Admissions Spotlight

Admissions Spotlight: How to Prepare for Alchemy

Jess Feldman

Written By Jess Feldman

Last updated on August 10, 2022

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Alchemy is a live, online, immersive bootcamp that helps career changers make a successful pivot into software development. We spoke with Alchemy Co-Founder and Program Director, Megan Nelson, about the Alchemy admissions process. Learn what to expect, from the interview to the technical skills you need in order to get in. Find out how Alchemy is helping coding beginners level up before bootcamp with Developer 101, and why Alchemy truly values soft skills like problem-solving, communication, and curiosity in their incoming students.

Alchemy’s 3-Step Admissions Process

Alchemy’s admissions process breaks down into 3 steps:

  1. A short optional info session.
  2. A short form application that is completed online.
  3. An interview with admissions (that’s me!) to discuss an applicant’s current situation and future goals.

Every potential Alchemy student goes through the same application process and we don’t look at funding options until after we accept a student. The admissions process is the same for incoming students who are interested in our income share agreement (ISA).

How long does it take to complete the admissions process?

It depends on you as an individual and how much homework you’ve done before applying to Alchemy. Are you completely new to tech? Or have you been doing self-study or gone to another bootcamp and are looking for more experience? Alchemy’s admissions process can take as little as a few hours or it could take weeks long, it just depends on what the person needs.

Technical Skills vs Soft Skills: What You Need to Get Into Alchemy

Alchemy is designed for career changers. The ideal candidate for Alchemy doesn’t have a specific skill set, but there are several traits that successful applicants typically have:

  • The ideal applicant has career experience and knows how to be professional. These people are typically more willing to engage with and be a part of the community. We generally see people who are more experienced in their careers, and it can be career experience from any field! We’ve seen that applicants from humanities backgrounds including social work and nursing can be even more adept at solving human-centered problems, which is a huge part of software development. 
  • The ideal applicant enjoys solving problems or puzzles, and deeply focusing for long stretches of time. Alchemy is a full-time program and we train like students are on the job already, so incoming students should have these traits. Knitters are especially successful training with us given their ability to follow patterns and undo mistakes!
  • The ideal applicant has a willingness to check their ego at the door and engage with an open mind. Curiosity as a driver to learning shifts one’s mindset to possibilities. People move away from trying to be the expert and move into exploration. That’s where the magic happens.

Bootcamps are intense and it’s helpful to approach them as a personal evolution. Successful students are dedicated to personal growth and accountability for their space. They’re willing to partner with us to reach their goals, and don’t just view the bootcamp as something transactional.

How technically skilled does an applicant need to be in order to get into Alchemy?

At Alchemy, we have students come in with computer science degrees and other students who have never even stepped foot in a classroom!

We used to have a technical interview, but we found that it sets a different tone. A technical interview to get into bootcamp makes people more concerned about the test as opposed to coming in with an open mind where it’s safe to be vulnerable. Students complete a minimum of 40 hours of graded prework prior to starting. Students demonstrate their commitment by completing the pre-work. We empower people by giving them the information they need to follow through from the beginning and access to human-centered support to ensure they are ready to engage immersively. 

What kinds of soft skills is Alchemy looking for in applicants? 

Soft skills are an important, if underrated, part of a successful tech career. Since our program is relationship-based, meaning students spend a lot of time working directly with their instructors and teaching assistants, and together in small groups like they will in professional working environments, students develop their abilities to work with others through both soft skills and hard technical skills.  

Alchemy looks for a variety of soft skills when considering applicants, including:

  • Attention to detail
  • Critical thinking
  • Self-awareness
  • Present in conversations
  • Respectful

Students can demonstrate their soft skills during the admissions interview when we dive into the different roles and avenues into the tech world. I often introduce people to current students, teaching assistants, and alumni who I think they’ll jive with. It usually works itself out and they meet other people in the Alchemy program like themselves.

What does pre-work look like at Alchemy?

Incoming students will complete a minimum of 40 hours of required pre-work, which they complete on their own. It shows us that they can pay attention to detail and be accountable for making time to do the work. The pre-work also includes technical resources to assist students, including a dedicated Slack pre-work space. We give them support and demonstrate the tools they’ll need to complete the program.

It usually isn’t something you can or should do all in one sitting, and all of it is graded. We want people to get into the habit of daily practice and we see it as a trait for future success. If you’re learning music, you build up skill with consistent practice over time rather than practicing for 8 hours on a Sunday.

Does Alchemy accept all applicants to the bootcamp? What is the acceptance rate?

It’s rare that someone doesn’t get accepted into the program, aside from the fact that spots in each cohort are first come, first served. If a person understands what’s expected of them and they don’t deliver, it will show early in the program. 

In situations where someone isn’t accepted to Alchemy, it isn’t about whether they’re in or out. It’s about helping them reach their personal goals. If someone isn’t a good fit for Alchemy, we shift the conversation to what they need and discuss recommendations for the program that will fit them. 

Developer 101 at Alchemy

What are your tips for tech beginners who are applying to Alchemy?

My first tip is to meet with me! I guarantee after a call with me the bootcamp will feel far less scary.

My second tip is to take the Developer 101 class at Alchemy. It’s a great way to try out live online learning. 

Tell us more about Developer 101!

Developer 101 is five coding sessions over the course of two weeks. Altogether, it’s about 12 hours of live, online instruction taught by our senior developer instructors. We made Developer 101 free because it gives people the opportunity to try coding before they make a big commitment to a bootcamp. It also helps people become better prepared when they decide to enter the program. 

Students don’t need any previous coding experience for Developer 101, but they do need their own laptop and WiFi. We offer the class several times a year, so someone could take Developer 101 and then finalize their decision to start in the upcoming cohort.

The first 5-10 hours of Developer 101 are essentially pre-work, where students learn how to set up their computer and coding tools. They have access to Slack and instructor support while they’re doing the pre-work. During Developer 101 they also meet someone on our Career Development team and start to learn how to do things like build their professional network and use LinkedIn to find people in tech — they may even find people they already know!

In Developer 101, students get an introduction to professional software development and we talk about different roles and career paths. They learn how to manage code using GitHub, Git, and VS code. They apply HTML and CSS to automatically deploy websites and they’ll explore JavaScript in the browser and test functions. Students interact with their instructor to explore each subject and by the end of the course, they’ll have a completed project. There’s at least one TA during the course for them to ask questions on the side and in Slack, and students are able to meet and work with each other. 

Which Tech Jobs do Alchemy Graduates Land?

We teach full stack development so Alchemy specializes in helping students get software development positions. Folks can go into front end, back end, or full stack roles after Alchemy’s coding program.

We teach people a foundation that allows them to go into different areas and add to their value. Folks come out well equipped to go into areas like UX/UI, blockchain, and cybersecurity and we have people doing that now. They might just have to spend a month or so doing additional practice to get more specialized.

The starting median salary for Alchemy grads has been holding strong at $82,000 for multiple years now! 

Find out more and read Alchemy reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with Alchemy.

About The Author

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps. With a background in writing, teaching, and social media management, Jess plays a pivotal role in helping Course Report readers make informed decisions about their educational journey.

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