At Launch, we’ve seen a tremendous rise in the number of bootcamp prep courses. Last year there were close to zero and this year there are at least ten and counting.
Traditional higher ed-prep programs have been around for ages. But given their relatively new existence for bootcamps, how should prospective students assess the available options? Since we have not yet launched a prep program, we thought this was the perfect time to offer an unbiased perspective.
Prep programs benefit students by providing a taste of an in-classroom coding experience prior to having to commit thousands of dollars and a career change to a full time bootcamp. Bootcamps benefit from prep programs as students arrive with increased coding knowledge and are better prepared for the immersive experience.
Just as hiring managers should vet the quality of a bootcamp’s commitment to educating students, Launch Academy has been actively working to figure out internal standards for how we should evaluate prep courses that some of our hopeful students might attend. So far, we’ve settled on a few factors that seem to result in well qualified students. Since we value transparency in our culture, we thought we’d share how we evaluate these programs ourselves.
Launch assesses the language(s) taught by the prep program and the modalities of the education. Namely, does the prep program produce students who have completed coding projects, or do they just lecture at students for a few hours a night and then recommend some home work in isolation? Bootcamps are an in-depth, hands on experience. If a prep program does not teach students to code, it's missing the mark on preparing students for successful entry to a top tier bootcamp.
Online programs abound these days. Most are jammed with pre-recorded video that lacks human interaction other than perhaps a Slack chatroom. These are great for self-starters, but truly learning to code requires real time communication with developers, project evaluation and mentoring to overcome learning blockers. A few online prep programs are superb, but many more lack the human interaction needed to make for a great prep course.
Many prep programs exist to be, what is called in marketing, “a lead generator.” They are built to sell students to their bootcamps. The point of a bootcamp prep program is to prepare you for a bootcamp, so there will always be some element to that. However, many exist solely for that purpose, instead of providing true education and true preparation. We consider the motives behind the scenes to judge the program. Prep programs should invest in preparing students rather than selling them.
There are a lot of great prep programs out there. Launch Academy recently partnered with one in the Boston area. We highly recommend investigating them if you aren’t quite ready for the full bootcamp experience. But, as with every prep program, it's important to remember that the promise of helping you get into any bootcamp you want is not a guarantee, and you should always vet the materials and educators you learn from - especially at this early stage in your learn to code journey.
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