If you’ve been accepted to bootcamp, you’re probably wondering how to get ready for such an intensive program, beyond working on your coding skills. At Fullstack Academy or The Grace Hopper Program, the instructors and fellows help you navigate the intensity of bootcamp when you’re there. But what about the non-technical side of actually attending a bootcamp – the stress, the cost, and the emotional toll? Here are three things (other than coding) you can do to be fully prepared for coding bootcamp!
As Program Leads at Fullstack Academy and the Grace Hopper Program, our jobs are to ensure that all students are successful on a technical, professional level, and personal level. That can mean helping students navigate tricky social situations, inviting speakers to share their insights, lending a supportive ear when students need it most, and holding open office hours so anyone can drop in for an informal chat or to get advice. We coordinate with program instructors, Career Success staff, and other Fullstack and Grace Hopper team members to confirm students are fully supported and having the best experience possible. In short, we’re the connective tissue between all of the important moving parts of this operation.
Below, we’ve thought through the top issues we help students with, ways these issues manifest, and steps you can take to avoid these same pitfalls yourself.
Problem 1: How do I balance the demands of coding bootcamp with family and other personal obligations?
What this looks like: Students come from all different life and work backgrounds. Some students arrive with a realistic expectation of how demanding bootcamp will be, while others don’t fully grasp that nearly all of their time (including outside of class) will be dedicated to coding, learning, and reinforcing concepts.
If you come to bootcamp with a rotation of other commitments that you need to tend to, you’re going to struggle to keep up and that may lead to burnout.
We have also seen the flip side of this, in which students jump too far into the program and forsake all other activities, which isn’t ideal either. In order to be successful in the program, you must find some level of harmony between your self-care and your studies.
How you can prepare before bootcamp:
- Tell yourself that during the program, most of the rest of your life will be on hold.
- Communicate realistic boundaries to family and friends.
- Ideas: Set aside one day a week to spend with family, but buckle down the rest of the week; Or accept only one social invitation a week.
- Shift your expectations around what and how long it will take to be successful at a bootcamp and try to budget more time for school than you think you might need.
- Focus on action-oriented time-management solutions
- Ideas: Set (and stick to) a schedule for yourself, identify quiet spaces to work off campus, do weekly meal prep on weekends to save time.
Coding bootcamp is the biggest thing in your life right now and it may be hard to say no to other opportunities, but you won’t regret it once you’re on the other side and chasing your programming dreams.
Problem 2: How do I plan for the financial realities of leaving my job to attend bootcamp?
What this looks like: This issue presents a little differently between Grace Hopper programs and the Fullstack program, because Grace Hopper operates on a deferred tuition model, in which students pay no upfront costs and only start making payments once they get their first jobs in programming.
However, across both programs, students are responsible for their living expenses during school, and over the course of the job search process. Preparing to have no income for several consecutive months can be challenging logistically and hard to wrap your mind around.
How you can prepare before bootcamp: Students’ personal situations vary widely – one student may have a partner who can help cover expenses, while another has no family support—so look at your own situation and finances to figure out what works best for you.
The most important things to do when it comes to your finances are:
- Start saving now. We recommend saving nine months of living expenses to cover yourself during school and your post-grad job search period.
Think like a penny pincher.
- Ideas: Move in with a generous relative during bootcamp to cut back on bills, find a cheaper place in the suburbs and commute into the city to save money, rent a place with several classmates to bring down individual costs, do weekly meal prep to avoid buying lunch every day, cut down on services you might not have time for during the program, like gym memberships, and streaming platforms.
- Don’t wait to look into financing. Find out what financial aid packages are available for the bootcamp you’ll be attending. Fullstack Academy, for example, offers a variety of scholarships and education loans, such as this one with Skills Fund.
Being prepared financially protects you against undue stress and feelings of uncertainty that may negatively impact your performance as a student. The last thing you want is to be worried about money when you’re trying to absorb complex, high-level programming concepts.
Lots of people struggle to make bootcamp work, so don’t be embarrassed to talk about your situation. At Fullstack Academy, your first four weeks involve a part-time remote pre-work program called Foundations, where you can connect with fellow students before arriving on campus. Use that time to talk to them about more than just programming. Ask your classmates about strategies they’re willing to share to help you save even more, and share your own tips!
Problem 3: How do I overcome imposter syndrome – the feeling that I don’t deserve to be here?
What this looks like: You show up to bootcamp, dive into the curriculum, and are feeling good until – BAM! You’re suddenly slammed with feelings of unworthiness, self-doubt, and negative self-talk. Or maybe your background is in a field like commercial fishing or acting, and you’re worried your limited programming experience means you won’t be as successful as others?
We see this problem quite a bit in the Grace Hopper Program, since female and non-binary students have typically faced more systemic barriers and discrimination than their male counterparts. Females in STEM tend to have a longer journey to surmount their feelings of not being good or smart enough to succeed in the field.
Though it’s more prevalent in women, imposter syndrome can happen to anyone—and it’s not limited to the tech field, so you may already have encountered this in your pre-bootcamp life.
How you can prepare before bootcamp:
- Remind yourself that you’ve earned your bootcamp spot. It’s not just sheer luck that you landed where you did. Bootcamps like Fullstack Academy and Grace Hopper Program are incredibly competitive, and they chose you—for a reason.
- Pay attention to your self-talk even before you apply. What are you telling yourself about your successes? If you’re thinking, “Oh, wow, I don’t know how I even got in,” that’s a very different message than, “Yes! I deserve this and I’m going to crush.”
- Remember that imposter syndrome can pop up at any time in your life. Even when you’re chugging along in a successful programming career a few years from now, you could come up against an unknown situation and be hit with these feelings again. But it’s okay! There will always be things you don’t know, and part of being a strong developer is realizing that you’ll forever be learning and growing in your role.
- Remember that you’re running your own race. It shouldn’t matter if the person in the lane next to you is doing things a bit faster or differently. Take it one step a time, one day at a time, and try not to compare yourself to others.