blog article

How to Get In to Startup Institute

By Liz Eggleston
Last Updated February 4, 2016


Startup Institute is an immersive, eight-week program that gives students the skills, mindset, and network to find a job they love in web design, web development, technical marketing, sales, and more. With a hiring network and happy alumni, Startup Institute is a great bootcamp option. But what exactly does it take to get in to Startup Institute? We caught up with VP of Admissions Katie Bickford to learn everything you need to know about the Startup Institute application and interview process, including the 5 qualities they're looking for in an applicant and a sneak peek at the questions you'll hear in the interview. 

The Application

How long does the Startup Institute application typically take?

Our application is quick and easy. It shouldn’t take you more than ten minutes to complete.

We keep it simple on purpose, because we want to have a real conversation with anyone who is interested in exploring our program. The qualities that we look for in a candidate are nuanced, and it’s important to us to draw out the person to identify these qualities. They aren’t always effectively communicated on the application.

The interview is when we really start to dig into these things to figure out if the candidate is a fit for our program, and if we can get them to the outcome they’re looking for. Because we’re outcomes-driven, we don’t want to bring someone into this program unless we have a match in terms of an understanding of where this person realistically will land when they come out of the program.

Startup Institute is unique in that there are multiple “tracks” that students choose- from Digital Marketing to Web Development to Sales. Should applicants know which track they want to pursue before applying?

No, not necessarily. If you’re filling out our application and you aren’t certain of which track you’d like to pursue, select one that feels like it might be a fit, and we’ll help you figure it out from there.

Our admissions process is service-oriented and, in part, this means helping people to decide what the right career path might be for them. We’ll talk this through with you by delving into your current skillsets, the things you really enjoy, and the things that you’re really hungry for to see if there is a good fit in one of our tracks.

Following the interview, we’ll also assign homework. The purpose of the assignment is to help you find out if this kind of work sparks your curiosity and brings joy. As you work through the assignment, pay attention to how much you’re enjoying it. Is it fun? We get that you can do it, but is there a visceral joy in it?  We’re not just looking for you to know how to do it. We want to know that you can do it, and that you like it. This is what the whole process is really about.

What goes into the written application? Does Startup Institute require a video submission?

The application is simple. We ask you for the basics (name, phone number, and email address), the track and cohort (spring/ summer/ fall) you’re applying to, and your LinkedIn profile and Skype ID, if you can provide them. There’s also a short answer question that asks you to explain why you want to come to Startup Institute.

There’s no required video submission with the application, though the sales and account management track homework does involve creating a video.

For the Web Development track, what types of backgrounds have successful Startup Institute students had? Does everyone come from a tech background?

The web development track is the only track for which there is a technical prerequisite. It’s an intermediate-level course, so applicants must have a strong grasp of at least one other back-end language such as Ruby, Python, JAVA, C#, or PHP to be considered.

If you’re interested in the full-time web development program but don’t yet meet this prerequisite, we have a part-time Intro to Ruby course that is designed to prepare students to take on the full-time curriculum.

The Admissions Interview

In the Web Development track, can you give us a “technical” sample question and a “culture” sample question that applicants could expect to answer?

Let’s start with culture, because our interview process is culture-first. We typically ask the question “On a scale of one to ten—one being ‘whatever’ and ten being, ‘I am on fire and I’m ready to jump out a window,’—how would you rate your desire to change?”

The reason that we look for this desire to change is related directly to the innovation community, and what this program is all about. It’s about transformation. It’s about doing. It’s about building. It’s about people who are going to be high-impact in their roles, and most of these roles are going to be in companies that are growing really quickly. There’s going to be uncertainty, excitement, and creativity.  

On paper, many of our candidates are thriving, but they come to us because they’re looking for something more meaningful. The choice to take this path that is clearly not the easy road (quitting their jobs to enroll in our bootcamp) has to do with the culture that is created here. It’s the energetic component of people who have this burning desire to change. It’s part of the fire that makes this transformation possible.

I think of a quote from web design instructor David Delmar in the video on our homepage—"When you get people in a room together who share values and share passions, they can’t help but build awesome stuff.”

That energetic quotient of people who are really activated, and the result of this activation when you bring them all together—with all of their different backgrounds and perspectives—that creates outcomes beyond what even we knew could be be possible. It’s the result of different people in the cohort interacting in a way that could never be choreographed. These interactions create amazing insights and connections, and the allow people to take themselves to the next level.

The technical component of our admissions process doesn’t really come to bear until the homework assignment, because if the cultural fit isn’t there, then technical aptitude is no replacement.

At Startup Institute, we focus on acquiring knowledge to be able to do more faster in the direction that you want to grow, rather than being more theoretically versed in computer science terms or memorizing answers to questions. We may ask you to build a cloud-hosted web app that leverages two meaningful APIs and stores/retrieves data to/from a database. In the discussion that follows, we might say, "Would you choose to use postgres versus mongo for this specific app and why?" or "How would you refactor this code using the latest software design principles and standards of the language?"

