Your Guide to Choosing a Bootcamp: A Checklist

By: The SwitchUp Team
Last Updated: April 22, 2020

Whether learning to code is a part of your New Year's resolution or you've been wanting to jump in for a while, coding bootcamps can be a fantastic place to start. Once you've decided that a bootcamp is the best fit for you, there are a number of important questions you should be able to answer in order to select a program that suits your learning style, budget, and career aspirations.

First, ask yourself: are you taking a bootcamp to begin or grow your career, or for personal interest? If your desire to learn to code stems from a goal to begin or grow your career, you should be clear on the types of skills and languages that will be most transferable to your field of interest.

Next, determine if you're the type of learner who could succeed in a self-guided online program, or whether you'd prefer a more traditional in-person experience.

Lastly, set a budget. Would starting with a free, no-risk bootcamp be the best way for you to begin, or are you ready for an intensive paid program? Once you have a clear understanding of the type of program you're looking for, it will be much easier to narrow down your options and select a program that fits your career aspirations, learning style and budget.

Now that you've narrowed the criteria for your coding bootcamp, use the following checklist to hone in on the best bootcamp for you!

  1. Read student reviews. First hand accounts are often the most transparent and personalized reporting you can find.
  2. Closely review third-party verified student outcomes reports. CIRR and other organizations can help you determine if your intended program has the numbers to back-up the success rates they advertise.
  3. Speak to teachers and alumni. Faculty and student discussions can help you determine if the program is the right culture fit for you and your learning style.
  4. Explore introductory and preparatory classes. Get a feel for the study environment by participating in an intro class.
  5. Clarify time commitments or requirements. Some programs require students to meet a weekly checkpoint goal with assignments, or regularly speak with a mentor. Be sure you understand all requirements before signing-off.
  6. Compare and contrast highly-ranked programs. When making this important decision, it is necessary to understand what will and will not be covered. Make sure you will be learning exactly what you want, and evaluate what each course offers and lacks to ensure you pick the most comprehensive option.
  7. If your bootcamp will take placein-person, visit the campus. In-person bootcamps can require spending upwards of 60 hours per week studying , so you should be sure you like the environment! Most programs offer information sessions where you have a chance to meet students and faculty.
  8. Consider the program's teaching style. Is it mentor driven? Project-based? The methods used to teach the program should be a good fit for how you learn, and ensure that you master new concepts as efficiently as possible.

Preparing for a Bootcamp

Once you've committed to a program, there are steps you can take to ensure that you're well-prepared to begin. One helpful offering that many schools advertize are prep and intro courses. Introductory classes can help students get their bearings and master fundamental skills prior to jumping into a bootcamp.

  1. Explore some coding basics in online MOOCs or free courses such as Coursera, Udemy, or Udacity.
  2. Take any introductory or preparatory courses your bootcamp may offer.
  3. Read through the curriculum.
  4. Connect with your mentor or other members of your class.
  5. Join your school's Slack channel or other online communities.
  6. Attend meetups or hackathons in your area. Even if you do not feel like you can participate, understanding what a coding meetup looks like will help you to feel ready and also jumpstart your networking process.
  7. Take a deep breath. You have made an exciting decision to grow your career, and change your life. Celebrate taking the first step, and get ready for a rewarding next chapter!

While personal criteria like your field of interest, budget, and online vs. in-person preference can often be enough to help you select a suitable coding bootcamp, there are many other important factors to consider when making your selection. By evaluating the teaching style and focus of each program, reading student reviews, and speaking with students and staff, you'll gain a valuable window into what the program will actually be like. You can also determine if each bootcamp will help you meet your desired outcome by reviewing rankings and outcome reports for each school.

To ensure the program fits well with your life outside of school, make sure you understand the time commitment. And if your desired program will take place in-person, don't forget to consider the campus environment! Make sure you'll be comfortable spending a considerable amount of time there. Then, before jumping into your bootcamp, explore online prep and intro courses, connect with classmates, join online communities, and try to begin your networking process. Being well prepared for your bootcamp and making an informed selection will allow you to make the most of it, and ultimately reach your goals.

For more information about coding bootcamps, view the following related articles:

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