Two weeks ago, 322 middle and high school hackers from around the world participated in NotUniversity Hacks. We were blown away to see 200 hackers demo their projects for their peers, the highest demo rate in MLH Summer League yet! 

During NotUniversity Hacks, we asked our mentors for their best advice for new hackers. If you’re interested in attending a hackathon but don’t know where to start, take a look at the words of wisdom our mentors wanted to pass along to anyone interested in starting their hacker journey.


Mackenzie Kinzel (@MackenzieKinzel)

Having female mentors was critical to my early years as a hacker and developer. Finding other women that supported my journey in tech, because they had been through it before, was incredibly encouraging and is the reason I’m still hacking today.


Gagandeep Reheel (N/A)

When you are starting with hackathons, never aim at winning. Just explore the universe, grow your second home inside ideas and experiment your own logic, pile up, build up for THE bigger breakthrough – Invite. Re-invent. Keep doing it until you see crazy satisfaction in your eyes.


Kat O’Leary (@ChemisKitty)

Demo your hack rather than quitting early, even if it’s incomplete. Demoing is a skill on its own and you can learn a lot from getting feedback on your hack and seeing what other people made.


Kevin Wang (@Its_KevinWang)

Don’t be intimidated or scared if you’re joining as a newbie. Everyone has to start somewhere. As long as you join with a positive mindset, remember to learn and have fun, you can’t go wrong!


Sashrika Kaur (@SashrikaKaur

I would advise you to keep learning through workshops and ask questions from peers and mentors. They would love to help. Take a break and have fun at the mini-events and be sure to demo your incredible projects.


Harshit Sharma (@HarshitSharma80)

Don’t think it’s your first time. Think you have a chance to learn with your team and explore things as much as you can to keep learning.

Anuhya Challagundla (@AnuhyaC_)

Stay hungry for knowledge and opportunity. Someone told me that a while ago and it stuck with me.


Pranav Joglekar (@joglekar_pranav)

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, seek help. There’s no shame in getting help if you learn something new out of it.


Carmina Jean (@KodaMina)

My biggest piece of advice, especially to female/nb hackers because they WILL change toxic masculinity in tech, is to not be afraid if you don’t know the answer to something. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, not only to mentors, but to other hackers around you (if they’re open to it). Tech is an inherently collaborative environment, and it’s okay not to know everything–you can learn! Another bit of advice I’d give female/nb hackers is to focus on yourself. I know I just said that tech is collaborative, but you are there to hone your own skills. Try not to compare your growth to others because everyone is different. It’s okay to be inspired by people around you, but don’t make your growth a competition. Do your best and learn as much as you can.


Karthik B K (@iamKarthikBK)

Don’t ever hesitate to ask for help. Talk with other teams, and don’t worry if your idea doesn’t turn out to be as impressive as it seemed earlier.


Siddharth Dayalwal (@siddharthdayal1)

To all the newbie hackers, keep your focus on learning, as it is said that “Learning gives you creativity, creativity leads to thinking, thinking provides you knowledge and that knowledge makes you great!” Interact, learn, grow and enjoy!


Gagan Bhatia (@gbhatia30)

For the first time, try to have as much fun you can have. Experiment with lots of new things.


If you are interested in learning to code or joining the hacker community, we collected some resources to get you started.

MLH Localhost Technical Workshops

Join us for a beginner-friendly workshop covering relevant technologies so you can level up and build your skills quickly. These workshops are held every day of the week by young hackers like yourself. Sign up for workshops today!

MLH Member Event & MLH Summer League Hackathons

Participate in a hackathon! This is a surefire way to learn on the go, meet hackers like yourself, create projects, and have fun. Today, all our hackathons are digital but stay tuned for the return of in-person hackathons. Sign up for hackathons right now!

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Happy Hacking,

Emily & The MLH Team