Wondering how to get accepted to The Software Guild? Their team just launched a new, free Introduction to Web Development MOOC, and it’s the perfect prep course to prepare you for day 1 of coding bootcamp. We sat down with The Software Guild Founder and Chief Academic Officer Eric Wise to find out what students will learn in the MOOC and how this change affects the admissions process. Plus, we get the scoop on what exactly goes into an Admissions Interview at The Software Guild.
First, tell us about the new admissions process at The Software Guild!
In our previous admissions process, everybody who enrolled in the 12-week full-time or 10-14 month part-time apprenticeship program had to pass an intro course. There were a lot of hoops to jump through before they got to try out any code at Software Guild, so we’re moving the intro course into a free MOOC to give any person, whether they have applied or not, the chance to experience The Software Guild before they enroll.
To be accepted to The Software Guild’s apprenticeship program, everyone must complete The Software Guild’s admissions process. Due to high demand, we recommend you complete your admissions process at least five weeks prior to your preferred cohort start date. The admissions process for the Java and .NET/C# tracks consists of the following steps:
The aptitude test is the key decision point. If applicants don't score high enough on the aptitude test then they are required to pass an audition, but if they do score well they are automatically admitted into the program.
What does the application, admissions interview, and aptitude assessment cover?
Our admissions process is intended to help us gauge if students have high enough aptitude, drive and preparedness to succeed. When applicants enroll, we want to be confident that with proper effort and dedication to our program, they can meet expectations and standards of tech jobs.
The application involves a written essay, to demonstrate basic communication skills. The admissions interview is with one of our enrollment counselors and is the first real impression we have of you as an applicant. We are looking for applicants who show an interest and commitment to learning to code via timely responses to scheduling, and approaching the process with enthusiasm. The interview will cover any questions you might have about the program we will ask some of our own to ensure that you as an applicant understand what you are getting yourself into.
The aptitude test is a mix of SAT math and IQ questions to test your logic and reasoning. We don’t accept or deny students based on the aptitude test, but we use those scores to help the student understand how it correlates to a general ability to learn to code quickly.
Why is The Software Guild launching the Introduction to Web Development MOOC (massive online open course) and how does that fit with the admissions process?
The biggest question we get from incoming students is, “What is it like to go through a bootcamp,” and this free Introduction to Web Development gives them a feel for what the Software Guild curriculum is like. We hear from a lot of students who say other online tutorials are too easy – if you get something wrong, it immediately gives you the answer. In the real world, when you don’t know an answer, you’re stuck with your code until you figure it out.
So we deliberately created a curriculum and structure that challenges students to do projects, exercises, research, and explore the process of learning to code. The students that do well in this learning format will do well in the course. Conversely, the students who find it too frustrating or too difficult can filter themselves out of the process – and avoid wasting their time. As a member of CIRR, one of the metrics we track very closely is our Graduation Rate. We really don’t want to take money from people who aren’t suited to the program, and it’s not for everybody.
What technical concepts does the MOOC cover? How far will it get students in their coding journey?
How long does the MOOC take to complete?
How are you teaching the MOOC? Do students interact with instructors and other students?
The MOOC consists of written materials, videos of our instructors writing code, interactive practice exercises similar to Codecademy, and some project work.
We’re also setting up a Slack community that people can log into for help from alumni, staff members, and other students. Software Guild alumni and instructors will moderate the channel, but you’ll mostly interact with other students going through the MOOC.
Is the MOOC suitable for a complete beginner? Could they use it as their first experience learning to code?
Absolutely. Keep in mind that the MOOC does require you to go do some external research. It will teach you how to learn, and how to teach yourself. A big difference between this MOOC and some of the other online tutorials, is that we require students to go out and do developer things like research and learn on their own.
If a student doesn’t score high enough in the aptitude test, there is an Audition – what can applicants expect for that?
The Audition is done over video call. You’ll share your screen in a session with an instructor, usually over GoToMeeting. They’ll give you the audition problem, then give you 5 or 10 minutes to think about it, and plan out your solution. Once you start actually working on the problem, you’ll pair program with the instructor, who is talking to you, asking you questions, and giving you hints if you get stuck.
Some people think they need to ace the Audition, but that’s not the case. We’re looking for your understanding of basic concepts. If you forget a semicolon at the end of the statement, the interviewer will prompt you. You’ll pass the audition if you can do that with a little bit of prompting. We want students who are “wheels,” which means that when you give them a nudge, the wheels roll. You might need to course correct a little, but that wheel will make forward progress. When a student or applicant is a box, that means the instructor is telling them what to do and they are pushing the student along, but as soon as we stop pushing, the progress stops. If you’re currently at the box stage, you’re not ready.
How will you test students to make sure they have understood the concepts they learned in the MOOC?
During the first week of class, students will be asked to review a project from the MOOC as part of a code review.
Can people do the MOOC even if they aren’t planning to enroll at The Software Guild?
The MOOC is open to everybody. All you need is a GitHub account (which is free). That’s one of the major changes from our old admissions process, which was preventing people from giving coding a shot before they applied; now we’re removing that barrier.
If someone has successfully completed the MOOC, why do they still need to do an admissions interview? What qualities are you looking for in addition to technical skills?
On top of your success in the MOOC, we are also looking for people who are good to work with. It’s a little bit of a job interview, because if you come into the admissions interview and you’re mean, short tempered, or don’t take feedback well, we may not accept your application. We’re looking for coachability.
What types of backgrounds have successful students at The Software Guild had? Does everyone come from a technical background?
All sorts. Success doesn’t require a specific background; it’s about a temperament. People who are lifelong learners, who enjoy problem-solving, have patience, and have programmer meta-skills do really well. In our recent CIRR report, 0% of our students had Computer Science degrees. One of my top students from the last cohort was delivering pizzas before Software Guild. It really doesn’t matter where you came from, it’s just where you want to go and what you’re willing to do to get there.
Will the open access to the Introduction to Web Development MOOC widen your application pool?
Our hope is to make test driving coding more accessible. I hope to see conversations with students who are thinking about learning to code, but they are not really sure what it’s like, and they take this free MOOC at the Software Guild to figure out if it’s the right direction to take.
What is your advice to someone thinking of applying for The Software Guild?
Bring the enthusiasm. We tell applicants that this program is really rewarding, but it’s really hard, we expect a lot out of you, and it’s going to be a lot of effort. The people who embrace that challenge are the people we want at The Software Guild.