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Posted: June 24, 2020 / Last updated: September 23, 2023

when you don’t know enough about the subject to be critical  (yet)

No matter what school or course of action you choose, we want to make sure you have the information needed to vet and compare your options.

The Goals

  1. Find a bootcamp

    Because we need money and we heard this was a good way to do that.

  2. For the least ‘cost’ possible

    Because we didn’t save any money for this situation and getting a ‘deal’ is the American way.

  3. Get a job

    So we have money.

  4. As fast as possible

    See the three above.

This is what we hear from most people. And we’re not saying it isn’t a valid goal. But we think it’ll benefit you to look at it from another angle. To get a job as a web developer, you need to be confident building things. That’s the first step.

The Goals

  1. Learn how to design and develop web sites and web applications

    So that you’ll be a hireable developer.

If you can build great websites, you’ll be hirable.

And there are many different ways to do that. If the options were all the same then maybe you could choose based on price. But they aren’t the same. They are all very very different. And you are unique, too! What’s your availability? What’s your learning style? Do you like reading? Watching videos? Being on-site? What types of things do you want to build? Do you work better in groups or one-on-one? There’s going to be a winning combination of factors that can lead to the highest chance of your success.

To figure out which schools can give you those things, you’re going to have to do some research and uncover the right questions to ask. And this is really hard if you don’t know the subject already. So, here’s a starter list.

The school must absolutely:

Remember, we’re talking about schools that promise they’ll teach you web development, right?

  1. Know how to build websites

  2. Have teachers with real-world experience

  3. Have a clear curriculum (vision)

  4. Teach design thinking

  5. Share example lessons

  6. Be able to prove the value to the student

  7. Help you zero in on a role that’s right for you

  8. Stand behind a promise

  9. Have an effective technique

  10. Work to help you get hired

  11. Be able to explain how their curriculum was built

@sheriffderek thinks through the entire process - in real-time

It’s long… but it’s basically – “The design process” – so, if you’re at all interested in web development and design – then this should be really interesting to you.

In progress

We’re making an in-depth video for each of these points – so, for now – watch this original video – of @sheriffderek thinking the whole thing through in real-time – and don’t take the text down below too seriously yet. We work in the open. 😃

The school must absolutely:

In detail! This stuff is serious. These schools haven’t been around long enough to really base your decision on the legacy of their name.

  1. The school should know how to build websites

    How can you tell?

    You can look at the website. Try and look at it with some critical thinking – but also go with your gut.

    1. You can look at their site.
      1. Is it wonderful? Or just ok?
      2. Is it clunky or smooth?
      3. Can you find the information quickly?
      4. Does it feel impressive?
    2. You can look at their code
      1. Right-click and see the HTML if you know a little about that
      2. Run a lighthouse metric test on their site to see their score
  2. The school should have teachers with real-world experience

    • What are their names? What history do they have?
    • Why are they teaching here?
    • Can you talk to them first?
    • Where is their stack-overflow, LinkedIn, Github, personal website etc?
  3. Have a clear curriculum (vision)

    What makes them unique? What will you take away?

  4. Teach design thinking

    Just knowing ‘how to code’ isn’t enough. How do you learn how to learn – and figure out ‘what’ and ‘why.’

  5. Share example lessons

    Will they share example lessons from a few different parts of the course so that you can experience the teaching style?

  6. Be able to prove the value to the student

    Reviews are one thing… (and mostly bullshit for a variety of reasons – even when they ARE real) – but are the students successful?

    Can you see their portfolios? Writing? Projects?

    WRITING is very very important. If you can explain what you know – and you have a lot of public writing and thoughts on these subjects, you will be the first choice in a stack of applicants. They should be encouraging you to write from day one.

  7. Help you zero in on a role that’s right for you

    Not everyone is going to be a ‘full-stack’ developer

    Are they honest about that? Are they helping you to figure out where you fit – and helping you dial in your unique value?

  8. Stand behind a promise

    What do you get? What is their goal?

  9. Have an effective technique

    Why is “their way” such a good way?

    Do they use video? A custom code sandbox? Are there written lessons? Are the tests automated? Do you need to know git before you learn what the heck you’re doing? Do you have group critique? Do they have challenges and study projects? What makes them unique? – and why is that effective? Is it effective for you?

