Over the past year, I've received many messages asking how I got into WWDC 2019 as a scholar. And I've finally decided to write this post to answer those questions.

So chances are, if you're wondering how to apply for the scholarship, your questions will be answered in this article.

What is the Apple WWDC Scholarship?

First things first, WWDC is Apple's World-Wide Developer Conference held every year in June. There, Apple announces recent software (and hardware) updates to some of its products including MacBooks, iPhones, and iMacs.

If you want to attend WWDC these are the associated costs:

  1. Event ticket price: $1600
  2. One week stay in San Jose, California: $1000-$1500 (depends)
  3. Travel and other expenses - $400-$500 (again, depends)
  4. Plane ticket: $1500-$2000 (again, depends, but from India, this is a fair price)

As a student, you likely can't afford this much. But Apple offers a scholarship to students, where they sponsor your plane ticket, event ticket price, and one week stay. That's about $5000 in savings if you manage to get selected as a WWDC Scholar.

Who am I?

I'm a web developer who was an Apple WWDC '19 scholar. To sum up, I was probably the only person in the WWDC crowd who knew JavaScript better than Swift.

But if I can get the scholarship, so can you. So now let's discuss the WWDC scholarship in more depth.

WWDC Scholarship 101

This is a scholarship which Apple offers to people enrolled in STEM programs around the world. If you're enrolled in a college or you're in school, chances are that you can apply for this scholarship.

To apply for the scholarship you have to build a simple project that the Apple review team can use and experience in under 3 minutes. More or less, these are the ONLY requirements of your WWDC app:

  1. Size limit (20 MB)
  2. You should be enrolled in STEM organization
  3. You have to use Apple technologies (Xcode, Swift, MacBooks, etc.)
  4. Make it a small app, something that can be used and understood within 3 minutes

Now, let's start in on how I did it, and then I'll give you a few pointers to help you out with your application next year.

How I cracked the WWDC19 scholarship in 10 days

To begin, I literally learned everything about WWDC: the Swift programming language, and the tech around it all in 10 days. No lies. And this helped me get the scholarship (I was one of the few from India that year).

But I don't want to confuse you with some clickbaity thing - it is not possible to crack that scholarship application from a complete beginner state in just 10 days.

I was able to do it because I had a little programming experience before, mostly with Node. The general concepts in programming remain the same, and after a while you're just hopping through syntax and documentation for the most part.

Here is what I submitted for WWDC 2019:

Trust me, I had no idea either how to build this whole thing. I learned the required Apple APIs and frameworks in 10 days.

So here's how you can approach WWDC '21 in 5 steps:

#1: Learn Swift, and Apple frameworks

Apple loves to see students using their technology - Swift, SwiftUI, ARKit, <insert more shiny things here>, and so on. The more you can use, the better. Don't force or bloat your app, but try to showcase what you know.

If you're creating a simple game, try to introduce some AR version of the game too. If you're creating a project for WWDC which could use some ML, do that. You'll get points for it.

#2: Pick difficult ideas

When I started to create my project for WWDC, I had no idea how would I do it. Not gonna lie, my final version wasn't really what I had imagined, but it was pretty close.

The more ambitious the idea you pick, the better are your chances. But balance your ambition with your timeframe – you don't want to have an incomplete app before submissions close.

For me, it was a very close call (I had my submission ready just about an hour before the deadline). Plus I had to work a lot to learn all this new Apple tech as I didn't know anything beforehand.

So make sure you have an estimate of what you need to learn and what you want to build. But like I said, go for shiny and ambitious ideas that stand out.

#3: Write your ideas down, then build them in 10 days

This is more of personal opinion. But I've seen people who prefer to build something over the course of 2, 3, or 4 months before the scholarship kicks off. Trust me, you'll get a 500% productivity boost when the countdown starts ticking.

I would say keep a list of unique or innovative ideas you have with you. Learn the skillset, but develop projects which you intend to submit in the provided 10 days only. Honestly, it is enough time to pull off something decent which the Apple staff can experience in under 3 minutes (their direct instructions).

I recommended focusing on ideas that really impact the world – education, the health of the planet, making technology more accessible to people, and so on.

These are ideas that the Apple scholarship panel values a lot (at least that's what I've observed in most accepted submissions). And if you are interested in any of these fields, it would be a fun and good match for you.

#4: Try going for Swift Playgrounds on iPad

If possible, I would recommend NOT going with MacBook-based Xcode playground submissions.

I know there have been people who have won with their Xcode playgrounds. But I believe that if you go with a MacBook-based playground, you miss out on a ton of things.

I say this for two main reasons:

  1. iPad has a better camera and API support for things like ARKit and a better CPU for ML models/intensive apps
  2. Swift Playground Books (available only on iPad) are beautiful to use and interact with (as a user)

For quite some time, Apple has not changed its guidelines for the scholarship much. So it should be safe to assume that Swift playgrounds will be a choice next year too.

They're easy to work with (just like Swift playgrounds on Mac), and are highly engaging. iPads really enable a lot of useful things. So give iPad submission a try for the scholarship if possible.

#5: Focus on your responses, too

The Apple panel also reads your responses to basic questions about what technology you've used and built your project with.

Make sure you mention everything and anything you've used, from the best Apple frameworks to external assets if you have used any.

Proofread your paragraphs – the only thing worse than a little bug in your code could be a little bug in your paragraph.

Apart from this, stay focused for 10 days, (I remember I pulled all-nighters for almost all 10 days), and most importantly do it for fun. There are a lot of ways to go one step forward in life, and this is just one of them.

Don't stress out too much over what the result might be. Because if you're attempting this, you're probably in your early 20s which means you have a full life in front of you. You'll have plenty of time to do more amazing things, irrespective of the result. So just go get it!

My Experience with WWDC

In short: mind-blowingly amazingly super cool!

Although I wanted to keep this article focused on helping you out, I also wrote this section to motivate you to work hard for this scholarship. It unlocks a TON of networking opportunities, and you meet and make a bunch of cool friends (MKBHD included haha). Plus you'll have a lot of fun.

I shared some of my moments in the full vlog last year, see if you like what I did there.

If you still have questions, or this article helped you out, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter or Instagram and tell me :) I'm also working on codedamn, a platform for developers to learn and connect, feel free to give it a visit too.