by Stephen Mayeux

How to Choose the Right Coding Bootcamp

Choosing the right coding bootcamp involves many forks in the road.

A Short Guide to Applying, Interviewing, and Deciding

I’ve been learning how to code for nearly 10 months, and until very recently, this has been a mostly self-driven endeavor. I started off with the same free resources that most newbies use. I supplemented my learning with paid content at egghead.io, Code School, and a few courses hosted on Udemy.

Going down the self-taught path is a great option for most people, especially those who are already employed and don’t have a lot of pressure to switch careers and find a development job.

I don’t have the luxury of time anymore, and I have decided to enroll in the Viking Code School to help me get job-ready in a very short amount of time.

I applied to 5 coding bootcamps last month, and I would like to share my opinions about each program and how I ultimately decided to go with the Viking Code School.

Hack Reactor Remote Beta & MakerSquare Austin, TX

Considered the “Harvard of coding bootcamps”, Hack Reactor and its sister school MakerSquare are top-notch. If you can afford the high price tag of $17,780 USD, then you will have a very rewarding and challenging educational experience. Here’s the break down:

  1. Application — The application process is super easy and only takes about 2 minutes. After filling out some basic information about yourself, you schedule a technical interview and that’s it! You only need a single application even if you want to apply to several of Hack Reactor affiliate schools.
  2. Interview — You will chat with a recent graduate of the program who will ask you to complete several challenges. I won’t go into detail here, but you should definitely be comfortable using JavaScript and very familiar with iterating through objects and arrays and using callback functions. The interview for Hack Reactor and MakerSquare were identical, so I recommend applying to several schools and having multiple interviews.
  3. My Decision—The tuition was a very big turn off for me. And even though I have awesome credit, I didn’t want to take out another loan and add to my already staggering student load debt balance. I wish I could afford the tuition and living expenses, but if it’s not a problem for you, then go for it! The program is all about JavaScript, which is the hottest language right now.

Coding House in Fremont, California

This is a live-in coding bootcamp, meaning you learn, eat, and sleep in the same place for three months. Like MakerSquare and Hack Reactor, Coding House focuses on JavaScript and the MEAN stack. The tuition is deferred, and you don’t pay until you have found a job.

Well, it’s not exactly “don’t pay” up front. You still need to pay a $2,000 deposit in addition to $4,000 for room and board. So that’s six big-ones up front. But hey, you don’t have to worry about rent, cooking, or cleaning. Awesome!

And what exactly is tuition deferred? It DOESN’T mean you pay no tuition. If you find a full time job within 6 months of completing the program, then you pay a placement fee equal to 18% of your first year’s salary. The $2,000 deposit goes towards this placement fee, but you have to pay the placement fee over the first 6 months of employment. Assuming you find a job with a salary of $90,000, you will only take home about $3,300 a month after taxes and paying Coding House’s placement fee. This very small paycheck would only last for 6 months, but damn, that’s what I make as an English teacher! And one final note: You must be authorized to work in the United States to qualify for tuition deferment. If not, you have to pay the full price of $14,000. Sorry Canadian friends :-(
  1. The Application — The application was relatively easy. In addition to completing basic information about yourself, you have to complete 10 of their prep work exercises before you can move on to the first interview.
  2. The Interview — There are actually two interviews. The first one will be with Nick, the founder of Coding House, and this is just an informal conversation to see if you would make a good fit in the program. (Probably to make sure you’re not too weird. Nobody wants to share a bunk bed with a creep!). The second interview is a “technical” interview, but there were no coding or algorithm challenges. You simply chat with one of the instructors and answer a few simple questions about JavaScript and programming in general.
  3. My Decision — The room/board and tuition deferment were big selling points for me, but I got the impression from the prep work and interviews that this program is geared towards beginners with little experience in programing or web development. I’m not saying that I couldn’t learn anything new with Coding House, but I don’t think I would hit the ground running with these guys and get challenged enough by their curriculum. If you are a true beginner, then Coding House might be the program for you.

App Academy in San Francisco

This is another very reputable bootcamp located in San Francisco. Of all the schools you can apply to, App Academy is the most competitive. The acceptance rate hovers around 5%, which means you have better odds getting into an Ivy League school!

This program also offers deferred tuition (see my note above about what that means), but only if you are authorized to work in the United States. App Academy focuses on using Ruby on Rails for the back end, but you still get a healthy dose of JavaScript for the front end.

  1. The Application — Unlike the others, your application will take about an hour to complete. In addition to answering the usual biographic questions, you will also have to solve three or four algorithmic challenges within an hour. The challenges were quite easy, and I was able to complete them in about 20 minutes.
  2. The Interview — This was the most difficult interview I had, and it was very clear why they have such a low acceptance rate. You will do three algorithmic challenges in the interview, and you have exactly 15 minutes to do each one. And they are really difficult challenges too! I was able to complete the first two without any problems, but the last one really did my head in. Make sure you get a lot of practice at Code Wars and Hacker Rank before attempting this interview.
  3. My Decision — I was only offered conditional acceptance into the program, and my application would have been reconsidered if I participated in $2,000 prep course (which would cover my deposit if I were accepted into the program later on). But even if I had been accepted into the program, I would have to pay for living expenses for the most expensive city in America and probably wipe out my savings in the process.

Viking Code School

And finally the school of my dreams!

VCS is the first online coding bootcamp, and its founder, Erik Trautman, is a graduate of the App Academy. This program also focuses on Ruby on Rails and goes deep into the CS fundamentals and the job seeking process. This is another “don’t pay until you get a job” program, but there is also the option to join the Flex program, which has weekly start dates and a monthly pricing system.

It takes most participants 6 to 10 months to complete the Flex program on a part-time basis, and once you have completed the program, you are not obligated to pay the job placement fee.

  1. The Application — It is very similar to App Academy’s application. Answer a few simple questions about yourself and complete a few coding challenges against the clock.
  2. The Interview — Also very challenging coding exercises during the interview. I would say Viking Code School’s interview is as tough as App Academy’s, so you definitely want to brush up on the fundamentals and get really fast at solving problems. Erik really emphasizes the importance of communicating clearly during the interview, so get in the habit of talking out loud while coding.
  3. My Decision — After five bootcamp applications and interviews, I ultimately went the Viking Code School Flex Program. First, they have an insanely positive web presence and reputation, and I could not find any dirt or horror stories about Erik or Viking Code School. The previous participants have found jobs as full time web developers, and it’s hard to argue with success. Second, I like the rolling start dates of the Flex program and how I can complete the course on a part-time basis. I have five months remaining in Korea, and I will be nearly done with the course by the time I go back home. And finally, the tuition for the Flex program is affordable, and I won’t have to take out any loans. There are currently three tiers of support, each with different prices, and it is possible to switch back and forth from tier to tier. For example, the beginning of the program focuses on HTML, Bootstrap, and the basics of the Ruby programming language. Because I feel comfortable with all those technologies now, I decided to go with the lowest tier of support (and save money), but I will switch to a higher tier when I get into the more difficult challenges and projects.

Your Questions

Do you have any questions about these schools or coding bootcamps in general? Please write them below, and I will respond to each one individually. I hope this guide was successful and I wish the best of luck in your coding endeavors!