  10. Work to help you get hired

    “hiring connections” often just means they line you up and take a cut of your salary (behind the scenes) – and you might end up at some mediocre company…
    So, instead of just ‘connecting you’ – do they work with you to build your portfolio and find the best job for you?

  11. Be able to explain how their curriculum was built

    • Who built it?
    • What books and resources did they draw from?
    • Why did they build it that way?
    • How are they improving it?

Red Flags

On one hand, sure – it’s a business. Of course they believe in their school and they want to go there, but watch out for these things.

  1. They hound you / and write 10 emails a week

    If some email marketer is trying to talk you into it – then they are probably not the right company for you. Just think about how much money they are pouring into teams to manage the CRM and to try and “sell you” on the school. If they’re spending that much money on marketing… then how are they paying for the actual educational parts?

  2. They just got bought by another company

    Many times a company works hard – and gets a good name for themselves, only to be sold to a much bigger company. Hack Reactor is really Galvanise now. Thinkful is really Chegg (that company known for extorting college kids with crazy textbook prices).

    Things are moving fast. Can’t force kids to buy expensive textbooks? Buy a boot camp for 80 million dollars.

    And just before thatThinkful bought Viking Code School and Bloc. Who even knows what is what anymore.

  3. They have "jQuery" or "Bootstrap" on their syllabus.

    jQuery is rad. You should totally learn about what it is, and how it works. If you learn JavaScript first – then it’ll take an hour to learn what jQuery is.  You might even make your own version of it as a learning exercise. But it’s 2021+. If you know what jQuery is – then you also know that you don’t need it anymore. (Only Turing School gets off the hook on this one.)

    BUT no one – gets off the hook for teaching Bootstrap for HTML and CSS. There’s no excuse. If they to that, then cross them off the list – right away.

  4. There's a rush / or a "limited time" offer

    If you get “accepted” – but then there’s a small window of time where you have to commit otherwise be ‘unaccepted’ – then there’s some sneaky stuff going on. This isn’t a time-share sales pitch. This is your life.

    Sometimes there are reasonable things. For example, we offer certain scholarships to certain people, in certain sessions because there’s a set-aside amount of scholarship money per session, and if you don’t jump in – then we’ll reallocate those funds… but we would never make you feel like you were going to lose your opportunity to attend our school at a later time.

  5. They care more about their shareholders than their students

    This is hard to measure, but the more money involved – the less they care about you. Why does Lambda need 48 million dollars? Their shareholders are going to want to know what the hell is going on over there. Why Did Chegg buy Thinkful for 80 million dollars? Was it to help you learn JavaScript? (probably not)

  6. They co-opt a famous college name

    Watch out for the “UCLA coding boot camp” – (they are in every city with every college name) and they are often a white-labeled school like Trilogy Education Services (not so hot).

    Most of the time / the real goal here is to get you trained up enough – to be excited but useless – and then to get you to go to the college after the boot camp.

    If you really want to go to “Florida State coding boot camp” or something – ask them if they actually wrote the curriculum – or if they are just using the College name for trust. Many schools just license their curriculum from other schools. It’s a whole weird web. Sometimes that’s fine. If the curriculum is great – and the teachers are good, then great!

  7. Other thoughts for later

    Just keeping some things we think of here / until we formally add them:

    Another thing you can do – is check Glassdoor – to see if the employees like working there:

    Pretty much any school that got bought be a bigger corporation – is full of reviews about how they used to be great / and now they are just a shell.

    Do you have some red flags?

    Tell us about them!

In Conclusion

When you pick a school, boot camp, class, mentor, book, video – (or whatever it ends up being) – keep these questions in mind. Ask a friend or even a stranger on Discord or to help you vet a program that is right for you.

Also – a “good” school is good! You don’t have to try and find “the best” school. Aim for a great learning path – and hope to land at a “good” one – and you’ll be good. Don’t overthink it so much that it stops you from getting down to business!

What do you think? Does that stuff all make sense?

Do you feel confident vetting your school? If not, ask a friend to help you. And if you want more help – then you can always set up a time with us. We don’t care what school you pick. We just want you to find a good match and get a good education. For reals.

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