 👍

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  1. Show your skills

Whether it’s competitive programming skills, problem-solving skills, or even math skills, any kind of skill is valuable when you tailor it to your application. Hackathons are all about overcoming obstacles to make great things, so it’s great to show off what you are capable of. It’s a common misconception that only those with great technical skills are able to attend hackathons, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! All it takes to be “hackathon ready” is the willingness to learn.

The best way to go about this is to show how you’ve developed skills by talking about the efforts you’ve made in the past:

💻 For technical skills:

  • Have you ever worked on a project? What did the final product do? What languages did you use? What was its impact?
  • Have you ever built something using an Arduino? A Raspberry Pi? Do you like fiddling with hardware? What did you build? How did you build it?
  • Is design something you take pride in? Have you built up a portfolio? What kinds of graphics have you created? Have you designed a website before? How were your designs then implemented?

Use what you’ve learned and worked on to show how you have developed your technical skills, whether that be from side projects, your school curriculum, or any additional courses.

If you’re a beginner hacker, don’t worry! New hackers are encouraged to apply. In fact, in previous years, 30% of Hack the North attendees have been first-time hackers.

📖 For non-technical skills:

  • Are you a part of any clubs or societies? How did your participation impact a team? Did you lead or found a club? How has your participation impacted you?
  • Do you volunteer? What for? For how long? What was your role? Who did you impact?

While the above questions don’t directly ask about your skills, they may be good questions to ask yourself when trying to figure out what non-technical skills you have and how you’ve developed them.

A good model to follow, regardless of what you’re showing off, is “What-How-Results.” The way you implement this model is by explaining what you did, how you did it, and finally the results of your efforts. These two models can help bring your point across and show the impact of what you did.

There are so many ways to show you are a well-rounded hacker, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t think your credentials are impressive. If they come from the heart and they show your true potential, then you are doing more than enough to show your stuff.

2. Show passion

Another way you can shine in a hackathon application is by showing passion. An application written passionately stands out immediately. Passion shows that you have drive and put your heart into everything you do.

When it comes to talking about the things you are passionate about, use a “Show, don’t tell” approach. Although you should mention how much you care for what you’re speaking about on your application, the way you express how you built a project, participated on a team, or volunteered can make it clear that you have a lot of passion for the activity. You can use descriptive adjectives and action words to drive your point home. Tell a story to the person reading your application — if they can see your experiences from your eyes, your passion will resonate much more clearly.

When speaking about the hackathon you’re applying for, it’s good to make it clear why you are excited to attend that hackathon. No need to be shy about your excitement to build something awesome — the more you show the people reading your application how excited you are about the hackathon, the more they will want you there. After all, enthusiastic hackers are what make for the best hackathons!

3. Revise, revise, revise

Nothing is more embarrassing than submitting and realizing you spelled your own name wrong! It happens to the best of us. To avoid silly mistakes and polish your application, it’s important to reread (and reread, and reread) your application.

When rereading, check for common mistakes like typos, grammar, and spelling errors. It could help to use an online grammar checking service, although it might not catch every single error. Sometimes, these services incorrectly mark things wrong, so it’s important to look out for that as well.

Here are a few resources that may be useful when revising long bits of writing:


  • This extension checks for spelling errors as you type. I suggest you write your answers in a document, then paste them into your application, as this might help catch a few errors.


  • Although this tool is meant for essays and papers, it also has a knack for pointing out potential grammar errors and areas to improve vocabulary by suggesting possible word alternatives.

The word processor you use to write up your application may also check for grammar and spelling. Be sure to look for coloured lines beneath your text!

As well as looking out for grammar errors, it would also be good to ensure your application reads well. Be sure to read through your application to edit any awkward sounding sentences, fix the structure of your paragraphs, and make your sentences flow.

Remember to stick to answering what the question asked! It can be easy to get off-topic, but it is essential that you stick to the original topic of the question.

Although there aren’t many tools to help you edit for flow, what might help is reading your application out loud to yourself, have someone else or an automated reader read it to you. If it sounds awkward or wrong, chances are that it’ll sound odd to the person reading your application as well.

Now you’re all set to make a mind-blowing application. We would really love for you to apply to Hack the North 2021 Visit apply.hackthenorth.com and submit your application. We hope to see you soon!

Good luck and happy hacking ⚙️



Hack the North

1,000+ students from across the globe join us at Hack the North, Canada’s biggest hackathon, for 36 hours of dreaming big and building incredible projects.