If you are currently a student and wanting a career in software development then gaining a placement in the Google Summer of Code could be the best first step on the ladder. Applications are invited from now until April 8.
Google Summer of Code is a global program that in which student developers are paid stipends to write code for open source software projects over a three month period. This year it promises to involve more students than ever before but the number of students applying will be well in excess of the number of available places so expect strong competition and check out the Applying section of the GSoC Student Guide.
Each student is paired with a mentor from a participating project - and here too there was fierce competition. This year 175 organisations were selected from among 417 applications. Those participating range from the very well known, through the well known to the hardly known at all. Some open source organisations are missing from the list, for example Ubuntu hasn't been selected this year.
Each of the participating organisations hast its own acceptance criteria - but they all seem to have a common theme. They are looking for motivated students who show initiative and who have something to offer to the ongoing projects. So check out the list of accepted organizations to find a project where you can make a real contribution.
Google's Summer of Code
Google Summer of Code 2011 site