I decided to write a review because I do not want anybody else to be fooled by the marketing and social media and billboard branding. Especially if you are younger and have the option of doing college and getting a wholesome education.
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Firstly, there are no teachers and mentors. It's you and your cohort and some TA's who were previously former students. In this regard, it felt more like a bootcamp to me than a school. You can spin it in a positive way and say that's a good thing because you need to be able to teach yourself anyways when you're out in the workforce as engineering is a lifelong journey. There was a catchphrase that the founders passed on to the community which was "Learn how to learn." I do not agree completely with this. Even in engineering, you do need a teacher, especially if you're starting out. You do need to be able to think things through and code on your own, but you also do need experienced professionals who can teach you and help you improve. You will not get this from a cohort of peers, the quality is different. I personally found myself learning more on the job with engineers at all skill levels who were able to help me grow.
Some parts of the first year curriculum itself were actually pretty good. Like what the other reviews said, for the first year, you go through the basics in a curriculum covering C Programming, Python and Flask development, web fundamentals, and DevOps. I would not call the curriculum project-based though, there were only four real projects: making your own printf function, making a simple shell, making a very bare-bones AirBnB web app clone, and a final project of your choice. These project were great and got you to work with partners and emphasized teamwork. However, the rest of the curriculum were simple questions asking you to write a single function or make a rectangle with features from object-oriented programming. While these types of questions are also important and necessary, I would never consider it project-based. The DevOps portion itself was a complete joke and barely scratched the surface. I found I could just follow docs and simple Nginx, Apache, and YouTube tutorials to finish the DevOps assignments. Holberton's own learning concepts were unoriginal and scarce and they will tell you to google for the learning concepts. You will find yourself questioning many times why you even need Holberton since you can just google, youtube, and read docs on your own without them telling you to. The curriculum material also isn't proprietary and you could easily find a lot of the same type of content in Udemy and Udacity courses.
I have no comment on Holberton's second year as I have never done it and never will. To sum it up, you will learn and get better, but it's because of you and the time and effort you put into your passions, learning, and building and not because of the school.
The Student Experience:
One of the things that I strongly agree with the positive reviews: you get to meet a lot of cool, smart, and ambitious people in your cohort and Holberton did a good job with community network building. It's what got a lot of people to stay with the school.
There was also a lot of blatant favoritism at the school when I was there. You were able to see that if you were a woman, LGBT, or French, you would be receiving a lot more visibility and help from the staff and the founders. I have no problems with giving out help to underrepresented groups. It's very true, the software industry is very unfair and unbalanced and I do believe there needs to be more representation and collaboration from more groups and people from all different backgrounds and walks of life. But during my time at Holberton, I personally felt shunned and ignored and I know some of my former peers felt the same way. I have heard that the school has listened to this and masked the favoritism more now.
To put it simply, the school is very expensive and not worth the cost. The ISA is very expensive and you will be paying the bill for three and a half years to a third party company. I personally felt I didn't get the value I needed out of the school. I can honestly say to myself that I could have gotten my current job without the school. Remember, in SWE it's ultimately about your ability and presentation.
All in all, the school is trying to improve. Alongside the marketing and community building, there are apparently more TA's than before and they're listening a lot more to student feedback. I still would not recommend the school to anybody given the costs and alternatives. Please look at all your options for education. Teach yourself introductory programming and web technologies and see if you enjoy it before going anywhere. Even App Academy has a completely free and very extensive online curriculum now that you could try out. Try building things on your own, especially things that you enjoy, this industry rewards those qualities heavily. As mentioned before, it will ultimately be your ability. If you need more, please look for a cheaper bootcamp. If you need a strong education, please look into a two-year or four-year college (onsite or online), get FAFSA, and have a traditional schooling experience. Explore your options.