Coding bootcamps Fullstack Academy and the Grace Hopper Program were both founded by David Yang and Nimit Maru, so what is the difference between them? Grace Hopper is an all women’s program and offers deferred tuition, but what else is unique about the program? And do students from both programs have the same job placement outcomes? We asked the leadership team at Fullstack Academy and Grace Hopper to explain the differences and similarities in tuition costs, curricula, learning environment, and support, and how a woman can choose which program is right for her.
Tell us about the history of Fullstack Academy and Grace Hopper Program.
David and Nimit founded Fullstack Academy after they saw a gap in the market for teaching people practical development skills. They were teaching friends basic programming skills to help them get a promotion or move to a different role, and saw more friends and friends of friends wanting to transition out of waning industries into software. They realized people didn’t need to go to school or get a Master’s – they just needed practical development skills.
After Fullstack had been running for several years, David and Nimit wanted to tackle tech’s gender disparity. They spoke with many women who’d attended Fullstack and realized there were too many barriers to entry and not enough safe spaces. They designed Grace Hopper to address both of those problems: they offered deferred tuition to reduce the barriers to entry, and limited it to “women+” (including trans, non-binary, and non-gender-conforming folk) to make sure students would feel safe in their learning environment.
How does the admissions process compare for Fullstack Academy vs Grace Hopper?
There is no difference in admissions criteria for any of our programs. The admissions process for both Fullstack Academy and Grace Hopper Program is as follows:
- Candidates fill out an online application and choose which program to be considered for.
- Women+ can choose Grace Hopper or Fullstack.
- Applications are reviewed by an admissions team that serves both programs.
- Applicants receive the same HackerRank assessment to determine their eligibility.
- Interviews are conducted by former students who are now teaching fellows.
- Fellows look at:
- If you can solve problems and will understand the curriculum
- If you’ll be a positive addition to the community. ( #1 rule for both programs: “No a**holes.”)
- How you’ll contribute, what you’ll get out of the experience as a developer and as a human
The admissions team considers your application, assessment, and interview to reach a decision. Any woman+ accepted to our program has the choice of Fullstack or Grace Hopper; no woman+ is ever admitted to one program without being admitted to the other. Once you've been accepted, someone from your preferred program will contact you with the big news.
How do the tuition costs and payment plans differ between Fullstack Academy and the Grace Hopper Program?
Fullstack Academy tuition is $17,610 in New York (and for the Remote Immersive) and $15,610 in Chicago. Tuition for Fullstack Academy’s part-time Flex program (available in New York) is $15,680. Financing options are available via Skills Fund.
Grace Hopper Program operates under a deferred-tuition model, which means students train now and don’t pay until they’ve secured full-time employment in software engineering. Tuition is $19,610 and paid in nine monthly installments once you’ve started in your new position. It is also possible to pay full tuition upfront.
We pursued this model to make a dent in tech’s gender gap by:
- Reducing barriers to entry: Women have been systematically disadvantaged in tech, so it’s important to systematically reduce barriers for women – and cost is a big one.
Reducing risk: Allowing women to train without having to contribute upfront tuition reduces their risk. If grads are successful, they will make a good salary (the average starting salary for Grace Hopper grads is around $87,000) and will be able to pay back their tuition in a reasonable time without exorbitant interest payments from a loan.
- If they aren’t successful, on the other hand, they don’t owe us anything.
Will you ever extend the deferred tuition option to Fullstack Academy students?
You never know. Money is an issue for lots of people, regardless of gender, and we’d love to offer financial aid to encourage more programming enthusiasts from low-income backgrounds.
We already offer a number of scholarships including a $1000 need-based scholarship for women and veterans at Fullstack Academy, the 50 States of Code Scholarship for our remote program, and the Operation Code Scholarship for veterans.
We also run a Web Development Fellowship in partnership with the City of New York’s Tech Talent Pipeline, which sponsors cohorts of low-income New Yorkers to attend Fullstack 100% tuition-free. We want to keep working with government organizations and nonprofits to make sure Americans have the skills they need to be successful in an economy that increasingly depends on technical know-how.
How does Grace Hopper differ between NYC and Chicago campuses?
