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Posted: June 24, 2020 / Last updated: March 2, 2024

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. You’ll also learn a lot more about how the whole field works and probably find a special area you like most on the way (which will help you stand out and be more hireable). This is going to take at least 1000 hours (assuming the best materials and support possible)

  2. Get paid handsomely

    Because when you can help companies build things – it will help them grow their business and make lots of money and they’ll be happy to give you a little bit of it. This might be freelance, contracting, salary, or starting your own business (who knows!) (but first you need to know how it all works and be able to provide value).

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

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 helps you learn best? 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. Not just a little overview, but some real detective work. 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 (not just hack things together)

  2. Have teachers with real-world experience (building real websites and web applications)

  3. Have a clear curriculum (vision)

  4. Teach how to plan and design web applications (not just write the code)

  5. Share example lessons and show you how their school works internally

  6. Be able to prove the value to the student

  7. Help you zero in on a specific role that’s right for you to help you stand out

  8. Stand behind a promise

  9. Have an effective technique and clear goals

  10. Help you build an effective portfolio that conveys your experience

  11. Be able to explain how their curriculum was built and how it’s unique

@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 – but you can use the below as a starter checklist.

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 clearly explain how everything works?
      5. Does it feel impressive?
      6. Does it work on your phone?
    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
      3. Ask a developer friend to look at the code with you
  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?
    • What projects have they built?
    • What are their specialties?
    • What makes them a good teacher?
  3. Have a clear curriculum (vision)

    • What is their goal? Why did they start a school?
    • What unique take do they have on education?
    • Can you see a syllabus?
    • What are their long term goals?
    • How will they
    • What makes them unique?
    • How do you fit into their story?
  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?’ How do they incorporate the bigger picture design process? Are you going to build confidence in the bigger picture?

  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? Will they open up their software and show you what’s behind the scenes in daily student life?

  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 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 with none. What are they teaching you besides coding? What makes it a better choice than self-driven online learning? What makes it different than college?

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

    Not everyone is going to be a ‘full-stack’ developer. Let’s just be honest. Most people are average. Some are going to be extra great with the code and for some, it’s just not going to work out. But that doesn’t mean it will have been for nothing. There are roles for people of all skill level and mindset. Some people might end up being great project managers or might specialize in the front-end or back-end or in specific areas like animation or data.

    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 they start with Node? 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. Help you build an effective portfolio that conveys your experience

    In this market, we need to be honest about the timeline. Just getting through the boot camp isn’t the goal (remember). It’s to learn how to build web applications and find your place on a team. So, how are they ensuring you’re going to build lots and lots and lots of things (and really get real experience) – during the course? What are they going to do to pack in as much learning as they can – and leave you with as much confidence and proof as possible? Can they explain that all to you in detail?

  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. Many schools also rent the curriculum from other schools.

  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 2024.

    Teaching Bootstrap for HTML and CSS is a shortcut for the sake of the school / not for you. There’s no excuse. If they include that, then cross them off the list – right away. If you learn HTML and CSS properly then you can pick up frameworks like that as needed on the job. Learn how to ride the bike without training wheels.

  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 / 2u / edX (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. They have silly awards

    “Best coding boot camp 2024” – sure you are. Best online boot camp, best full-stack boot camp, best data boot camp, best ISA boot camp…

    If all the reviews are 4.8-5 stars, and every school has some flavor of award from CareerKarma – then maybe you should question that.

  8. They've recently decided that they aren't a 'boot camp' anymore 

    Some schools were trying to compete on ratings and fake awards. But when they couldn’t do that, they start changing the story so they don’t need to be accountable to those metrics anymore. They might invent their own way to measure things and move their stats to “customer satisfaction.” We don’t care about the stats or the term ‘boot camp’ – but this is something to look out for.

  9. They're "Free"

    There are some great free resources out there. But if you’re looking for a serious education – it’s not going to be free. It takes a lot of time to work with students, talk to them, plan with them, pair up and code with them, review their code, improve lesson plans, come up with fun projects, read books, and plan ahead and learn new tools and stay up to date. If it’s free it’s not going to have those things. Making a commitment to study programming for a year isn’t something to be taken lightly. Don’t put your faith in something that might evaporate. Even many expensive schools are shutting down mid way through cohorts with no notice. And your time is priceless.

  10. 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: https://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Lambda-Reviews-E1967834.htm

    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! info@perpetual.education

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 Dev.to 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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