What are a few resources that you suggest applicants use to really ace the technical part of the interview?

While Stack Overflow and Google are natural go-tos, we also suggest reading through the respective docs for the programming language and APIs used. At Startup Institute, we've found that people who are comfortable using a search engine or Q&A site to find solutions are able to build skills a lot more quickly.

How do you evaluate an applicant’s future potential? What qualities are you looking for?

First off, it needs to be said that we are not making a judgement on perceived potential. We’ve had plenty of wonderfully talented candidates who haven’t been accepted to the program—not because we don’t see potential in them, but because either there wasn’t a culture fit, or their goals didn’t align with the outcomes we could deliver on.

There are five qualities that we look for during our admissions interviews. This rubric was designed based on the qualities that our partner companies look for in great hires—


The most fundamental quality that we look for is something we call Thinks Beyond Themselves. This relates to an individual’s desire to make an impact on something larger than just their own career.

This doesn’t come from ego-standpoint. When people say “I want my career to be XXX,” or “I want to go into tech because it’s cool,” it isn’t particularly compelling for us. We’re looking for that, “I have more to give.” It is a connection to mission and purpose. I look for a sense that the person that I’m talking to is pursuing this change because they want to make a bigger difference in the world. Thinks Beyond Themselves is a great foundational quality because this is the type of person who develops into a great leader.


The second quality on our rubric is Likes to Solve Problems. We believe that, when a problem is presented, a line in the sand is drawn. On one side is the person who looks at the problem and says, “Challenge accepted!” And then there’s the other person who likes the problem, but for another reason—because it validates an idea that things aren’t possible, or that no more can be expected of them. We look for the people who want to contribute. Who say, “Give me more!”

3. SASH (self-aware, sincere, and humble)

We’re looking for the types of people who are going to help to build trust in the cohort, and in a company, and who will engage with people in a way that’s meaningful.


This program represents an incredible opportunity to do so much building—building skills, building personal awareness, building leverage points that will help you to be effective moving forward in your career. That said, we don’t give a fish—we teach to fish. We need to get people in the door who have hustle; who’ll say “You taught me how to fish. Now I’m casting my rod!” versus people who say, “You said that you were going to get me a job. Now, where’s my fish?”


We talked about this one. For people who are craving a new, meaningful career, this program can be like winning the battle, but you have to go to battle. Desire to Change means you’re suiting up and ready to charge.


Is there a technical coding challenge during the Startup Institute application? How long should it take? Is there a time limit? Can an applicant complete the coding challenge in any programming language?

Yes, there is a technical challenge. Though we've seen stellar candidates complete our take-home skills assessment in under 24-hours, it more often takes a weekend of focused coding, creativity, and problem solving.

Applicants can complete the assignment in any language, whether object-oriented or functional. The language you know best is typically the best choice for showcasing your ability.

How long do students have to complete the Homework?

You’ll be given five days to complete the homework. If you find yourself unengaged, or unable to complete the assignment, reach out. We’ll talk about it, and perhaps try a different assignment to see if another track would be better for you.

Are applicants expected to complete the Homework with no outside help or do you expect that they’re Googling/researching to figure it out?

No professional tackles challenges in a vacuum. In any role, you’ll be able to turn to your colleagues, network, or the Internet for help and perspective.

That said, this is about finding you a job you love and a career you’ll thrive in. Be honest with yourself as you work on this assignment so that you can set yourself up for success.

Getting Accepted

What is the current acceptance rate at Startup Institute?

Currently, we accept 18% of applicants. Again, your acceptance to Startup Institute relies on two things: Is there a cultural fit? And, can we help you to get to the outcome you’re looking for?

Can a student apply more than once?

Absolutely, and we’re happy to give feedback on your admissions process. If you’re recommended to our part-time classes, we encourage you to apply to the full-time program again after building your skills.

Are students accepted on a rolling basis?

We do accept students on a rolling basis. We also have early-application deadlines for discounted rates to the program.

When you apply, however, has no baring on whether or not you're accepted. We make it a point to interview everyone who applies to our program. The reason for this is that we don’t want anyone who is ready to pursue meaningful work left behind because they didn’t find us in time. Our admissions process is about taking the time for anyone who wants to explore this, and figuring out if these qualities are there, and if that person needs an outlet for them. And then, the process becomes working with that person to explore if Startup Institute is the right place for them to do that.

Does Startup Institute accept international students? Do international students get student visas/tourist visas to do the program?

We do accept international students. We’ve had wonderful people come to us from all over the world, and these people always make for a richer experience. That said, we do not help students to obtain visas. International students should also be aware that it will be more challenging for them to find employment after the program if they will require a visa.

To learn more about Startup Institute’s admissions process and the interview questions you can prepare for, download their free Admissions Guidelines.

About The Author

Liz pic

Liz is the cofounder of Course Report, the most complete resource for students researching coding bootcamps. Her research has been cited in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and more. She loves breakfast tacos and spending time getting to know bootcamp alumni and founders all over the world. Check out Liz & Course Report on Twitter, Quora, and YouTube!

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