In New York, Fullstack Academy and the Grace Hopper Program are in the same building in the Financial District, but are each on a different floor. The facilities are essentially the same, with classrooms, labs, meeting rooms, and kitchens (the exception is our production studio, housed on the Fullstack campus, which we use for recording course materials for both programs and for events like the joint Demo Day). The bootcamps in New York are mostly separate – Grace Hopper Program and Fullstack Academy students rarely interact.
In Chicago, our Grace Hopper offering is called the Grace Hopper Track at Fullstack Chicago because, while it offers deferred tuition, it doesn’t offer the same women-only environment. Grace Hopper Track students are part of the co-ed Fullstack Chicago student body and learn on the same campus, even though they’re paying for the program differently. (Fun fact: With the opening of the Grace Hopper Track and the growing trust in coding bootcamps, the community at Fullstack Academy Chicago has outgrown its former digs in a co-working space and recently moved to its own campus.)
Are there any differences between the curricula at Fullstack Academy vs Grace Hopper?
- Programming basics in Foundations, the 4-week remote pre-work phase of the program
- Front-end and back-end technologies in junior and senior phases (on-campus weeks 1-6 and 8-13, respectively)
- Career Success program during senior phase, including workshops, networking, and one-on-ones where students prepare themselves for the job search – arguably just as important a skill set as your technical one
- Computer science fundamentals
- Emerging technologies (cryptocurrency, the latest mobile frameworks)
- A CTO series tackling higher-level concepts to encourage students to think beyond individual projects to systems and products
A typical day for both of our New York programs goes from 10am to 6pm. Some students come early or stay late to review previous lessons, to prepare for upcoming ones, or to work on projects. That varies by each student’s needs and isn’t more prevalent at one program versus another.
Who teaches each of the programs?
In New York, instructors rotate every seven weeks between Grace Hopper and Fullstack. Each cohort has one instructor for the entire program, then instructors will swap, so someone who was teaching Fullstack juniors might go on to teach Grace Hopper seniors. This exposes students to many teaching styles and helps build their networks, while instructors stay fresh and get to touch the lives of more students.
One exciting change is that we recently hired our first dedicated Grace Hopper instructor in New York. Grace Hopper has grown a lot, and the community is really strong, so we wanted to have one instructor who would know all the alumnae and be a consistent face on campus. Her name is Jess, and she’s awesome.
It’s important to mention that while Career Success staff aren’t instructors, per se, they work with students in both programs to ensure all students receive the same job-skills training – how to build a tech resume, LinkedIn best practices, negotiation skills, etc. Our counselors are versed in the different challenges each group may face and work tirelessly to help students succeed in the job market after graduation.
How does the learning experience and culture differ for students in GHP vs FSA?
Students have great experiences in both programs, but the two experiences are purposely different, which is why we allow women+ to choose the program they prefer, rather than accepting them specifically into one program or another.
Hearing that women+ were being made to feel psychologically unsafe in so many co-ed tech environments, we wanted the Grace Hopper program to be a safe space. Bootcamp is an intense process; students have to feel safe asking questions, admitting they don’t know information, and failing repeatedly to find solutions in order to get better at coding.
So the Grace Hopper community is more intentional:
- Students are more cognizant of and sensitive to each other’s needs and feel more comfortable expressing their emotions, which is how students bond and why they feel so supported throughout the program.
- There’s no pressure on students to be anything other than who they are, and while the program will absolutely challenge students and push them to be their best, it also leaves room for empathy and understanding.
For women+ in the Grace Hopper Program, do you offer any extra support or guidance that Fullstack students do not receive? If so, why?
All women+ at Fullstack and Grace Hopper have access to lunches specifically for women, where female students and staff can discuss challenges and get to know each other – because once students get out in the world, they’re likely to find themselves one of the only women in a room full of men. So it’s really important to build a strong support network outside of work.
All women+ enrolled at our Chicago campus, regardless of program, receive additional resources like women-only lunches and opportunities to meet role models in the industry to ensure they’re just as prepared for the job search as the men they’re in class with.
What is the ratio of men:women in the Fullstack classes? Do most women go to Grace Hopper?
The ratio of men to women varies by cohort. In the cohorts where we have more students, we tend to get a more even ratio, and as the number of students drops (over the summer, for example), the ratio of men goes up. Grace Hopper has the draws of deferred tuition and an all-female environment, so many women researching bootcamps know that Grace Hopper is what they want, and indicate that preference on their applications.
