• Brooke Bachman

My In depth Evaluation of In Person Coding Bootcamps in San Francisco

Updated: May 23

On June 28, 2019 I tried coding for the first time. My awesome boyfriend suggested I try coding at free code camp.


I found that I really enjoyed coding, I found sweet satisfaction in solving problems and creating simple pages in HTML and CSS.


I continued to learn HTML and CSS, and even purchased a class on Udemy that was a full stack program.


I made it through CSS in the Udemy course when my boyfriend mentioned Lambda school. A coding school with an Income Share Agreement.


An ISA, "is a financial structure in which an individual or organization provides something of value to a recipient who, in exchange, agrees to pay back a percentage of their income for a fixed number of years."


Basically you take a coding class, and you do not pay for it until you get a salary job. Once you have a salary job, the coding school takes anywhere from 17-23% of your salary to pay for the coding bootcamp you attended.


These are great for two reasons:

People who do not have $15,000-20,000.00 available to pay for a coding bootcamp, can still attend a bootcamp


This incentivizes bootcamps to support their students in finding jobs



The key to finding the right bootcamp for you depends on 3 things:

How you learn,


What is important to you during the course


What is important to you after the course


After comparing 8 different coding schools I discovered what sets coding schools apart, and used that to narrow down my school choices.


I learn best when I have individual help, when I have an in person teacher, a community behind me and friendly colleagues.


I quickly ruled out Lambda school because their full-time program is 9 months long. If I lived at home, and had my parents to support me for 9 months, I might consider this option because you probably become an expert in 9 months.


Once I discovered Lambda school, I found other coding bootcamps with ISA. The next school I stumbled upon was App Academy. I quickly finished the first step of their application. Their program is 14 weeks, but prior to those 14 weeks you have 3 weeks of prep. I spent 40-50 hours learning Ruby and preparing for just their application process.

Their process is very in depth. They offer a "Jumpstart" free part time program that lasts 2 weeks. I personally did not find it very helpful as they focus mostly on paired programming and the 1 hour of instruction each day goes too fast, for you to even ask your questions.

First you need to learn Ruby programming 1, which took me about 20-25 hours to learn as I had no coding experience. After you finish Ruby Programming 1 you take a coding challenge. You get 3 chances to pass it.


For Ruby Programming 2, you start to do advanced algorithms in Ruby. This section took me 25+ hours. I even hired a tutor to help me prepare. I was so stressed out and unhappy. Once you feel confident in Ruby programming 2, you schedule a Technical Interview.

Over a Zoom call you solve 3 problems. There are 2 problems you solve by yourself, and you have 15 minutes for each. The last problem is paired programming where you take turns solving the problem, and typing the solution, you are given 15 minutes for this too.

The last step is a non-technical interview-I never made it to this step.

Once you are accepted into App Academy, you have 6 exams. The exams happen about every week. You are able to fail one test and get a retest. If you fail the retest you are moved back a cohort, and it you fail again you are kicked out of the program, and depending on when this happens you owe a prorated rate of your ISA. They also have very large class sizes 40-60 students so the student to teacher ratio is fairly high.


The exams and the fear of being kicked out made me re-evaluate if App Academy was the correct school for me. I also know myself as someone who needs a lot of help so I wanted more 1 on 1 support.


After 1.5 months of studying, attending Jumpstart, hiring a tutor, studying with my boyfriend for countless hours everyday, researching instructions and solutions, I decided App Academy was not the right school for me. I could potentially get into this school, fail a test, and this entire process was for naught.


*Also the course would be Oct 16- Feb 7, the only vacation days are a week for Christmas, nothing else and I had to ask this they didn’t outright tell me*


Once I started to question if App Academy was the right bootcamp for me, I get an email from HackReactor, another coding bootcamp, that they just released an ISA option for their bootcamp.


I realized in that moment I had been limiting myself to only App Academy. I googled "ISA bootcamps San Francisco" and found a bunch of programs.


I looked into General Assembly, Hack Reactor, and FlatIron.

At this point I had discovered I wanted a school where it was less competitive and more about learning. If I am terrified of being kicked out of a program if I am unable to learn on schedule.


I also wanted a little bit of balance, as in some time off for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.


I looked into Reddit for someone who compared App Academy to Hack Reactor. One of the biggest differences is that Hack Reactor focusses on JavaScript for their application and App Academy focusses on Ruby.


FlatIron school is comparable to Hack Reactor because they focus on JavaScript for their application process.


The initial reason I chose FlatIron was their starting date. Their school starts later than the others, giving me time to learn JavaScript, after I have already spent 50 hours learning Ruby.


What really has stood out to me in talking to FlatIron is they give me 2 days off for Thanksgiving, a week at Christmas, and New Years day off. They also mention something that no other bootcamp I had spoken to mentioned- Feelings Fridays.

Every 2 weeks Flat Iron classes have a Feelings Friday, where everyone talks about how they are doing, what they are going through. Which is important because you are spending so much of your life studying this new skill, you need to connect with other people.


Flat Iron said they have potlucks and happy hours. They have really small classes, so your instructors notice if you stop paying attention, or if you are hiding in the back of the room.


They also have exams, but if you do not pass one, an instructor will sit with you, and make sure you understand the concepts and you get a retest, if you fail the retest you do a solo project, if you fail the solo project then you move back a cohort. You are allowed to move back a cohort once, if you are still struggling they recommend you do the online course.


I have passed the technical interview at FlatIron. They have an acceptance rate of 6%. Their application process was as follows, phone interview, online application where you upload your resume and answer a few behavioral questions. Their class sizes in SF are less than 10.


After your phone interview, you can begin their prepwork, it starts with HTML then goes to CSS, then to Javascript and finally Ruby. They offer free tutors to assist you with their prep work if you get stuck. They are online 8am-10pm and there is no limit for how much help you can get. All you have to do is click "Ask A Question" and a tutor will jump on a chat, you send them your code and error, if they can't help you with the chat they jump on a zoom call with you. I used this alot and found this extremely helpful. The prep-work takes 70 hours if you just do what they assign you. If you do all of it like I did expect another 70 hours.


To pass the technical interview you have to have gotten through 65% of their prep work. You work on a test problem and you present your work in the technical interview and walk them through your solution. You're able to run your code before the interview. They will have you solve a problem live on the zoom meeting. If you pass you are allowed to start on the pre-course work which is another 75-100 hours of work.


I am going to complete the 45% left over from the prep work before I start on the pre-course work. So in total to prepare for this bootcamp I will have spent 250-300 hours learning HTML, CSS, JAVASCRIPT and RUBY.


My course begins December 9 and I am so excited! I will keep you all posted.

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