5 Tips to Prepare You for a Coding Bootcamp

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The following post was contributed by by Joseph Rauch, writer for SkilledUp

If you’re considering enrolling in a coding bootcamp, there are some things you should do to prepare first. SkilledUp spoke with coding bootcamp staff, employers who hired bootcamp grads, and entrepreneurs who created bootcamps. Keep reading if you want to get the most out of their wisdom in the form of actionable tips.

Due Diligence and Asking the Right Questions

“The first question to ask yourself when choosing a coding bootcamp is: ‘What do you want to learn?’” said Mattan Griffel, founder and CEO of One Month, an online mentorship-based program for teaching tech skills.

Although learning is the most important part of any bootcamp, Griffel also cited other important factors to consider, such as price, how much it will help you get a job, and whether you want an online or in-person platform.

“I’d recommend checking out some online coding resources so you can get a feel for the language,” Griffel said.

This means using free online tutorials and maybe some relatively inexpensive paid courses to see whether you’re truly interested in what the bootcamp offers, and ready to make the commitment.

Here are a few more important questions to ask yourself:

  • Can I afford it? Coding bootcamps have price ranges from $200 a month to $10,000 over the course of several months.
  • Will I need to have basic coding skills first? Some bootcamps like Thinkful are designed for people with absolutely no coding experience, while others such as Apprentice require intermediate coding and design skills from the start.
  • Does the application involve an online or in-person coding test? Some bootcamp recruiters will test you by having you write lines of code online or sometimes write them in-person on a whiteboard. If you’re not ready to do this, you should either do some training on your own or start with a beginner-level bootcamp that does not require any coding experience.
  • How much time can I commit? Most bootcamps run for approximately three months. The difference will be how much time you spend per week. Some require only 20 hours, while others demand a more grueling 70 hours or more.
  • Can I get a scholarship? This depends on the bootcamp. Multiple bootcamps offer lenient payment plans, financial aid for veterans and women, discounts and refunds depending on job placement, and financial aid via partner organizations.
  • Am I willing to move? If your dream program isn’t nearby, you will have to move to where the bootcamp is. This is a massive added expense and commitment, especially if you decide to stay in the new location once the three months have passed.

Look at the complete guide to coding bootcamps for more answers to these questions

Develop Your Personal Brand and Online Presence

Lead mentor Chris Beck from Bloc.io, a popular online coding bootcamp, told SkilledUp he likes applicants who take the time to build a strong digital presence as well as a paper resumé.

If you already have coding skills already and projects in development, show them off on GitHub. Craft a great LinkedIn page and make a personal website — perhaps using your own coding skills — so you can be more searchable and appear professional.

Do as many of these things as you can before entering the bootcamp. If you don’t have the skills, well, that’s what beginner-level online courses, tutorials and bootcamps are for.

Show Your Thought Process on Applications and in Interviews

“By listening to the candidate describe how they built it and the challenges involved, we get a better sense of their thought process and how they might tackle future projects.” said Michael Nutt, co-founder and chief technical officer of Movable Ink, which has hired bootcamp grads from Fullstack Academy.

Doing this is actually more important than getting all the answers right. If bootcamp recruiters loved your thought process during an interview or coding test, they might still accept you even if you missed a few characters in your code.

Essays/Short Answers Are Important

“A strong applicant gives answers about why they are applying,” Mimi Bouhelal, RocketU’s program manager, told SkilledUp. “They use good grammar and writing, and show they can express themselves and be team players.”

The best way to do this is to write an essay or short answer — depending on what the prompt asks for — where you can show your passion for coding.

“Passion makes a huge difference,” said Bouhelal. “We can see the effort reflected in the essays.”

Bouhelal said it’s disappointing when applicants don’t even bother to fill out the essay or short answer prompts. Expressing your passion with an essay will strengthen your application because, at the very least, it shows recruiters you are willing to do as much as you can to get accepted.

Essays and short answers are also an opportunity to tell your story, which many bootcamp staff will value.

“I remember thinking: I really want to meet this person ASAP, because the story in their application is great,” said Bouhelal.

Bouhelal’s attitude is common among bootcamp administrators: Never underestimate the value of good communication skills just because most of your actual work will consist of coding.

Employers Value Great Projects

Many bootcamps will have you demonstrate your skills by producing a final project, typically something useable like a website or app. Some bootcamps have all students make the same project, while others allow more individual creativity.

“The final project is a really big tell on how good a candidate might be,” said Jeff Ling, senior software engineer at Bench, an online bookkeeping service that has hired bootcamp grads.

If you enter a bootcamp that allows you to make a unique project, brainstorm multiple ideas for projects before you even begin your bootcamp training. Once the time comes to make a project, see if you have the skills to bring one of your ideas to life. If you do, you’ll have saved time and can get started while other students are still fiddling with ideas.

Use these tips and get into the bootcamp of your dreams —  and crush it while you’re there. The rest is up to you!

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