The admissions team does see more women applying to Grace Hopper than to Fullstack (since Grace Hopper is only for women). But women absolutely do come to Fullstack and are happy here. They tend to be career-switchers who have saved money and don’t need deferred tuition, or they come from industries where women are a majority, like teaching or recruiting, and want to prepare themselves for a total shift in dynamic by training in a program that’s majority-men.
How does the Career Success curriculum differ between the programs?
Career Success is the same for both programs and includes:
- Technical interview practice via Reacto – every morning of senior phase, students practice the kinds of algorithms tech companies love to throw at interviewees
- Mock behavioral interviews
- Working on resumes, LinkedIn
- Contract negotiation skills
- An exclusive job fair for both Fullstack and Grace Hopper students
- After graduation, the Career Success team reviews cover letters, makes introductions, provides interview support, provides insights into hiring processes, and helps grads understand and negotiate contracts.
One anecdotal difference we see between the two programs in the Career Success portion is that Grace Hopper students tend to be more on top of scheduling office hours, getting resumes in for review, and generally communicating consistently with our team about opportunities and challenges. We’re not sure, but it could be because women generally feel more comfortable asking for help; maybe because women transitioning careers are used to working twice as hard to get what comes standard for (white) men; or because the type of woman who takes on a program as intense and technical as Grace Hopper is already very organized and driven.
How do job placement rates compare between the two programs?
Job placement rates have actually been a bit higher for Grace Hopper grads over the past year. Remember, the Grace Hopper pool is a bit smaller, and it takes less time for a group of 40 people to get hired than it does for a group of 60, so that makes sense.
We’re likely seeing the embodiment of the quote: “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality seems like oppression.” For the last half-century, women were kept out of the tech industry, so men competed only with each other, but now that more women are entering the field, men are competing against a larger pool of applicants, so the job search may take longer.
We know there are more positions available for software developers than there are qualified people to fill them, but we also know that most people get hired from referrals, which is why we focus so much on Career Success. It’s a different skill set from everything else we do in life; not everyone is inherently good at networking, so it requires training, discipline, and follow-through.
As a woman applying to code school: should I choose Fullstack or Grace Hopper?
It depends what you’re looking for and what you need.
What the two programs share:
- A strong curriculum, both technical and in terms of career-building
- A pool of incredible instructors
- The Career Success and Student Experience staff
Why you might choose Grace Hopper:
- If you can’t afford tuition up front or don’t want to take out loans, Grace Hopper is an opportunity to get an education you may not otherwise have access to
To get the benefits of an all-women learning environment
- If you’ve already experienced gender discrimination in the workplace, Grace Hopper provides a safe environment where you can let go of any anger or insecurity, learn how to cope if it happens again, what channels you have for dealing with it, and understand you’re not alone.
- When you’re the only woman in the room it’s easy to feel an obligation to represent all women in everything you do, which often means needing to perform perfectly so that no man can interpret your failings as failings inherent to all women. (People of color – women of color especially – face these challenges to an even greater extent.) Grace Hopper is a great reminder that you aren’t standing in for all women. You have the right to try things and fail, to make mistakes and learn from them – and not every action you take has to feel like a strategic maneuver in the fight for women’s rights.
- You’ll emerge from Grace Hopper with a strong, diverse professional network of women, which will help you get your foot in the door and eventually propel you into a position where you can advocate for other female hires, creating a virtuous cycle.
- With many companies trying to diversify their recruiting pipelines, Grace Hopper is becoming a trusted resource: a pool of bright, qualified software engineers who happen to be women, which is exactly what companies want more of.
Why you might choose Fullstack Academy:
- If you’re coming from a field dominated by women, and you want to prepare yourself for a change to the male-dominated tech world, Fullstack Academy might be a better option.
Don’t want/need deferred tuition
- You may have the resources to pay tuition up front or don’t want to owe anything after graduation.
- Fullstack Academy is a stronger brand, just because it’s been around longer, so employers may recognize the Fullstack name before they will the Grace Hopper Program name.
We want to make sure that the standard is the same across ALL Fullstack and Grace Hopper campuses, including our Chicago location. We want all our programs to be synonymous with a rigorous education. You should receive the best education we can provide, whether you’re a student at Fullstack New York, Fullstack Chicago, or Grace Hopper.